During Lockdown 3.0, we had the nightmare of a failure of one of our kitchen appliances in our house. I say nightmare because it was one of the appliances that you cannot do without for any elongated period of time.
We sat down with the laptop and selected a new appliance from one of the online electrical stores, and within a couple of hours of spending a few hundred pounds, we had a pleasant and Covid safe online shopping experience. What’s more, we knew exactly what time the appliance would arrive and sure enough a few days later, the appliance duly arrived. The delivery men removed the old appliance, set-up the new one and were extremely pleasant whilst in the house and wore face coverings for the whole experience. The appliance worked as per the description and parity was restored again in our household – great!
Property Industry Technology
Okay, well, so what?
Our point is that our organisation constantly scratches our collective heads as to why the property industry doesn’t yet operate with a set of online tools that enables the buyer to make a seamless purchase of a sale or rental property from initial investigation. Of course, you could argue that property purchase is much more complex. Furthermore, buyers are not spending a few hundreds of pounds – its hundreds of thousands of pounds if buying and tens of thousands of pounds if private renting, based on the average term of an assured tenancy agreement.
This said, the industry is often criticised for being behind retail and could do more. Afterall, we are now in a world where 80% of people (if they are lucky enough to afford one) buy a Tesla motorcar online.
In fact, this issue is exactly why we created our sister company – View My Chain – which exists to provide agents with a complete current picture of a chain so that they can better inform their customers and speed up the progression of sales.
We accept the fact that from an Estate Agents viewpoint, there are many so called PropTech providers and most of them will fail, and it is often difficult to know which ones to pick.
Guided Virtual Viewings
Right now, for example, 360° content penetration on listings portals is approximately only 5% on sales listings and is close to 0% on lettings listings.
One of our clients recently informed us that they had carried out a trial of guided virtual viewings with a few Estate Agent brands. Now just to be clear, this is not a scenario where the agent loses control of the sale and lets everyone who wants to see a complete 360° tour at their leisure.
A guided virtual tour is one which is either offered by the agent or requested by the prospective tenant or buyer, who is then guided around the property (and maybe even other similar properties) by the agent on a virtual tour. So, in summary, it is exactly the same as a physical viewing, but the agent and the prospective tenant or buyer is remote.
Our client requested our help in assessing whether or not guided virtual viewings made a difference to the purchase of a property or the rental of a property and what that difference was compared with a fully representative control group.
The results are simply staggering and, in our view, represent a catalyst for a change in the industry. We felt that this was an important fact to share with you, so we asked for permission to share these results with you. To be clear though, we are an independent company and have no hidden agenda in this beyond sharing the information with you.
The Lettings Impact of Guided Virtual Viewings
In terms of the lettings trial, nearly 70% of lets took place after at least one guided virtual tour of a property.
Further to this, 66% of these tenants let without a physical viewing of the property at all.
With a business hat on just for a second, this means that there is a considerable cost saving in time for the agent. On the lets without a physical viewing, the agents saved 90% of the time that would have normally been involved in showing prospective tenants around properties.
So, it’s clear that agents can let more properties by using guided virtual viewings. But how do they perform when compared to listings of the same type which do not have guided virtual viewings?
TwentyCi established that listings with guided virtual tours available had let rates which were 8.5% better than those without guided virtual tours.
The impact of guided virtual tours on for sale properties is equally significant.
The Sales Impact of Guided Virtual Viewings
Now, obviously people who buy properties do not tend to do this in large numbers without actually visiting them at some point, so you might be thinking at this stage what difference does a guided virtual tour make? Buyers use guided virtual viewings to narrow down the list of properties they go and see – the client mentions that an agent on average shows close to 2 properties per guided virtual viewing session – and the anecdotal feedback is that it gets rid of the buyers who are not serious about proceeding on the property.
Having a listing with a guided virtual tour had a significant impact on conversion ratios, where we established that listings with the tour available and used, sold at rates which are 19.4% better than listings without a guided virtual tour.
There’s also good news for the vendors of sale properties as well, where we found that on average listings with guided virtual tours sold for 5.62% more money than listings without when compared to TwentyCi property valuations.
Basically, a greater number of viewers in the funnel triggers more interest, which in turn creates a price tension along with the higher likelihood of sale.
You could argue that had this technology been widely available at the point of lockdown 1.0, it would have allowed more of the corporate branches to remain open for business. Further, the pandemic is responsible for escalating the need to do more virtually.
But we did not present this information to you as a solution for any future lockdowns if indeed there are any. We presented this solution to you because we felt it was a step forward for the customer and for the Estate Agent.
In fact, the biggest impact of this whole trial was of course on the customer. Our client’s technology has a net promoter score (NPS) of 52, which means that Bain & Co (the source of the NPS system) regard this as excellent.
The process of purchasing a property needs to be made easier and this will happen with more good technology.
But as a business, your one true asset is always the customer. Without them, businesses simply don’t exist. Guided virtual viewings are in our opinion one of the PropTech solutions that will win out.