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Virtual estate agents

David Anderson at Sykes Anderson Perry solicitors in London discusses while Nathan Anderson-Dixon, MD at Abode estate agency, reports.

Nathan Anderson-Dixon

Virtual Reality image

Virtual property tours and virtual estate agents have been with us for some time. Artificial Intelligence software is about to take it further. Virtual Reality tours will be provided to potential buyers, accompanied by a virtual agent with whom they can interact. Buyers can ask questions which the virtual agent will be able to answer.

David Anderson image

David Anderson

The big question is what will the virtual estate agent look like?

WHAT KIND OF SELLER?

The seller will have to approve the virtual video and see the virtual estate agent and agree the replies to be given using artificial intelligence. The agency will need to take care with the replies as these will be on record. There will need to be a disclaimer of liability for misrepresentation. For lower value properties there will usually be only one kind of virtual estate agent. For higher value properties you may have several different virtual estate agents depending on how you think sellers will react.

Your buyer should be profiled so that you can put the appropriate virtual estate agent in the virtual tour – knowing your buyer will be important. David Anderson, Sykes Anderson Perry.

Abode Estate Agents: ahead of the crowd!

Nathan Anderson-Dixon, MD at Abode, is way ahead of the crowd with PropTech. _ e photos in this feature show his VR property viewing stand in a major shopping centre. Nathan reports: “We are adapting and enhancing our model to meet the changing market. I have run my traditional model estate agency for 15 years with a small chain of showrooms, now we have centralised processes, starting with sales progression and admin.

“We now have many other sales related touch points and processes being handled from one central office (I still can’t bring myself to say “hybrid”).

“We embraced technology to improve customer service through things like giving sellers 24/7 access through our site and automated much of our contact and communication.

“We found that when trying to move into other territories without a bricks and mortar office, customers did not know who we were, so they didn’t trust us. So we created a VR property viewing experience. It’s essentially an estate agency branch, in the middle of Derby Intu, the busiest shopping centre in the area. We positioned it near the food hall as we discovered the dwell time was longer in this area and customers seemed more relaxed.

“We learned a great deal in the first two weeks, realising that customers needed to know instantly what we are. We erected two of our boards, so straight away people knew we were estate agents.

“Customers visit us here and view our homes in VR, they book valuations and viewings, and take away literature. It has proved a huge success and we have been listing like crazy since launching in April.”

“Now we have a commercial deal with Intu and will soon open more experiences. We are also installing valuation generator tools on Intu’s merchant site.”

Virtual Reality image

WHAT KIND OF BUYER?

The buyer should be profiled so you can put the appropriate virtual estate agent in the virtual tour. Knowing more about the buyer earlier on will become more important. Normally people want to deal with people from a similar socio-economic background. Wealthy older buyers may favour a mature well-spoken woman dressed in a “classic” way. For wealthy younger buyers a young man dressed casual-fashionable may be best. Buyers could choose their virtual estate agent using the software in the same way they choose a voice on their satnav. This is the easiest solution but may not give the best sales results. In specialist markets, foreign languages will be used.

LINK TO REAL ESTATE AGENCY

The ‘real’ estate agent with whom the buyer subsequently works with to conclude the sale needs continuity from the introductory virtual agent. The same values must be carried forward, which may be a challenge for the agency in transitioning the buyer and completing the sale.

GETTING INFORMATION

The virtual agent will ask the buyer questions to ascertain what they will pay and their prospects as a client. Replies can be checked instantly against computerised databases to see whether the buyer is telling the truth – eg, if the buyer gives their address and says they are a first time buyer, the virtual agent will instantly know by checking the Land Registry database if this is correct. Equally credit scoring can be done as the visit is going on.

A whole new world is opening up with new ways of selling! This is just the beginning.

David Anderson is a Solicitor-Advocate and Chartered Tax Adviser. Sykes Anderson Perry Limited. [email protected]

July 27, 2018

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