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Virtual promotion: how are estate and letting agents marketing to generate interest in their properties and services?

Virtual promotion: how are estate and letting agents marketing to generate interest in their properties and services?

Getting the market moving

On the 13th May, the UK Government made the welcome announcement that it was easing restrictions for the property market in England. This meant that people who were looking to make a move could now proceed in line with its official guidelines.

At the time of writing, the respective markets in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are still heavily restricted; home moving is not permitted and only virtual viewings should take place unless the property being moved into is vacant or the move is deemed as critical.

In England, agents are now able to list new properties and visit to take photos and videos whilst adhering to official safety guidance. However, it is still necessary for agents to conduct virtual viewings in the first instance, with physical viewings only taking place with serious buyers who are genuinely interested in the property.

Agents ramp up digital marketing activity

As the announcement was made, agents were quick to respond to the easing of restrictions, eager to highlight that the market was open for business.

Cumulatively, agents updated 1.3 million people on the 13th May by property email updates via the platform. May 2020 saw a 9.6% increase on cumulative property-email interactions when compared with the buoyant February market which was full of pent-up demand fuelled by Brexit and the now infamous ‘Boris Bounce’.

Agents have renewed vigour in their marketing and are keen to service public demand for property and guidance information. The majority of businesses are now opting to communicate with their entire database by email property bulletins every other working day.

Agents have more to directly offer their clients now too. The ‘desire’ for property is tangible. The rebound in housing demand isn’t only due to pent-up movers who were put on hold during lockdown, there are new movers registering with agents at record levels as property becomes more accessible via virtual services.

What’s trending in estate agency marketing?

Reassurance and virtual service

There has been a huge push on reassurance pieces. Agents have been quick to demonstrate that offices are open and operating safely, with many choosing to publish their own COVID-19 safety guidelines in line with the government’s guidance. Many have also sent out their physical viewing and valuation policies.

Agents are eager to shift existing stock and many have chosen to send out filming checklists for vendors and landlords to help them capture property USPs on video.

Simple property viewing videos (like the example below) are being created between vendors/landlords and agents. These are then being distributed in hot property emails via our Video Module to encourage bookings for virtual accompanied viewings.

Portal stats and comments

Recent Rightmove and Zoopla press releases have been used for content marketing. Rightmove’s ‘record-breaking browsing’ release and Zoopla’s recent ‘88% surge in buyer interest’ commentary are being leveraged by agents who are using the established property-portal brands to drive direct traffic to their own webistes, properties and services.

Proceeding with a physical valuation or viewing are being marketed with advisories in place. Agents are driving virtual viewings first and informing people that they must establish they can financially proceed with the purchase before progressing to a physical viewing.

Want to find out more?

If you’d like to find out more about how we can help your estate or letting agency to market your properties and services, click below to book a no-obligation consultation.

Protection & Planning series for agents

In association with Yomdel, our Protection & Planning series offers estate and lettings agents free content; dedicated to preparing their team and business for a post-lockdown recovery.

To register for upcoming sessions and access a library of recorded episodes, please click below.

How virtual property viewings captured our attention

How virtual property viewings captured our attention

Our resident webinar-in-chief – David Mann – looks at how virtual viewings have captured the attention of the public and asks: what does the future of virtual service really mean for estate and letting agents?

Recent statements from Rightmove and Zoopla – along with press testimonies from estate and letting agents up and down the UK – seem to indicate that online viewings and valuations are here to stay for the foreseeable future.

Rightmove recently declared that 6000 of its estate agency branches have used its online viewing label when uploading properties to the portal. Now, following a recent poll, Zoopla note that an overwhelming majority (98%) of vendors said that they would prefer to receive a remote ‘virtual’ market appraisal from an estate agent as the first stage in the sale process.

Necessity, protection and public sentiment

The UK Government’s advice is that agents should strongly encourage clients to view properties virtually in the first instance and only physically inspect properties which they have a strong interest in. Even developers have been told to pursue promoting virtual viewings in the first instance too.

