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How Virtual Tours Have Kept Philly’s Real Estate Market Afloat During COVID-19

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Even though the coronavirus pandemic has brought many industries to a halt, the market for new homes remains very much active in Pennslyvania thanks to tools like virtual real estate tours. “Shelter is quite frankly one of our most basic needs, essential now more than ever,” says local realtor Jessica Sinton. “Some buyers and sellers decided to sit back and wait. However, many simply could not.” Says Fox and Roach realtor Amira Coleman, “I’m constantly talking to my clients who are interested in buying in the coming months about the process—because buying a home is a process.”

What’s Happening in the Philly Market

For house hunters who began their search before the pandemic began, their existing contracts mostly have continued onto closing, reports realtor Jake Callahan with Ferguson Dechert Real Estate. “New contracts and listings may have slowed,” he says. “Prices, however, have not dropped.”

With home values holding steady, buyers may still find other advantages to continuing their search right now. “The market is not as aggressive, meaning there’s less competition,” says Philly Property Group realtor Mina Sedarous. “For savvy investors, this is a great time to acquire properties from sellers who are looking to offload their properties.”

“I think this is an incredible opportunity for real estate,” agrees Brittany Nettles of She Moves Philly. “Philadelphia only has 3.4 months of inventory, making it a sellers’ market. Interest rates are still relatively low, giving buyers an advantage.”

“Although COVID-19 has impacted all types of businesses, I am optimistic that the past few weeks have only been a hurdle,” adds Marguerite DeGrassa, a realtor at RE/MAX Main Line. “We will move past this together by taking proper precautions and resume into a vibrant summer market.”

How Philly Realtors and Agents Are Adapting

So how does a people-based industry suddenly pivot to online interactions? Agents are getting increasingly creative when it comes to selling homes from home. “This ‘shut down’ of my business has been far from a ‘shut down’,” says Compass realtor Lindsay Neuman. “I’ve been relying on social media to create communities and have taken it off the ‘gram by hosting some virtual meetups on a weekly basis.

Another tool that had already taken off before the pandemic has now become indispensable: virtual tours. “We have been working with various companies to provide 3D showings via Matterport and have implemented video walkthroughs of properties,” says Francis Mangubat of Advance Philly. After upgrading his online operations, he was able to sell seven properties in a little over two weeks despite the present challenges.

“Video marketing and virtual 3D tours have been successful for us and for buyers still looking from the safety of their own home while taking advantage of the historically low rates,” says Gianna Ginnetti of The Ginetti Group.

Even before the current restrictions, these 3D tours created by the Matterport camera system have helped agents sell homes more efficiently and for more money. Using a sequence of videos or still images (as well as other elements such as sound effects, music, narration and text), the tours simulate the experience of walking through a physical location, but buyers can do so from anywhere—even at home.

Apartments.com listings that feature the interactive visual experience receive 49% more qualified leads, according to the site. The 3D walkthroughs also help homes sell on average 10 days sooner and for $50,100 more than comparable properties, Redfin found. Real estate agents themselves have also noticed offline benefits to offering virtual tours. Buyers are 60% more likely to email and almost twice as likely to call an agent after viewing a listing with a Matterport 3D showcase, according to REA Group. Plus, 90% of agents using Matterport state it helps them build a stronger brand in the marketplace and nearly three-quarters believe that they win more listings because of it.

During the pandemic, virtual tours have only become more essential. Local business Momentum 360 has kept sales moving by shooting professional 3D tours with Matterport, working directly with homeowners to ensure photography can safely take place with no other people around. Even after officials lifted the restrictions on in-person tours, sellers, buyers and realtors have continued to rely on this tool.

“Virtual tours are becoming more and more common,” says Keller Williams Philly realtor Jen Singley, “which I think will save buyers a lot of time in the future of being able to pre-screen homes a bit better, thus needing to tour less in person before making a decision.”

Sell homes from home by contacting Momentum Digital, a digital marketing agency that grows small businesses through virtual tours, photography and digital marketing.