In this modern era, many technological advancements have long moved past utilitarian purposes and are instead designed for convenience and comfort. But with the onset of stay-at-home orders and social distancing in the early days of the pandemic, what was merely convenient suddenly became essential and contactless technologies became commonplace.
Although made necessary by the pandemic, these technologies have been present in society for quite some time. Take grocery stores, for example—automated self-checkout rose to prominence in the early 2000s, online grocery shopping started in the late 1990s and the first no-checkout stores showed up in 2018.
This trend toward contactless technologies is also increasingly found in real estate. In particular, advancements in virtual technology have changed the way that homebuyers view and tour prospective properties.
Innovations like video calls, 3D renderings and 360-degree cameras have allowed for home tours to be done entirely from the comfort of your couch, begging the question—are in-person tours still necessary?
According to top agents from across the globe, the answer is a resounding yes. Here, several of these leading agents and brokers weigh in on what makes for a good home tour and why being there in the flesh is still a crucial part of the homebuying experience.
Making a Personal Connection
“A firm handshake, a warm smile and a confident voice are what give a client belief that you are their trusted advisor for their real estate needs. Technology complements the experience with data and knowledge but doesn’t replace it,” says Ann Dolan of luxury brokerage CDR San Miguel.
The luxury specialist adds that buyers being present at a listing not only builds a relationship with the agent but with the property itself.
“To gain a true perception of a home, it is difficult to replicate that feeling in a video. We have learned how to “walk and talk” clients through homes but, in the end, a screen still creates separation in the sense of space in a home.”
At New York City brokerage Elegran, humanizing the world of real estate is a company motto and, thus, in-person tours are an essential part of the company’s operation, says agent Mark Richter.
“Being with our client to see property gives buyers the extra level of confidence as they navigate inventory and when the time comes to bid. Every client is different with their needs depending on where they are with their search, but it’s vital that we don’t lose touch with our core values as a company and that’s the human element to the business and process.”
Giving and Getting Expert Advice
For vice president and broker at Barry Cohen Homes in Toronto, Justin Cohen, having agents be present at home tours has been a staple of the company since its inception. “Being at every showing has likely been our single biggest key to success.”
“It’s our company’s policy to always have an agent meet the buyer and their agent because next to the seller the agent knows the house best. Most importantly, we are there to handle any objections or concerns they may have,” Cohen continued.
Hilton & Hyland’s Paul Salazar also believes that in-person home tours make for the highest chances of success for both agents and buyers as an agent’s expertise on the property can best be expressed by physically walking buyers through a property.
“Once the buyer arrives, I always greet them by their name, so they feel welcomed and give them a complete tour of the house showcasing all the best features and details that only I know about. Not only that, but I am able to answer any questions and handle any objections the buyer may have to make them more comfortable, therefore increasing the chances they will write an offer.”
Getting To Know the Neighborhood
“During my tour, I always discuss the community, school district, shopping areas and any other relevant information about the location that a buyer would want to know,” says Salazar.
The Beverly Hills, California-based agent added that by researching the neighborhood and sharing this information with buyers, agents can showcase commitment and professionalism and thus gain a buyer’s confidence. “Being the neighborhood expert is an integral part of building trust between you and the buyer.”
Erica Chen of Elegran echoes a similar sentiment, saying that “New York real estate is so much more than what exists inside four walls. The success of my client’s real estate objectives is dependent on my ability to provide deeply researched knowledge of everything from the neighborhood to a building’s legacy to the materials”
Chen continued that while this information can be relayed over the phone or email, physically seeing the property can help turn what are merely specifications into a real connection. “Why do millions of people insist on seeing the ‘Mona Lisa’ in person when it is far more available and accessible online at our fingertips? For some, it’s the feeling of its presence―the gravity and, for others, the nuances, perfections and flaws.”
Using the Best Methods Possible
While Elegran may prioritize a human approach to real estate, Richter says that technology is not a hindrance but rather a necessary tool used to best serve clients.
“I think it’s important to evolve with technology that helps our clients achieve their goal of buying or selling a home.”
Teni Kalafian of Houston-based boutique brokerage, Baker & Co., shares this opinion, arguing that while there are many benefits to an in-person tour, the decision rests upon what is best for a client.
“It all depends on what their needs are, for example, are they a remote buyer? Do they want privacy? Have they done their homework? All of these factors can determine the importance of conducting “in-person” tours.”