Necessity, protection and majority public sentiment have been the catalysts for the growing popularity of virtual property services over the last few months. This unprecedented pandemic has brought about unthinkable changes to our way of life, and the desire to make a move for many is now coupled with extreme anxiety. The ramifications of social distancing will live on for the foreseeable future too; especially as we are constantly foreshadowed by a potential second wave of the virus as lockdown measures are continually relaxed.

On the plus side, most of us have also been forced to embrace technology in some way due to lockdown; fuelling our sense of interest and proving that even the most diehard technophobe can conduct social and business transactions online as it isn’t actually as daunting as we first thought.

It does now seem inevitable though that agents will – once again – be put under the microscope by consumers (and by their own competitors). There will inevitably be an analysis of service; how are agents adapting, how they are operating safely? Who would have thought that offering virtual property services could become an indicator of competency and trustworthiness for the industry in the future?

Indeed, I think that back when marketing properties on the portals became a commonplace benchmark for a basic marketing plan, the expectation for virtual property promotion will now surely follow from vendors and landlords as a pre-requisite service that we will come to expect as part of our marketing package.

Combining safety and convenience with a reduction in overheads – what’s not to like?

I believe that virtual tours will become commonplace in the housing market, purely because people like convenience; and what can be more convenient than getting to see what a property has to offer from the comfort of your existing home before committing to a purchase or a rental?

Yes, there are some welcome guidelines from the industry’s regulatory and advisory bodies to note. On lettings, The Property Ombudsman (TPO) has stated that ‘it is not advisable for an agent to accept, or recommend a landlord to accept, an offer on a property that has not been viewed by the prospective tenant(s)’. Similarly for sales, it notes that ‘video viewings are to be used by agents as a filtering exercise, and that any serious buyers are provided with an ‘offer agreed subject to viewing.’ Likewise, the NAEA and ARLA Propertymark air on the side of caution too; sharing the same sentiment for using virtual viewings as a ‘filtering system’ to progress sales or lets with prospective buyers and tenants who are serious about continuing the transaction.

Some agents are not entirely sold on the idea, noting that – justifiably – only a physical viewing can confirm whether a property ‘feels’ right. Some are apprehensive about letting the vendor or landlord film the property, and some are worried that it serves to undermine the objective of traditional online marketing altogether: to ‘whet’ the appetite to book a physical viewing.

Taking all these considerations onboard, surely virtual viewings should be embraced as an exciting moment of progression in property marketing? Whether you are an agent that has been doing them for years or if you’re new to it, this is a service that comes with massive benefits for the consumer – and that’s what’s important to get the market moving. I totally get that there is a sentiment from agents that says even though virtual viewings are available, most people would prefer a physical viewing before making a final decision, and that’s understandable; property is a big commitment.

Yet, video viewings are, for me, an extension of the services provided by property marketers, and I think that’s really exiting. E-commerce is officially part of the property industry and its impact is becoming very tangible. The Property Franchise Group (TPFG) actively stated its business pulled through lockdown by its reliance on virtual viewings and property management; something that we advocated in one of our first Protection & Planning webinars. Closer to home, one our clients, Butlins Property Services, recently shared with us that their last campaign help them to take on five new properties in a really challenging climate.

For me, virtual services will drive productivity and reduce overheads in the short and long term – and that is crucial to agents who are up against in financially. In a recent meeting I had, one agent calculated that if they reduced their physical viewings by 75% and used virtual viewings to qualify genuine buyer interest first, they could make a potential annual saving of £15,000. As well as cost-saving, there some other immediate benefits that spring to mind:

  • You can start shifting existing stock and use the USP of virtual viewings to prospect and replenish pipelines.
  • Any prospective buyer and tenant who view a property but don’t proceed to offer become your next bank of purchases to contact for similar properties.
  • You’ll see a significant improvement in accurately qualifying leads and buyer intent.
  • They’ll be a colossal reduction in overheads as you decrease the number of unsuccessful physical viewings.
  • Every property on your books becomes more accessible to a wider audience. Get multiple buyers all in one ‘room’ and accompany them on a tour.

