The number of in-person open houses hosted by agents continued to climb in July, rising 5.8% from June and nearly 145% since May, according to Homesnap internal data. Yet, attendance hasn’t appeared to recover at the same rate.
According to a recent report by the National Association of Realtors, 35% of surveyed would-be open house attendees plan to hold off on attending in-person open houses. Fifteen percent indicated they would not attend unless a viable COVID-19 vaccine or treatment became available, and 20% indicated they would do so only if local medical or government authorities assured them there was no imminent threat to their health.
Of the 65% of respondents who indicated they still plan on attending in-person open houses, most, it appears, are unlikely to do so at the same frequency they did prior to the pandemic. Whereas in years past these homebuyers may have visited a property they only had a cursory interest in, the data now points to them being willing to go only if they believe there’s a strong possibility they’ll make an offer.
An article published this week in The Oregonian summed up this new reality, offering a local perspective on the national attendance trend:
“Open houses, which are one of the best ways to interest potential buyers, were temporarily put on hold to reduce the spread of the deadly virus. They are slowly coming back. Instead of casually stopping by a property with an open house sign, shoppers now narrow their criteria for a home and location by conducting their initial search online by viewing photos, video walkthroughs, and 3D tours.”
The article continues to include the perspective of Portland real estate agent Ryann Carroll:
“Attendance [is] low but steady, she says, since more people have accepted the noninvasive practice of virtual tours and some buyers are still not comfortable attending an open house. To publicize beyond an open house, she posts imagery on social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook.”
So, if in-person open house attendance is unlikely to return to pre-COVID-19 levels for the foreseeable future, what strategies can agents deploy now to ensure their open houses are the ones that attract more discerning attendees?
Think carefully about the quality of your listing photos
Current would-be homebuyers are putting greater emphasis upon listing photos. Poor-quality photos only serve to damper expectations, and a lack of photos signals to homebuyers that the listing agent may be deliberately attempting to obfuscate less-desirable aspects of a property—especially nowadays, when everyone has a high-quality camera in their pocket. In years past, homebuyers might have shown up to an open house to confirm or assuage their suspicions, but now, they’re much more likely to forgo attendance entirely.
Therefore, agents should concentrate their efforts on putting more and higher-quality photos on their listings. While we advise you to hire a professional photographer, we understand budgets may be tight, and we recently cataloged several apps available you can use to improve the quality of your listing photos.
Take those photos and advertise on social media
As Ryan Carroll alluded to in the Oregonian article, she’s been successful in attracting attendance by turning to social media platforms like Facebook to Instagram. Here are the (brief) benefits of each.
Take a look at these statistics:
- 80% of the US is on Facebook
- 168 million Americans check Facebook every single day, many of whom check their newsfeed up to 14 times per day
- US adults spend more time on social media than any other leisure activity, including time spent watching TV
When it comes to home buying specifically:
- 65% of all homebuyers indicated they have been influenced by a Facebook post about home buying, and
- 42% of millennials (the largest home-buying demographic in the US) say social media is the most relevant advertising channel to them
Running ads on Facebook means you have access to vast amounts of user-submitted demographic data about these audiences, allowing you to target ads from the get-go at a very granular level. You’ll be able to pinpoint users by location, interests, previous activity, and more to reach the exact audience you’re trying to access.
Facebook ads also smooth out the processes that often turn potential leads away. When a user clicks on an advertisement on most online platforms, they are taken to a landing page where they must manually fill out a form and press submit to indicate their interest. Many users drop off at this point. But because seeing a Facebook ad requires a Facebook profile, which means inputting data about yourself, Facebook auto-populates lead capture forms. It’s the ideal platform for easily following up your campaigns with an invitation to an open house.
Facebook impresses your sellers, too
Additionally, if you run a campaign on Facebook with Homesnap Pro Ads, you automatically receive an analytics report, which features chart, graph, and data breakdowns of the performance of your campaign across several important metrics, such as leads and impressions.
While these reports are primarily intended to help you track your lead generation campaigns, they also can also serve as a tangible, easily shareable testament to your effectiveness as a marketer and agent. With Homesnap, you can set up automated performance reports to send to your current sellers, so they can see in real-time how your marketing campaign is performing. Demonstrating homebuyer interest found in these reports can go a long way in convincing your clients to host an open house.
Then, when you’re done, you can repurpose these reports to include in future listing presentations, giving prospective seller clients a comprehensive overview of the steps you take to successfully market a property.
Instagram is the ideal social media venue for displaying high-quality listing photos. Not only is the platform purpose-built for eye-catching image sharing, but its engagement rates among prime home-buying demographics are unparalleled:
- 63% of Instagram users check the app daily for as much as 28 minutes a day, and 200 million users look at a business profile every single day. In fact, engagement on Instagram is higher than Facebook, with some brands reporting engagement rates multiplying by as much as 10x.
