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Demand for virtual real estate services surges amid pandemic

VIRTUAL SELLING. Revastaff founder Oscar Lopez Jr. takes real estate selling to higher level through the production of visual marketing content—such as standard and interactive floor plans, virtual furniture staging, 360 virtual panoramic tours and augmented and virtual reality environments—to drive real estate sales. (Photo from Oscar Lopez’s facebook page)

DOING things remotely, whether for work or shopping, has become the new norm these days.

The Covid-19 crisis has pushed many industries to reboot how they do business and embrace the “no contact” selling, for instance.

For one, the real estate business, which does things in traditional ways from selling to marketing, is in for a significant paradigm shift—selling and buying homes virtually.

“Real estate is a very traditional business; we hope the new normal will change the paradigm,” said Oscar Lopez Jr., founder of Revastaff, a property technology startup based in Cebu City.

Lopez’s company specializes in the production of visual marketing content—such as standard and interactive floor plans, virtual furniture staging, 360 virtual panoramic tours and augmented and virtual reality environments—to drive real estate sales.

Some real estate developers are starting to adopt digital-based home selling.

AboitizLand Inc. said contactless home buying was already a necessity to expand its client reach.

This strategy is here to stay and will even accelerate in post-crisis, according to AboitizLand president and chief executive officer Dave Rafael.

As opposed to the traditional way of selling properties which entails face-to-face meetings, site visits, open houses and mini-events, contactless home buying leverages on online platforms such as the company website, social media and email marketing for lead generation.

The property company has used 360-degree virtual tours for its clients.

Lopez said there’s a rising interest in virtual selling among real estate players.

“Currently, the majority of our clients are in the US, and recently we have been receiving many inquiries regarding our virtual tour platform from local developers and brokers since the Covid-19 pandemic shifted the practice of real estate to virtual and ‘no contact’ selling,” he said.

Virtual reality (VR) is becoming the most high-tech solution in selling homes nowadays.

“Imagine the number of developments just in Cebu City alone. Just to physically visit all the sites, showrooms or even construction sites it would take a week or more just to view 10 properties. Putting on a VR headset and virtually touring 10 properties is possible in just one hour,” he said.

Virtual furniture staging will also become a trend in digital home selling.

“Imagine an empty space; we can put virtual furniture inside it to fit the current trends or client preferences,” he said.

Citing National Realtors Association data, Lopez said high quality photos will sell a home 32 percent faster.

“Everybody has a cellphone camera and real estate sellers are not professional photographers; you can see many photos from these sellers are of very low quality in social media or property portals. We can help them out with our image enhancement services for a fraction of a cost hiring a professional photographer,” he said.

Lopez’s startup firm is getting the industry’s attention lately.

“We are getting a lot of attention lately because of the crisis. Before the pandemic, only international clients saw the value of what we did. It was very hard to convince Filipino real estate professionals to adapt to the tech trends,” he said.

Moreover, Rafael said even with Covid-19, the number of interested buyers has not waned, saying the pandemic has, in fact, been a catalyst to contactless home buying.

He stressed the challenge is to continue training the salesforce on how to adapt and be comfortable with the use of technology. This way, the new scheme can supplement the traditional way of home buying.

“We are not going to ease up; we barely scratched the surface. We are still going to invest to improve contactless home buying such as in the areas of customer relationship management and measuring the productivity of our salespeople, among others,” said Rafael.


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