To conclude then, there is little doubt that traditional in-person viewings and valuations will need to continue. However, agents who supplement virtual services into their proposition will not only capture the zeitgeist of public sentiment at a pivotal point in the industry’s history, they’ll also recover quicker.

Pandora’s box has been opened; virtual viewings are here to stay and it’s going to be nigh on impossible to go back. Even when (fingers crossed) a vaccine is manufactured, the way we interact with properties will be forever changed. The benefits to agents should far outweigh any reluctancy to adopt them right now.

In an ongoing poll, we’re asking agents to tell us more about how they are using virtual services. Click on the links above to provide your feedback. Here are the results from the responses so far.

 

  • What percentage of agents have been asked about virtual viewings from their clients? 90% 90%
  • What percentage of agents said they are offering virtual viewings? 67% 67%
  • What percentage of agents said they are currently conducting between 1-10 appointments per week? 93% 93%
  • What percentage of agents have been asked about virtual market appraisals by their clients? 70% 70%
  • What percentage of agents said they are offering virtual market appraisals? 67% 67%

The new norm?

“Both the public and estate agents have had to adapt to a new way of working. The question is: ‘Is this going to be the new norm for estate agents?’ In week one of lockdown, we launched virtual video viewings and valuations. Now, our tenant-enquiry levels are up by 366%, which is massive. Buyer enquiries are up by 36%. People are still making that decision that they want to look for homes and move to a new house. Valuation enquiries are up by 60%, which is great for the industry as a whole and for the economy. “

Jayde Pope, Marketing Manager, Jacobs Steel

“BYM’s video module, it’s a really powerful tool…”

“We’ve been using the new BriefYourMarket.com video module, it’s proved to be an amazing tool for us. During lockdown – as I’m sure we’re all aware – video has become a massive part of our day-to-day lives.

Whilst it’s great to get video messages out across social media, obviously a large part of our target audience isn’t necessarily on Facebook and so on, so we’re not always able to get our message straight across to them.

Utilising the new video tool is enabling us to get our video message out directly to the whole of our database.

It’s a really powerful tool, we really appreciate BriefYourMarket.com bringing it out for us and everything you do in your Communications Managed team.”

Protection & Planning series for agents

In association with Yomdel, our Protection & Planning series offers estate and lettings agents free content; dedicated to preparing their team and business for a post-lockdown recovery.

To register for upcoming sessions and access a library of recorded episodes, please click below.

Are you leveraging video content for your estate agency?

Are you leveraging video content for your estate agency?

Media consumption has reached new heights since the outbreak, with 80% of Brits turning to online video content as a source of information and entertainment.

This is a trend that The Global Web Index expects to have “staying power” in the long-term.

Are you leveraging your video content to maximise marketing exposure for your properties, services and support?

According to sentiment polls from our Protection & Planning webinar series, 61% of agents made fundamental changes to their business over lockdown.

This means that virtual valuations, video viewings and remote property inspections are now being widely adopted by the industry and its consumers; who may come to expect these features as part of the standard offering in the future.

When asked whether they could see these virtual services forming part of the ‘new norm’, 65% of agents answered yes, 23% weren’t sure and 12% voted no.

Regardless of whether it’s only a temporary quick-fix or a permanent movement, consumer behaviour has shifted to online channels; putting businesses that can accommodate their clients’ on-demand needs at a significant advantage.

To help align our agents to the demands of their customers and the current climate, we’ve introduced a new video module feature; focused on communicating your video messages to your entire database.

For more information, please click here.

  • Of Gen Z consumers (aged 16-23) are consuming more videos online 51% 51%
  • Of Millennials (aged 24-37) 44% 44%
  • Of Gen X consumers (aged 38-56) 35% 35%
  • Of Boomers (aged 57-64) 11% 11%

“BYM’s video module, it’s a really powerful tool…”

“We’ve been using the new BriefYourMarket.com video module, it’s proved to be an amazing tool for us. During lockdown – as I’m sure we’re all aware – video has become a massive part of our day-to-day lives.

