New Realities for Real Estate Agencies

COVID has created a new reality for most businesses, including real estate – and the waters are now unchartered. To address this, RE/MAX Malta COO Jeff Buttigieg hosted a panel to discuss the technological tools helping the sector adapt, with input from RE/MAX Malta Chairman Kevin Buttigieg, RE/MAX Central Franchise Owner James Busutil, and special guest Klaus Knuffman from the Damn Good Video Academy.

As technologies such as Zoom, Skype, and Facetime and others become increasingly important, real estate agencies will be operating in new ways. For instance, clients will be able to watch videos and take virtual tours when they are interested in a property,– saving time and creating a sense of safety for both agents and customers.

Speaking in an online panel about the types of changes the sector is making to move its business online, RE/MAX Malta Chairman Kevin Buttigieg says: “It’s going to be a new, very important norm. Video conferencing won’t be used to sell a property but to get people interested in the first place. It will help people understand the property, and help clients see what they need to see. Besides that, it will help people quickly narrow down which properties they want to view but it will not eliminate the physical viewing process”

Giving his input to the panel, special guest Klaus Knuffman explained that he has been working with RE/MAX Europe as a photographer and videographer for many years. He shared a lot of insight into how video is used in other regions including Malta and has a broad view on current trends. According to Klaus, video is no longer just a hobby. It will be a must for business, especially as the COVID-19 crisis drives the use of video and virtual tours. “It is hard to convince real estate agents to invest in video but it is worth the effort,” he stresses. “73 per cent of homeowners state they are more likely to go into business with a real estate agent who uses video. As we speak, only seven-to-nine per cent of agents create listing videos.”

So why should this number be much higher? Mr Knuffman explains we live in times that are changing rapidly. Marketeers and real estate agents that use video grow their revenue 49 per cent faster than non-video users. So, in order to expand their audience and receive more shares, agents should consider posting more videos on social channels to receive more shares. Social referrals remain important, but videos on social networks help agents get their word out faster.

On top of that, statistics show that 64 per cent of consumers make a purchase after watching branded social videos. Video is thus an effective tool to put a face to the brand, making it more relatable and therefore increasing sales. And this makes sense to new markets too, as young, future buyers and sellers mainly consume content in video form. “Users want to play around instead of reading texts, as the average user spends 88 per cent more time on a site with video,” Klaus advises.

But while agents may be concerned that video can be difficult to create or expensive, that doesn’t have to be the case. “Using a smartphone with a tripod or a built-in laptop camera, along with good lighting and audio, it’s easy to record Zoom calls and create video podcasts. The results will be enough to get you noticed.”

Klaus’ final advice for agents that think they can exclude video from their marketing is this: “Consumer demand is changing, especially right now. You can still outstand your competition if you start to use video right now. If you don’t, you will lose market share and customers. Compared to other RE/MAX regions such as Romania, Portugal, and Greece, Malta is far ahead with video – so that is good news, but consistency is key.”

Video is now the marketing tool that attracts most clients, and a virtual tour can then show the entire house and assist in getting a lead. And while it is true that viewing a house online may not seal the deal completly, it can certainly gain traction and move the process along. Virtual tours, then, go one step further.

James Busutil has been in the real-estate industry for 25 years and has seen markets change. He is currently very hands-on with virtual property tours in Malta, which he creates for the company’s Exclusive Listings. “Virtual tours are different from video, and are primarily used to take you into the property and effectively reduce or remove unnecessary visits,” he explains. “A virtual tour is literally like being inside the property, as customers get to walk around and focus on what they want to see. It is even possible to accurately measure any part of the house, to check if furniture would fit!”

In fact, Mr Busutil considers virtual tours to be the perfect solution in the current circumstances – right up until that point of sale. “At the end of the day, everyone is going to want to take a real look at the property, to see its location and negotiate the price. If anyone ever thought a customer would buy a property based on a virtual tour, but it hasn’t happened yet! Nevertheless, virtual tours serve an excellent purpose and are keeping the market moving.”

Klaus also believe in virtual tours, and predicts that they will become mandatory for every property in the future. “Virtual relaity is next,” he continues. “And in this time of crisis, it is the best way to showcase a property. Nevertheless, the most important thing to any video is to start with a great introduction – people still want to connect to other people,” he says.

Finally, the panel all agree that buyers and sellers are all embracing these technologies, as well as agents. “ Malta, we’re proud to be leading the industry when it comes to showcase our properties using video and virtual tours, while also educating the public on how best to make use of these services,” Mr Buttigieg concludes.