I’m a keen fan of innovation in the property industry, especially if it modernises and simplifies our way-too-complicated system of buying and selling. But charging £30 to view a home? The potential for bad publicity, and the confusion of agents acting for sellers yet receiving income from buyers for a viewing, smacks of complication and possible pitfalls.
Instead, I’m enthusiastic about how the conventional idea of free viewings can be used not just to benefit the vendor and prospective buyer, but to help the agents too.
Prioritising Serious Buyers: Many agents, especially after the frenzy of recent months, are all too familiar with tyre-kickers going on viewings with little or no intention of buying. So it’s not unreasonable to set a few hoops to jump through.
Some agents ask those requesting viewings to complete a short and simple emailed questionnaire giving an indicative timescale for moving, whether they have finance in place, and details of what they may have to sell before they can buy elsewhere. Obliging people to focus on these issues often sorts out the serious from the merely curious.
Using Technology for a First Viewing: The pandemic may have indirectly given our industry one benefit - wider public acceptance of virtual viewings. So why not keep these in place and treat them as ‘first viewings’ of properties for prospective buyers?
You could use either pre-filmed videos or fly-throughs, or for a more exciting ‘multiple first viewing’ try something like a live-streamed viewing with one of your team walking through and describing the property. This could be publicised and posted on your own website or perhaps on Facebook Live, with prospective buyers told in advance to create a buzz.
There’s one other advantage to virtual viewings too - they may draw in buyers who have dismissed a property because of unattractive still photos on an agent website or a portal.
On Location Location Location and in my professional buying agent work, I’ve met countless buyers who have entirely discounted properties they’ve seen on websites. Then I’ve helped some of them to go on to buy the houses they dismissed earlier! Virtual viewings should massively help to reduce this ‘fall through rate’.
How To Handle A Viewing: Remember that today’s buyers are typically well-armed with readily-available information on the market and plenty of TV property show tips on what to look for. So trying to rush through a viewing, or talk down possible issues, may backfire.
However, you can use the 15 minutes of a typical viewing to hammer home your own plus points: your knowledge of the local area, and your expertise on the potential for the property you’re viewing to be upgraded, extended or simply redecorated to suit a buyer’s wishes. And you can show off your own marketing skills and gently remind the buyer that those same skills could be used to help them sell their home into the bargain.
If staff availability is an issue, remember that services like Viewber are inexpensive andhave increasingly-skilled and reassuring people on the ground who can handle viewings.
Consider an Open House: These haven’t been necessary for most agents this year, as the sheer excess of buyers over sellers has kept time-on-the-market to a minimum for many homes. That’s likely to change this autumn however - the latest Halifax and Nationwide housing market snapshots suggest transactions are slowing, and most agents tell me they’re experiencing this too.
An Open House not only creates excitement amongst buyers (the whole point of the exercise, of course) but even suggesting it can flatter a prospective vendor when you’re pitching for an instruction.
For sellers who are in two minds, and perhaps fear they’ve missed the boat on the stamp duty holiday, suggesting an Open House could swing them in favour of committing to go to market - and instructing you to be the agent who does the deed.
The viewing is a crucial part of the marketing strategy for competing agents: it’s often overlooked, as if every viewing is the same. But it’s not - get it right, and do it better than the competition, and it can help homes sell more quickly and create that word of mouth reputation that helps your business get an edge.
*Phil Spencer is a presenter, author, businessman and property investor. Phil’s consumer advice platform Move iQ, is a website, YouTube channel and podcast. Each preserve and reflect the same impartiality that consumers trust and base their property moving plans. Coming soon: Move iQ Pro, Phil’s resource to support the property community. Stay tuned ready for launch!