Landlines, steam trains, the telegram, VHS… eventually most things succumb to progress and die out as both technology and consumer attitudes change.
The pandemic has not changed anything but has accelerated everything, especially where digitisation and technology are concerned.
We’ve all seen digital applications supersede manual interaction and famous examples are the likes of Google, Just Eat, newspaper apps, home functions operated from a smartphone, music streaming, online shopping, TV on demand and, famously in our industry, Rightmove et al.
This surely will be the case for face-to-face property viewings, one of the most traditional of approaches to selling a product. Indeed, escorted tours of homes for sale stem back to the birth of estate agency way back in 1743 as RH and RW Clutton began their property careers as England’s first estate agency. Has much changed since?
The laborious process of climbing into your car to drive miles to a property to meet a viewer who may or may not turn up and may or may not prove interested, must be one of the biggest wastes of efficiency in modern life. How much time does the average estate or letting agency branch spend on these endeavours? How many viewings ultimately convert to revenue? Would I be too pessimistic in presupposing that 90% of your time in doing such is wasted and that you needn’t spend more than 10% of your current effort qualifying interested parties and then ‘showing’ each home?
To think that the average UK estate agent carries out around 40 viewings per month to sell four homes. That’s 36 appointments that may well come to nothing and expend probably 36 hours per month in staff time. Or, if you like, 90 minutes per day for nothing – not to mention the cost of undertaking those appointments in staff, fuel, calls and wear and tear.
Actually, I’m not advocating that all physical viewings can be avoided. Just most of them. And the public seems to be with me given that Zoopla has said that they saw a 215% increase in requests for virtual viewings during last year.
And in a survey that U-See commissioned this month, a massive 86% of respondents said that they are more likely to purchase or rent a home using a digital viewing service now – and so this is a definite trend, not just a blip.
The ultimate test of commercial stickiness has to be revenue though, right? So what if I told you that research states that virtual tours achieve higher prices for property sales and lets? Well, they do according to respected data provider Twenty Ci. A 5.6% hike for sales and 8.5% for rentals, to be exact. Put another way, the average UK home sale would attract a premium of £14,093 if all viewings were digital. To you, that’s at least another £140 in fees but surely a means of converting more valuation into listings and at higher percentage commissions too?
The days of aimlessly traipsing around houses multiple times per week may not all be over quite yet. But they are numbered.
Simon Dempsey is Marketing Director at U-See Technologies, the platform that provides virtual and video tour hosting with live, agent video commentary whilst introducing multiple documents and digital assets into each session.