Add home buying and selling to the growing list of activities that have pivoted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now more than ever, buyers, sellers, and brokers are showing houses on smartphones and computer screens.
ShowingTime, an online home-showing scheduling and management tool, has been a huge success, Frank Leach, broker/owner of RE/MAX Platinum Services in Silverdale and a director at Northwest Multiple Listing Service (NWMLS), said in a news release this week.
“Utilization of tools within it continues to multiply as more and more agents realize the flexibility of the system,” Leach said.
NWMLS records show big year-over-year gains in ShowingTime appointments. Member-brokers logged 168,546 appointments in June, eight times more than June 2019. In July, ShowingTime appointments increased more than nine times from a year ago, to 189,832.
In May, NWMLS enabled listing brokers to input up to three links for touring choices on each of their listings, including options like 3-D tours, recordings of video walk-through tours of the home, or photo reels, the release said. On June 1, about 2 percent of listings with virtual tours had two or more links, according to NWMLS statistics. By July 27, more than 12 percent of the listings (including active, contingent, and pending) featured two or more touring options.
Leach said clients are finding they can cover a lot of ground by making use of virtual tours and live-streamed open houses that enable agents to set up chats with prospective buyers and interact with them live on various platforms. Matterport videos and imagery are well received, he said, in part because they allow visitors to walk through a house and see more details, such as floor-to-ceiling and fully immersive 3D floor-plan views.
NWMLS member-brokers also can showcase their listings at specific times using the live-stream open house option. Viewers can interact with the listing broker in real time while adhering to social-distancing guidelines.
Live-streaming also is used by affiliated services like home staging and inspecting. Home-stagers and inspectors alike can exchange information with the listing broker and provide feedback before the broker holds open houses for the public or other brokers, the release said.
Virtual tours are increasingly popular with NWMLS members, with the previewing option offered on more than 10,000 listings in the MLS database, including active, contingent, and pending listings, the release said.
Conducting business virtually “has been quite a shift for us,” Leach said. “I don’t see it reverting to what we had done in the past. Even our broker tours are now done virtually.”