Virtual Reality Tours Can Help You Sell Your Listings

Virtual Reality Tours Can Help You Sell Your Listings

Looking for that competitive edge?  Check out VR.

What is VR?  It is an artificial, computer-generated environment that you experience as if you were inside the image, or in this case the home. Put on a virtual reality headset and you can go on a tour of a home without ever setting foot inside the door, not only making house hunting more efficient, but also helping to reduce stress in a relocation situation.  As far as the selling process with VR, distance doesn’t matter. You can offer the same experience to a client in the United States and a client in Hong Kong, 24 hours a day.

One problem that has plagued real estate agents for decades is that an empty home is a difficult sell. Without furniture and all of the other little touches that turn a house into a home it can be very difficult for a potential buyer to imagine themselves living in a particular property. With technology, the virtual solution solves this dilemma and ‘staging’ a home, just got less expensive and easier than lugging in actual pieces of furniture to fill a home when it’s open for inspection. FloorPlanOnline’s 3D floor plan solution allows anyone to drag and drop furniture onto a “clean slate” floor plan model and virtually stage it with furniture.  Better yet, they can virtually change wall colors, flooring, or even experiment with removing a wall to see what an open concept might look like.  Click a button and see it in 3D from the top, or go all in with immersive First Person view. Our 3D plan enhances some of the other cool 3D tours like Matterport, which show all of the sellers’s stuff in the property, as well by converting any Matterport tour into a 3D model that allows you or the owner to do anything, all virtually and in real time.

But is this really what consumers want?  According to Coldwell Banker’s 2018 Smart Home Marketplace survey (download PDF here), the answer is YES!  Th CB study reveals insights on how smart home tech and VR (Virtual Reality) are set to benefit consumers in a myriad of ways.  Their survey included responses from 3,000 adults revealing that:

  • 77% of homebuyers would like virtual reality tours before seeing the listing in person.
  • 84% agree they would love to see video footage of homes before visiting
  • Another 68% would like to use technology to see how their current furniture would actually look in a new home.
  • Further, 62% of Americans said they would be more apt to go with a real estate agent, that offered VR Tours over an agent who did not.

An example 3D Space Planner, standard with all FloorPlanOnline Tours and HomeDiary users.

When it comes to Smart Home products that could make or break a sale, the table below shows a percentage of Americans who already own, or plan to purchase, Smart Home products.

The following Smart Home Products were picked by respondents to be the most important pre-install in a listing:

  • Smart Thermostat  – 77%
  • Smart Fire Detector – 75%
  • Smart Cardon Monodie Detector – 70%
  • Smart Camera – 66%
  • Smart Lock – 63%
  • Smart Lighting System – 63%

While some of the changes expected to hit real estate technology may be a decade out to be fully felt, the movement is taking steps forward every day. Virtual Reality has proven its worth and it won’t be long before it transforms the property-buying experience for home buyers all over the world.

FloorPlanOnline’s HomeDiary PRO service is the perfect online tool to help showcase your listings, and well as provide a unique homeowner management tool to all of your clients for one low annual fee. With HomeDiary PRO, you can provide an HGTV-like 3D floor plan tool to all of your clients to they can Dream, Manage and Do more with their home.   To learn more visit HomeDiary PRO.  Existing FloorPlanOnline customers, please contact sales for special options.

Aerial Photography & The Law

Aerial Photography & The Law

Know Before You Fly.

Aerial photos and video are great for real estate listings, but did you know YOU and the drone pilot can be fined up to $11,000 by the FAA for each illegal flight?

Now that the FAA rules around aerial photography for commercial purposes (including real estate listings) are fairly clear, it is extremely important to only work with FAA licensed pilots – either a pilot that holds a Section 333 exemption or a person that holds a Part 107 remote pilot certificate.

If you are using someone that does not hold one of these certificates, you could be subject to fines up to $11,000 per occurrence and possible jail time!

However, just having the right credentials does not mean you can fly.  There can be local restrictions, either imposed by the FAA airspace classifications, or even the city.  Read below for specific detail of the situation in Seattle, currently the fastest growing city in America. The same situation is likely very applicable to your area.

Seattle Airspace Example

To illustrate the complexity and reason you need someone that knows what they are doing, let’s look at Seattle. The Seattle area has many airports that carve up the airspace between class B, C, D and E.  Certain high value residential areas, like ALL of Mercer Island and all much of the Seattle-Lake Washington waterfront are actually restricted areas.  If you fly here without approval, or meeting the rules, you are flying illegally and subject to fine, or worse…if something goes wrong, you could be looking at potential jail time too!

If you are using someone that has no knowledge of these airspaces, that is your first clue.  So do a test and ask them about airspace and see what they say.  If they have no idea what the solid blue, dashed blue or other lines means in the picture above, you should not use that person. Or, even what the orange circle means and why it is strictly prohibited to fly there. It is not worth the risk to you and your business. As part of getting a Part 107 certificate, you learn about these airspaces and why it is important to pay attention to them.

