Northern Nevada Realtors pivot to virtual showings amid pandemic
Special to the NNBW
Sarah Scattini, a Realtor with RE/MAX Premier Properties in Reno, has worked in the real estate industry for 16 years. In that time there’s not much she hasn’t done when buying or selling a home — but new social distancing directives have Scattini and other Realtors implementing technology to virtually show homes to prospective buyers.
Governor Sisolak’s most recent social distancing directives prohibit Realtors and real estate agents from showing tenant-occupied homes, so Realtors have gone virtual to market prospective properties.
Scattini recently hosted a “coming soon” walkthrough on Facebook Live for a listing in Sparks. Despite widespread financial uncertainty and dwindling consumer confidence in the future of Northern Nevada’s economy, Scattini secured an offer on the property in less than a week based on her online efforts.
“As soon as we hit the market, people were able to run through and see the property,” says Scattini, who also serves as treasurer for Reno Sparks Association of Realtors and will be the association’s president in 2022. “Other agents also did virtual showings, and since the house was vacant they were able to do walkthroughs with prospective buyers.
“To go pending on a property in this market in one week is great.”
Buying and selling homes often is a deeply personal experience, and successful Realtors lean heavily on personal references from past clients, as well as their repeat business. These days, however, agents and brokers are working remotely.
Without the face-to-face meetings upon which they rely to build customer rapport, Realtors have shifted to virtual meetings to better engage their clients.
Erika Lamb, broker-owner of Welcome Home in Reno and current RSAR president, says there are five ways Realtors typically show homes virtually to clients:
- Standard virtual tours, which are a collage of photos that are stitched together to form a movie.
- Pre-recorded videos where agents walk through homes and then upload videos to YouTube or send them directly to clients via Dropbox or similar file-sharing app.
- 3-Dimensional tours. Tools such as Matterport allow agents to create three-dimensional showings that include key features such as floor plan layout, room measurements and guided tours.
- Live-stream open houses. Realtors create virtual open houses by walking through properties in real-time using apps such as Zoom, Facebook Live or Skype.
- One-on-one FaceTime showings.
Lamb says the majority of her buyers are either from out of the state or out of the country, so she’s long used FaceTime to walk them through properties.
One of the benefits of a Facebook live tour, she adds, is that Facebook bumps livecasts to the top of news feeds so they are easily seen and shared among friends. And with so many people working from home, social media use is much more prevalent than during normal business days and more people are catching the live casts.
“It has become a great tool,” Lamb says.
Virtual tours provide realtors and agents with several key advantages — especially at a time when prospective buyers can’t physically tour owner-occupied properties. Realtors walking through homes using FaceTime can instantly answer questions or provide additional details about key selling points. Agents using Facebook Live, meanwhile, can read and respond to messages posted online.
Still images posted to the Northern Nevada Regional Multiple Listing Service will likely always have a place in the buy-sell process. Recent improvements to the MLS allow sellers to post up to 40 photos instead of 25, Lamb says.
And when agents host live virtual open houses, the MLS pushes the date and time of the showing to popular real estate sites such as Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com.
Scattini says pictures can be deceiving and sometimes simply don’t do a house justice. Going live with buyers allows Realtors to truly showcase what a property has to offer. With the recently sold home in Sparks, Scattini also walked outside to showcase the neighborhood and discuss its proximity to police and fire services, schools, shopping and other amenities.
“Being able to run through with video, it’s like you are with me,” she says. “I walked through the property live, and they were able to see everything I was seeing. I was able to show how nice cabinets are — they were soft-close cabinets — and you can’t tell that from still pictures.”
Scattini readily admits that virtual tours are not her specialty. However, she says, she can tell she’s improved greatly from her first livecast, and other agents at RE/MAX Premier Properties have jumped on the virtual bandwagon.
“This is an extra step you can take to help sellers or buyers, and bottom line, if my clients are happy with my performance and getting their home sold in under a week then I have done my job,” Scattini says. “You don’t have to be on camera — you can just talk through it. “I still have buyers and sellers out there who are taking advantage of this market. Interest rates are low, and there’s still inventory out there to be sold.
“I am not the most comfortable in front of the camera, but it’s about getting out there and hustling for my clients. It’s a tough market, but we were still able to get out there and make it happen.”
Heather Ashbridge, who started with Nevada State Development Corporation in 2008, previously served in several roles with the organization, including assistant vice president and loan officer. She is based in NSDC’s Reno office.