The old adage tells us movers make up their mind about a property after 30 seconds of walking through the front door, but love blossoms far earlier than the initial property visit.
What actually prompts people to book a viewing or click for more details are the marketing visuals seen beforehand. Property is a sensory experience and very much heart first, head second.
Whether someone is walking past your window display, trawling the portals or reading a piece of direct mail, a visual is what stops people in their tracks – it prevents people from scrolling past, pressing delete or heading to the recycling bin.
Digital marketing relies on aesthetics, as well as traditional marketing, visuals play a crucial role in digital marketing and this is where poor quality output will be exposed. Photographing your own reflection in a bathroom mirror or submitting a shaky video that you intend to distribute to hundreds or thousands of potential customers will negatively alter the perception of a property you are marketing and indicate a level of unprofessionalism at your agency.
If you want to avoid featuring in a ‘world’s worst estate agency photos’ blog, there is plenty of help and you don’t need to be David Bailey to turn out stunning property particulars and even aspirational videos.
A blossoming partner industry has emerged intent on helping agents improve the quality of their visuals, recognising that agents often lack the skill or time to produce polished output or take their content to the next level.
The emphasis is on simplicity and speed, with easy-to-integrate software, quick turn-around times so listing advantages are not lost, remote training, 24/7 support desks, measuring and metrics, and scalable cost plans that flex in line with demand.
Despite advances in smartphones, digital SLR cameras still produce the best pin-sharp images. Whether one rests in the hands of your listers or a professional photographer, a slick set of edited photos will stand out. FocalAgent offers services to agents striving for better visuals. There are two levels of service – the editing of existing photographs (think grey skies turned to blue, colour corrections, cropping) or a bank of 800 professional photographers who will shoot a property on an agent’s behalf – with a neat floor plan system that turns sketches in to professional drawings.
Rolf Groenewold at FocalAgent, says working with a professional partner speeds processes: “Visual content production partners save agents time and energy – resources that can be diverted to where it counts; building relationships, keeping clients happy, winning new listings. Look at the time spent in the property, taking photos, creating the floor plan, it can take two hours or more for an average two up, two down property, especially when they attempt to produce to the same standard as a photography professional.”
A professional partner speeds processes, saves time and energy, resources that can be diverted to building relationships, winning new listings. Rolf Groenewold, FocalAgent.”
“That estimation doesn’t even take in to account travel, sifting through 50-100 photos to find the best shots, enhancing, editing, producing a final floorplan from sketches, and then all the uploading and downloading that goes on.”
MOVE WITH THE TIMES
While good quality static photos are essential for print marketing and have a respected place online, it’s the moving image or an interactive edge that is making inroads. The major portals are onboard with more sophisticated property listings and in the case of Rightmove, virtual tours are now showing more prominently on its mobile site and on its app – a decision it said it would only make when there was proven demand. In fact, Zoopla, OnTheMarket and Rightmove are all accommodating virtual and 3D tours on their listings.
There is an entry-level point in to the world of video and agents are able to create something with a compelling narrative using only a set of good-quality photographs. FocalAgent’s audio tours seamlessly knit together an agent’s photos with a voiceover and music for a portal-friendly TV-style advert.
STEPPING UP TO 3D
At the other end of the spectrum is 3D and James Morris-Manuel, Vice President EMEA at Matterport, believes the 3D tours powered by its cameras and software play a crucial part in converting enquiries into viewings: “The key attraction of 3D tours for house hunters is that they are interactive; the user is in control and this makes the listing more engaging. Properties listed with 3D walkthroughs can achieve as many as four times the number of enquiries and generate 49 per cent more leads.”
The key attraction of 3D tours for house hunters is that they are interactive; the user is in control and this makes the listing more engaging. James Morris-Manuel, Matterport.
“We know from our research with Foxtons that viewing a property online, buyers decide in just eight minutes if they will arrange a viewing. It is much easier for the buyer to fall in love with a property if they see it in detail, imagine living there. If they arrive at the viewing excited about the property and with good knowledge, they are much more likely to buy,”
Matterport’s research also indicates that 3D tours can help achieve higher sales prices – an appealing aspect when you consider commission is paid as a percentage of the price agreed, “One of our estate agency clients has reported properties sell five times faster with 3D virtual tours than traditional imagery, with properties achieving up to 50 per cent above the asking price.”
FocalAgent is one industry provider who offers clients 3D experiences without investing in the equipment, software or trained photographers. Its end-to-end service delivers a finished virtual reality 3D showcase available to view on almost any smart device. And when viewed using Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear headsets, viewers experience the next best thing to physically visiting a property.
The resulting statistics are promising, with 403 per cent more enquiries, 95 per cent more client calls and 49 per cent more qualified leads when a virtual reality 3D showcase is presented.