So let’s look at a couple of specific areas that are prime candidates for aerial imagery.

Mercer Island is a very affluent area where the average home is over $1 million, since it is 10 minutes from downtown Seattle, yet it has it’s own village like community.  ALL of Mercer Island is in a Class D airspace, because the Renton airport, and a Boeing plant, are just south of the island. The second a drone takes off, you are in Class D airspace.  That means you need FAA approval to fly there in the first place – before you fly!  To get approval, the remote pilot in command must fill out a form with the FAA and wait for approval. They say it can take up to 90 days!  Obviously this does not work well for real estate photography.

To speed the process, we have applied for an exemption from the FAA for the specific purpose of real estate photography on Mercer Island and the Seattle-Lake Washington waterfront, so we are waiting to see if we get approved.  If we do, then we should be able to do aerial photography on a much more timely basis and this will be an advantage over other providers as we will be 100% legal!

However…there is more. The City of Seattle has its own rules, of course!

Real estate photography comes under the Film Office jurisdiction. In order to do any kind of photography or video legally in the Seattle city limits for a commercial purpose, you MUST hold a Section 333 exemption, you have to have a permit (3 day period to get that at a minimum and $25 fee) and you need to meet their other rules.  A couple of onerous ones being you have to notify all people in the neighborhood 72 hours in advance AND you can’t fly within 500 feet of any nonparticipant unless they are under cover of a structure.

How is this practically applied for a real estate shoot?  Not very easily…

Per discussions with city employees, they are actively looking at how the Part 107 certificate holders (what FloorPlanOnline people have in most cases) can provide services legally.  Let’s hope they are smarter about this than other things the city does…  Until then we are not flying within the Seattle City limits.  If you are using someone that does, and they do not hold a Sec. 333 exemption specific for the purpose of filming (which I highly doubt anyone in Seattle has given it is public info and only 3 people have an exemption in the whole area), then you are doing it illegally.  Buyer beware!

So what is the risk of just doing it, either using someone not licensed or without FAA approval? The FAA is now handing out fines, that can reach up to $11,000 for each occurrence.  One guy that did not receive monetary compensation, yet the FAA viewed as a commercial purpose, received a $55,000 fine for 5 different events he filmed.  If a drone pilot has to land and change batteries, that is 2 occurrences, even if it is the same property.  You can see how this could add up.

Plus, the City of Seattle has prosecuted a drone operator that had a drone crash and knock out a lady during a parade.  He was sentenced to 30 days in jail.   Finally, what if a drone went rogue, hit an airplane or car and caused a catastrophic event.  You and others would be sued big time, not to mention you would likely be put out of business.

How would the FAA or City of Seattle find your aerial photos?  All they have to do is look on Zillow and view the images.  You as the listing agent will be listed.  So it would not be difficult for them to pursue this easily just by viewing photos people post online.  If they come knocking and you do not have the proof of legally being able to fly, you face fines or more penalties.

The bottom line is not to scare you.  But it is to educate you to make the right business decision and hire the right people for the job.  It is not worth you saving $50 or $100 to hire a college kid or unlicensed drone operator. We do have licensed pilots in WA, NJ, NY, CT, and TX, and more to come down the road. But as you see, just because you hold a valid license does not mean you can fly in all areas.  So be smart and know before you fly and hire the right company for the job!

HomeDiary Claim Home

HomeDiary Claim Home

Introducing Claim Home, powered by HomeDiary

 

Now every buyer can claim their new home right from the FloorPlanOnline virtual tour.  With the click of a button, the buyer sends a request to you as the listing agent to approve giving a copy of the photos and floor plans (including the 3D Space planner) to the buyer in their own private HomeDiary account.  Now, that great content created on the “For Sale” side of the transaction can live on with the “For Living” side!  No other virtual tour platform has this capability because no one else has their 2016-10-04_1202own 3D floor plan tool that can do the amazing things the FloorPlanOnline tool can do!

Right now, the Claim Home feature is live on the Full Screen tour.  We will be working to add it on other tour versions.  If you want it on your tour now, simply go to Edit Details from the Manage Tours page and select the Full Screen tour option, then save at the bottom.  The Claim Home button will then show under tools as you see in the above screen shot.

Then just look for the approval request from the buyer.  You can also point out this feature to the buy side agent as a courtesy to them and their client.

We are currently working on some market research as part of our participation in the NAR REach program around HomeDiary options and integrations with some of the tools you already use, such as transaction management platforms, CRM systems and even some larger regional brokerages.  So stay tuned for some interesting things to come as we approach the National Association of Realtors’ annual convention.

Introducing Call2Action

Introducing Call2Action

We just released the best way to get a buyer on the line, and then hook’em.  The Call2Action PhotoTM!