Whilst it’s great to get video messages out across social media, obviously a large part of our target audience isn’t necessarily on Facebook and so on, so we’re not always able to get our message straight across to them.

Utilising the new video tool is enabling us to get our video message out directly to the whole of our database.

It’s a really powerful tool, we really appreciate BriefYourMarket.com bringing it out for us and everything you do in your Communications Managed team.”

Protection & Planning series for agents

In association with Yomdel, our Protection & Planning series offers estate and lettings agents free content; dedicated to preparing their team and business for a post-lockdown recovery.

To register for upcoming sessions and access a library of recorded episodes, please click below.

9 campaigns to signal your estate agency’s return to business

9 campaigns to signal your estate agency’s return to business

Whilst the housing market reopened just last week in England, we’re far from returning to ‘business as usual’.

Over lockdown, we’ve seen significant peaks in activity, mostly – and unsurprisingly, given the circumstances – for the worst.

Fallen-through sales and property withdrawals reached new heights across March and April, whereas new listings were few and far between; bottoming out from the 1st to the 17th of April, as data from our on-market software – BuildYourMarket – would suggest.

Now, with the market reopening and enquiry levels increasing, we’re starting to see early signs of recovery for agents in sight.

How are you planning to resume activity?

With the government stressing the need for video and virtual processes to be incorporated into the home-moving journey, every estate and lettings agent needs to consider their approach to this next phase of the pandemic.

Communicating your precautionary measures to your database is of key importance to get people moving again – safely.

The majority of the population (77%) intend to remain ‘cautious’, even long after lockdown has been lifted.

So, rolling out the right communication strategy and implementing those fundamental business changes will have a determining factor on your agency’s ability to rebuild and grow its sales pipeline.

%

Say the shift to online has exposed gaps in the customer experience

%

Of businesses have learned things about the customer journey that they'll use after the outbreak

%

Of consumers will remain cautious after lockdown lifts, with 13% set on remaining in lockdown

Source: Marketing Week

With the UK housing market eased out of lockdown on the 13th May, estate and letting agencies can now begin the gradual transition back to business and responsibly resume market activity.

To support agents in this, we’ve prepared nine campaigns for our May send plan.

These communications look to encapsulate elements of the government’s guidelines, with a preference for video viewings and virtual services, whilst emphasising those added steps your business will be taking to minimise risk in-person.

Property market released from lockdown

Inform your customers of your return to the office, including any amendments to your standard service or opening hours.

If your team are planning to continue working remotely, use this message as a way of introducing those live chat and alternative customer touch-points.

  • Demonstrate your agency’s value as a source of market information.
  • Provide commentary on the £82 billion worth of transactions currently on hold.
  • By reinforcing your safe and considered approach to reopening, gauge interest from your database on those who are serious about selling this summer.

Video viewings now available

Show your compliance to government guidelines; that being, to prioritise video viewings and virtual services over physical appointments.

Give buyers and sellers the opportunity to see what’s on the market via video.

Explain what serious sellers can do to ensure safe, speedy sales.

It’s back to business

Outline how the selling process has changed in response to the pandemic and lockdown lift for the property market.

Appeal to potential buyers and sellers with your responsible measures, identifying a pipeline of leads for future instructions.

We’re ready when you are

Use bold visuals or videos to highlight your agency’s precautionary measures with regards to COVID-19 – i.e. virtual valuations and video viewings.

Start picking up expressions of interest from interested buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants.

Virtual valuations, a campaign for sellers

Virtual valuations will become a key USP for agents in 2020. This campaign showcases that USP for your business.

Identify homeowners who are ready to sell.

Reconnect with your pre-lockdown sales leads by offering updated appraisals.

Fundamental changes to our lettings processes

Connect with let-only landlords or those who self-manage.