VIRTUAL VIEWINGS SAVE VISITS
EyeSpy’s 360 virtual tours are also part of a new, immersive property viewing experience that’s working on a number of levels to help agents. The obvious is that a virtual tour helps purchasers experience a property from afar, whether they’re an overseas purchaser, a relocator or an investor buying blind. In addition, when virtual tours are captured as a video file, they provide something eye-catching to play on screens mounted in a branch’s window and host on an agent’s website.
What you post online affects where you appear on results pages. Google likes web pages that keep people on-page and have a low bounce rate. Michael Valentine, EyeSpy360.
EyeSpy360’s Michael Valentine also highlights the resource-saving element of virtual tours, citing a client who has made it compulsory for its agents to show viewers a virtual tour before booking a physical viewing to eliminate wasted property visits. In some instances, the agent uses EyeSpy360 Live – a function where the agent takes the viewer on an interactive tour by way of a live audio link – which allows its negotiators to even ‘meet’ the viewer outside the property for a very personal experience.
GOOGLE LOVES IMMERSIVE VISUALS
The next step of visual marketing is more than turning heads or impressing on the portals, adds Michael. “What you post online affects where you appear on results pages. Google likes web pages that keep people on-page and have a low bounce rate, this achieved by posting engaging content to be watched or interactively explored.”
Partners including EyeSpy360 are making it easy for agents to embrace omnichannel marketing that includes social media. “Our set-up allows agents to publish virtual tours on the leading channels, including YouTube and Facebook, at a click of a button – no need to be a marketing expert. We also offer the option to embed videos, still images and Google Street Maps into our tours for the ultimate in engagement and SEO-friendly activity,” adds Michael. It’s a point that Rolf at FocalAgent agrees with, “Whether it’s broadcast online or handed out as a brochure, marketing material that connects emotionally with the receiver is essential and visual content does just that – social media posts with images produce a 650 per cent higher engagement than text-only ones. In a world of diminishing physical contact and rising online and e-commerce activity, consumers are demanding a better visual experience prior to any transaction.”
BACK TO THE FLOOR
Floorplans have become an integral part of successful listings but you’d be forgiven for thinking they were a rather pedestrian aspect of visual marketing. Research from Rightmove indicates that over a third of buyers were less likely to enquire about a property without a floorplan, while 1 in 10 said that they’d never arrange a viewing if they had not seen a floorplan first. Yet roughly 25 per cent of listings don’t have a floorplan – surprising given the research.
The uncluttered 3D visuals and birds-eye view give perspective and a true sense of space – it adds to the storytelling process. Steve Flatman, PlanUp.
Seeing a floorplan crystalises a property’s scale and flow – aspects that can be hard to define when scrolling through photos. As well as traditional 2D floorplans, 3D versions and hybrid examples are making the user experience more exciting. “The feedback from our 3D floorplans tells us they’re extremely useful when buyers are struggling to imagine their own possessions in a new home or when purchasers want to explore remodeling potential,” says Steven Flatman at PlanUp. “The uncluttered 3D visuals and birds-eye view gives perspective and a true sense of space – it adds to the storytelling process.”
PlanUp’s latest tool is the Photo Plan – a hybrid that knits together 2D space plans with photos, which negates the flicking between a floorplan and image galleries. “Our Photo Plans are traditional floorplans with hotspots embedded. The user hovers over a dot and a photo of the room or space automatically pops up – it encapsulates the whole property on one page.”
MORE THAN JUST MEASUREMENTS
For all the bells, whistles and embellishments currently on offer, the uptake is only as good as its ease-of-use. Like PlanUp, Metropix has found the perfect balance between time-saving, efficiency and user-friendliness (for both the agent and the home mover). Its simple ‘drag and drop’ app allows agents to create a floorplan while in the property: “We know agents need to retain degree of control when it comes to floorplans but Metropix has simplified the process so anyone can create a floorplan in less than 10 minutes with just a tablet and a laser distance measure,” says Steve Sanashee, Customer Relations Manager at Metropix.
Metropix has simplified the process so anyone can create a floorplan in less than 10 minutes with just a tablet and a laser distance measure. Steve Sanashee, Metropix.
Taking floorplans up to the next level is equally as simple. There are bespoke branding and colour options, PicturePlus Plans and a Space Planner facility that allow home movers to drag, drop and reposition items of furniture onto an agent’s floorplan – all supported for use with the portals and on an agent’s own website for maximum exposure.
DON’T BREAK THE BANK
What’s apparent with existing and emerging visual technology is that is can be a low-cost investment, perform a number of functions and save agents valuable time. For instance, it takes a matter of minutes to create an accurate floor plan from a virtual tour, while an interactive floor plan can evolve to become an inspection report for property managers. The price of the technology – be it the software, the hosting or the equipment – is cheaper than you think, with arm’s length production training and hand holding to steer the most technophobe of agents into the realms of immersive property visuals.