If there’s one thing home sellers, buyers and real estate agents can agree on, it’s that home showings are a pain. In response, a few startups are experimenting with the “Uber of home tours,” apps that allow you to “hail an agent” like a ride to see a listing instantly. The first available agent in the area on duty can respond to a buyer’s request, gain a lead and show them the home.
This concept assumes agents are glorified door openers and that if a buyer ends up making an offer, that they will, by default, work with the agent who hosted the tour. But buyers should give more thought to selecting who to work with to buy a home than they do picking a driver for a ride. Many homes for sale are still occupied, and having a buyer’s agent who can show a house in 15 minutes doesn’t solve the fact that the owner is currently in the shower.
Technology that allows owners and agents to exert more control over property access from anywhere and reduces the need for showing appointments will be the way forward, rather than making buyer’s agents a commodity. Here’s why.
How VR Will Cut Down On Physical Showings
Research from Redfin shows that 20% of home buyers made an offer on a home sight unseen in 2018, an option made easier by advancements in technology. In another survey, 77% of home buyers said they’d like to see a virtual reality tour before making a trip.
High-end VR technology uses a room-scaled headset and hand controllers to simulate the actual experience of walking through a house — when you move in real life, the simulator moves with you. But VR has applications across price points. A mobile home “virtual reality dealership” startup in San Antonio is using VR to make affordable housing more accessible to all of Texas: 70% of its mobile home buyers’ purchases are sight unseen using VR tours on their website.
Here are a few key ways agents should take advantage of this technology:
• Set up office VR stations where buyers can come in, rule out homes on their list and book physical showings for the properties they like.
• Offer to feature VR tours on client listings as a way to cut down on foot traffic in the seller’s house, and save money on cleanings and doggy day care. By utilizing immersive 3D tour technology, a real estate agent could add VR capability to any of their listing tours.
• Get a jump-start on finding a buyer for new construction before it’s built using VR as a visualization tool.
Goldman Sachs estimates that by 2025, the VR market in real estate alone will generate $2.6 billion in revenue. As improvements in machine learning optimize VR image accuracy to create environments that feel more like the real deal, VR will serve a critical need in real estate.
Smart-Lock Technology Will Streamline Showing Logistics
While VR cuts back on the number of house showings overall, smart-home technology developed by companies like market leader Schlage and newer companies like August Homes will give sellers and agents more control, efficiency and security over traditional showings.
Agents should lean into, rather than resist, traditional lockbox alternatives that emerge in a few simple ways:
• Ask whether clients prefer to use their home’s existing smart lock (if they have one) to grant showing access. One in 4 homes plan to purchase a smart lock within the next 12 months, so soon more homes will already have smart locks agents can leverage during the listing process. Advise sellers on the benefits of installing a smart lock if they don’t have one.
• Encourage clients to use a smart lock so sellers (or you, their agent, on their behalf) can remotely lock and unlock a home from a smartphone, send someone a one-time entrance passcode, limit access to specific time frames and track who comes and goes.
• Eliminate the need for an unsightly lockbox hanging over the doorknob, which indicates the house is open for showings and can raise security concerns.
• Inform sellers that a smart lock, which stays with the home, adds value. In fact, even a few smart-home products to a house can make it more appealing to buyers. Installation could be as simple and inexpensive as a $250 smart lock that integrates with a home’s existing deadbolt.
Agents should also begin preparing buyers for unguided house tours. Self-guided tours have already “come of age” in the rental space, allowing apartment buildings to hold seven times the number of daily tours a leasing agent could provide during business hours. IBuyers have their own versions of self-guided showing technology for the (vacant) properties they own. Competition for a property increases if buyers find it easy to book a tour, and smart-lock tech can help facilitate that.
As these kinds of tours gain popularity, agents should ensure buyers know how to find and book unguided tours in their market and talk to their buyers about home-tour etiquette and best practices (i.e., don’t use the bathroom if you can help it, avoid talking about how much you like the house inside of it, etc.). Agents should also encourage buyers to do things like check out the foundation and the age of the furnace, rather than just pay attention to cosmetics.
Home Showings And The Future Of The Agent
The vast majority of buyers still work with a real estate agent in their home search. Agents make themselves available for home tours long after regular business hours to accommodate clients. But any time an agent doesn’t have to accompany a client, it frees them up to spend less time driving around town and dedicate more time to consulting and building their business.
Don’t expect anyone to figure out the “Uber of real estate” anytime soon. Instead, keep an eye on the progress happening in VR and smart lock technology — that’s where home showings are headed.