Although the market has reopened, the government restrictions will only add to a landlord’s responsibilities.

This campaign offers to shoulder the burden and draws attention to your fully-managed services.

Tenant Income Protection

Offer your support to tenants who may have experienced a change in employment or financial circumstances.

Cross-sell insurance – with a particular focus on Tenant Income Protection.

Introduce video viewings and remote inspections for their property needs.

What can we do for you?

Cross-sell your financial services and put yourself front of mind with your historic completions.

Suggest what value homeowners stand to gain by booking an appointment with a recommended mortgage advisor.

Part two of your COVID-19 response strategy

All of these campaigns are now available for our agents to drag, drop and send from your Campaign Library. To request help implementing them, please contact our Customer Success team.

Alternatively, for more information from one of our marketing consultants, please click below.

For further guidance on how you should proceed as a business, we would recommend referring to information from the World Health Organisation, as well as GOV.UK’s update for agents.

Jacobs Steel Estate Agents: enquiry levels up for rental and sales market

Jacobs Steel Estate Agents: enquiry levels up for rental and sales market

In an exclusive for BriefYourMarket.com, Jayde Pope of Jacobs Steel Estate Agents shared with us the remarkable levels of market interest that they’re currently seeing in the midst of lockdown.

Based on the south coast with six branches covering sales, lettings, new homes and commercial properties, Jacobs Steel are a prime example of how agents are adapting their services to field sales and lettings enquiries, and remotely support their clients during the pandemic.

Having adopted video viewings and virtual valuations early, these increased enquiry levels from Jacobs Steel can certainly be attributed to their quick response to the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdown.

At this time, we’re working with a number of industry partners and suppliers to help estate agencies prepare for the future. More information on the help available can be found here.

“Naturally, at the beginning of lockdown, estate agents and the general public alike kind of went: ‘oh, that’s it then.’

But that simply wasn’t the case.

Yes, weeks one and two were very difficult; it took time for everybody to adapt, not just estate agents but the public as well. You know, people that still wanted to move home but didn’t know how and didn’t know if they could still see properties, didn’t know if they could go on the market.

Tenants, who had intended to move didn’t know whether they could.

And all of that uncertainty and all of that nervousness definitely had an impact on enquiry levels for estate agents.

Some data – personal to Jacobs Steel that I’ve been looking at over the last few weeks – very much corresponds with data that industry professionals are discussing at the moment and putting out there into the media. And that is that, actually, over the last few weeks what we’ve seen is a gradual increase in enquiry levels.

So, we’ve recently published an article all about the rental market and about how actually it’s bouncing back before lockdown is even over.”

%

Increase in tenant enquiries since lockdown week one

%

Increase in valuation enquiries

%

Increase in buyer enquiries

“Compared with week one, our tenant enquiry levels are up by 366% – which is massive, such a positive step for the rental market.

Whilst being slightly more complex, there are still positive happenings from the sales side of our business.

Buyer enquiries are up on week one by 36%, which is great.

People are still making that decision; that they want to look for homes, that they want to move house.

Valuation enquiries are up by 60% – so that’s even better; for the industry as a whole, for the economy, people still want to sell.”

“So, granted, after this whole situation is over and the lockdown restrictions are lifted, we believe that those who are still able to move will.

Throughout this process and lockdown and the battle against COVID-19, estate agents have had to adapt; and we did.

You know, week one, we launched virtual video viewings and video calls with vendors and buyers – who then show us around the property – and virtual valuations. And little things that our business has had to change in order to adapt to this new way of working.

But what is really interesting is that it’s not just us that have had to adapt, it’s the public as well. And I think that now they’ve adapted and now that they’re used to this virtual way of viewing property, the question in the air is: is this going to be the new norm for estate agents? Is this how it’s going to continue?

Perhaps before someone views a property in-person, will they view it virtually? We don’t know, but it will be interesting to see, for sure.

Obviously, it would be really good to go back to our offices and see our teams again and meet our clients face-to-face, because – at the end of the day – nothing beats face-to-face contact with somebody.