Now, every newly published tour has a composite image of select content from the tour called the Call2Action Photo.   It features the exclusive content like the floorplan image, a video screen shot and some other photos.  It is designed to be used on sites like Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com (the 3 together make up over 70% of the real estate traffic) to leverage their massive monthly traffic to get more people coming to your virtual tour.  Once they are there, use our event-based lead capture to communicate and seal the deal!

The Call2Action photo can be uploaded to Zillow and moved to say position #2 to let the viewer know there is cooler, better content on the virtual tour.  Download the branded version right from the Marketing Center main page.  We also have an unbranded version (that does not have the tour link but just calls out to click the virtual tour) that can be used on the MLS.  This can then get swept to Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com, sites that typically include the virtual tour links via Listhub distribution.  call2action_branded (13)

Coming soon – We are also working on some updated tour posting solutions for Zillow and Craigslist…that can make the posting of the virtual tour either automatic, or as simple as a few steps.  We can also upload the branded Call2Action photo right into your Zillow listing.  We hope to launch this new feature within the next few weeks, so stay tuned!

 

PS. The Call2Action photo is live on all tours published as of September 19th.  If you want it on an older tour, just go to Edit Tour, then Edit Photos/Video and hit the save button.  The branded Call2Action photo should then show up as a button in the Marketing Center.

YouTube Can Drive Website Traffic

Here is a great new article from RealtorMag about a study conducted by the WAV Group and Victor Lund that talks about how the portal sites like Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com are not driving traffic back to broker’s websites….and that YouTube is one of the top referring sites, thanks to Google.  See the full post from the WAV Group here.  He further states there should be a driving force to get virtual tours on every listing.

Google was also a top referrer, and that has important implications for virtual tours on YouTube because “Google displays YouTube results in the search results above the fold,” Lund writes. “That means that the video gets great SEO — usually better than the broker’s listing detail page. This is the driving force behind the strategy of publishing virtual tours on every company listing.”

Luckily, as a FloorPlanOnline customer, we generate a free YouTube video for each listing, and we can post it either to our YouTube channel or yours.  Just set it up under your Linking Profile.  The video is all automatic, based on your settings under the Edit Photo/Video tab.  You can even add text or video clips.  Some of the other guys charge you $20, and it is a manual process.  Plus, we are working on a cool new video update this fall…so stay tuned for that update.  A preview of what it might look like is in this post.

call2action brandedThis study highlights the importance of a new tool we have been working on for the last month, called our Call2Action Photo.  The goal of the Call2Action Photo is to get more users to the virtual tour, where lead capture and engagement can happen.  The photo is a composite image of the floor plan, a video screen shot and several other images, with the virtual tour link prominently displayed and text that says Get Exclusive Content.  So now, leverage the traffic on Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, Craigslist or other websites  and create an incentive for people to get the exclusive content, like floor plans, on the virtual tour!

When you think about it, the virtual tour is the ONLY piece of content that can live on all of these websites (as well as your competitor sites) and drive traffic back to the listing.  If your tour features floor plans, the #2 requested item from buyers, and if you do not upload the floor plans as images with other photos (we think this is very important not to do), then the only place people will be able to see the floorplans is via the tour. This creates an opportunity for the potential buyer to find your tour, and you!

Plus, we are also the only company that automatically converts your unbranded tour pulled in from the MLS to a branded one on sites like Zillow with our exclusive Brandkeepr technology.  So when you combine:

  • The Virtual Tour distributed throughout the top websites, like Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, Craigslist and YouTube
  • Our Brandkeepr technology that converts unbranded to branded tours
  • Our Lead Capture tools that can engage a user after 4 clicks around the floor plan
  • And now our Call2Action photo

You get More Traffic, More Leads and More Results

But wait…it gets better!  Introducing a new option for corporate accounts where we can actually rebrand our virtual tour link with your domain name. So, Zillow can actually drive traffic to the tour which is now considered your website!  This means more visitors, more visits and more time on site, thanks to Zillow’s traffic!   This custom tour rebranding can be easily done with a sub domain, like tours.kw.com/xxxxxx, or with a little work on the IT side, like kw.com/tours/xxxxxx  where xxxxxx is our virtual tour ID.  This feature is exclusive to corporate account customers.  Please use the contact from below to discuss adding this feature to your account/sub accounts.

The bottom line, you need to provide something different than the same photos and text a user will find on Zillow, Realtor.com or your company website.  The FloorPlanOnline virtual tour does that, with the clickable floor plans, the RoomPlanner tool, flyer and other marketing tools we provide exclusive to the listing.  Buyers want to see floor plans….the virtual tour is the bait that will let you set the hook!  Plus, we can embed it on your website and further keep the user engaged.

New Search/Filter for Corporate Accounts

We released a new simplified way to either search/filter for accounts on the Manage Tour page, or when you are placing an order.  In the past, there was a long list to select from.  Now, if you are placing orders via a corporate account, just start typing the person’s name (first or last) or their customer ID and the list of filtered agents will appear.  You can then quickly select from the list.

This is an example.  Once the list appears just mouse over the desired name and click.
Agent Search