- Two-thirds of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 and just under 50% of Americans between 30 and 49 use Instagram on a regular basis. Incidentally, millennials are now the largest home-buying demographic. Marketing your listings on the platform is the very definition of meeting customers where they are.
Instagram’s video and story sharing features are also ideally suited for disseminating and promoting virtual open houses and 3-D tours and walkthroughs (more on this later), and with Homesnap, agents can cross-promote these digital alternatives on their listing pages directly to Instagram (and/or Facebook) with the click of a button.
Bottom line: If you’re going to do the legwork to produce high-quality listing photos and walkthroughs, it only makes sense to leverage them on an advertising platform designed specifically to…well…showcase high-quality photos and videos.
To learn more, we offer a complete guide to real estate marketing on Instagram. In it, you’ll find explanations of the Instagram platform, an explanation of the various ad types available to you, and strategies for advertising your listings.
Don’t abandon virtual tours and open houses
In the weeks following initial social distancing and stay-at-home guidelines, virtual tours and open houses proved both popular and effective. Now, though, as in-person open houses return, some agents have abandoned the tactic, viewing it more as a stopgap than a viable marketing strategy.
That’s the wrong line of thinking.
Even if you remain unconvinced that a homebuyer will purchase a property sight unseen, virtual tours and open houses provide a more immersive, holistic experience to homebuyers, making it much more likely they’ll attend in-person. Consider them not so much as a replacement for in-person open houses, but an entirely new advertising channel for which to promote them.
Take advantage of coming soon listings
As homebuyers deliberate on which open houses to attend and which to avoid, they’re spending more time on the initial, online research phase. Therefore, why not give your listing an opportunity to get in front of as wide an audience as possible, as early as possible?
Agents can use Homesnap Pro Ads to put advertising dollars behind listings in “coming soon” status in their MLS. Coming Soon Ads are an effective way to give your soon-to-hit-the-market listings broader exposure and generate increased interest among contemplative buyers. When you’re ready to make your listing active and advertise an open house, you’ll have generated a list of interested parties already available.
Additionally, like Facebook ads, Coming Soon Ads are a useful tool in gauging current market demand. Many sellers, worried about a lack of interest, may be hesitant to market their homes or host an open house. Agents can use Coming Soon Ads’ campaign results to gain deeper insights into market activity levels to advise clients on when is the right time to list and host an open house.
Get reviews that specifically highlight your attention to health and safety
Google reviews are a powerful tool, and as 86% of consumers research agents on Google prior to any sort of contact, it behooves you to try to garner as many reviews as possible that specifically address your adherence to safety and social distancing measures. Any effort that allows hesitant homebuyers to rest easy can go a long way towards winning new business. And, as an added bonus, these safety reviews can also help you attract seller clients, who may be concerned about letting strangers into their home.
The Homesnap One-Click Review Tool makes the process easy, as you can solicit reviews at the click of the button. Homesnap agents who used the One-Review Tool earned 3x the number of reviews than agents who didn’t and saw their overall rating increase to 4.95.
How Homesnap helps
Homesnap Pro Ads
Real estate agents have used Homesnap Pro Ads to run hundreds of thousands of ad campaigns to promote both themselves and their listings on Facebook, Instagram, Google, and Waze.
Homesnap automates the ad buying process, so agents don’t have to create ads from scratch or have extensive knowledge of digital marketing targeting and optimization techniques. Plus, Homesnap leverages consumer behavior to target in-market consumers with far more precision than DIY alternatives, making it easier than ever for agents to create and publish the type of advertisements that pique interest and drive prospects to their open houses.
If you’re considering ramping up your social media market as a way to promote your open houses, Homesnap Pro Ads is the single easiest and most effective way to do so.
Homesnap Pro+ Membership
With a Homesnap Pro+ membership, agents receive access to a host of best-in-class marketing and productivity tools that help boost their online credibility and attract and generate leads.
As an established Google Premier Partner, Homesnap Pro+ can instantly verify, manage, and optimize your Google business profile, which houses your Google reviews, for you. We’ll take all the guesswork out of building your Google presence so you can focus on your day-to-day responsibilities and not on the ever-changing whims of the online search giant.
Then, our One-Click Review Tool will automate the review process for you. We’re the only real estate company that partners with Google and your MLS to make this happen. No sending a bunch of emails or texts or cold calling former clients and begging for a few positive words. With just one-click, you’ll be able to solicit reviews about your safety and social distancing efforts from current and past clients, receive alerts when you receive a new review, and minimize the impact of negative reviews on your profile.