But our main priority is keeping our staff and our clients safe, so until the government advises that it is safe to do so, we will continue working virtually; we’ll still be here for our clients, to provide insight into the property market on the south coast.

For now – from everyone at Jacobs Steel – stay safe, stay well and we’ll see you soon.”

Protection & Planning series for agents

In partnership with customer-service specialists – Yomdel – our webinar series examines how UK agencies can proactively maintain valuable income streams and prepare for market recovery.

To catch up with the series so far, click below.

Ways to stay on course as an estate and lettings agent facing COVID-19

Ways to stay on course as an estate and lettings agent facing COVID-19

With concerns over the coronavirus pandemic and its ensuing social and economic fallout growing every day, the UK housing market has been left in a state of confusion.

The government are doing the utmost to provide clarity and support to individuals and organisations alike; introducing initiatives that will be a valuable lifeline for many SMEs and members of the UK workforce and population in general.

However, given the magnitude of the situation and the accelerated escalation of the ongoing lockdown, there remain to be a lot of unknown ‘grey areas’ for estate and letting agencies to navigate.

Although it’s advised to hold off on new transactions, agents have a duty of care to those already in the process of selling or letting their property – should they be in a position to proceed.

Along with balancing the needs of existing customers and the fulfilment of current contractual obligations and responsibilities, it’s also been suggested that interest will pick back up in the property market towards summer; with more enquiries generated from the self-isolation period.

Online activity will skyrocket and for those unable to put off a move any longer, it will become a necessity to have local agents front of mind and able to service them – in whatever capacity they’re able.

As property marketing providers, we’ve seen first-hand how agents are responding to these turbulent times.

Within two weeks, we saw an increase of 562% in the number of emails being sent to consumers; taking the total communications delivered to 1.35 million in a single day.

Connectivity is key

There’s no doubt that we’ll all face personal and professional challenges this year, but it’s imperative for your agency to stay in business.

To achieve that outcome, you need to adapt your business model.

Burying yourself in every scrap of news relating to the coronavirus might make you the most informed person in the room, but as a strategy to protect your business, it will prove ineffective if you don’t evaluate your operational procedures and ensure they’re fit for purpose in the current climate.

Here’s what we are doing to bolster agencies in 2020…

Protection and planning program

To support agents, we’re running an ongoing webinar series that looks at how you can respond to and overcome the challenges presented by the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Presented by our Customer Relationship Manager – David Mann – these educational sessions will give you an open forum to have your questions answered and find out what’s needed to safeguard your agency for the future.

This program is open to all agents, without any commitments required.

Navigating the new work landscape for lettings and estate agents

Wednesday 1st April at 11 am – session one
Thursday 2nd April at 11 am – session two

This free 45-minute session looks at the changing landscape of the industry, and how you and your team can effectively respond to a new way of working.

The power of video – servicing your customers’ needs on lockdown

Friday 3rd April at 11 am

This free 45-minute session looks at how you can use video to your advantage. From real-time video appointments to pre-recorded viewings, we look at how video can help you keep your business moving forward.

“We loved your webinar – we’re now going to chat specifically about it and put some content together, inspired by it.”

“Great webinar, good information, content and support for letting agents.”

“Thank you for your support, which is much appreciated. We will, of course, remember those companies like yourselves offering solutions.”

One-on-one consultative sessions

For agents looking to proactively plan and prepare for when market conditions re-stabilise, we are also offering a four-part one-on-one program that covers the following topics:

  • Part one – monetise your database
  • Part two – active clients
  • Part three – past clients
  • Part four – on-market opportunities

We’re launching a video module to add further value to your client proposition

Offer homeowners a way to see your properties and list their own homes remotely and responsibly.

You can use this feature to send market updates, pre-recorded property viewings and video tutorials on moving home.

What does this mean for your agency?

  • Send product or service explainer videos
  • Post marketing vlogs to stay front of mind
  • Track interaction and engagement
  • Drive website traffic and keep on-brand