Redfin, the technology-powered real-estate brokerage, saw a 494% increase in requests for agent-led video home tours last week. As of yesterday, 18.9% of tour requests from Redfin.com were video-chat tour requests, up from 0.2% at the beginning of March, a 94-fold increase. Other measures Redfin has taken to prepare for the coronavirus include:
- Three-dimensional scans of nearly every Redfin listing, replacing open-houses with an online, interactive experience. In 2014, Redfin invested in these scans as a standard feature for the majority of homes listed by Redfin, but now views of these scans are up 9% in March as compared to February. For the month of March, Redfin expects to host nearly half a million virtual open houses, where an online visitor interacts with the three-dimensional scan.
- Electronic closings, which Redfin first brought to market in November 2018, mean notary services and the entire closing process can be conducted online, if permitted by a state. To protect the health of our customers and employees, the company has shifted every possible closing to this format.
- A wide range of new policies, first instituted on March 3, to protect the health of our customers, agents, photographers and others, limiting in-person customer meetings and blocking anyone with cold or flu symptoms from participating in those meetings.
- New protocols for listing consultations to let agents see the home when no one is present, then confer with the homeowner online.
- An industry-wide live-stream event on Thursday, March 19, for sharing best practices with competing brokerages, so we can all stay open and close sales together while protecting public health.
On March 3, Redfin first updated Redfin.com to encourage buyers to ask for video-chat tours, and on March 17, Redfin upgraded Redfin.com’s tour-request forms to let homebuyers choose a video-chat tour with a single click. On March 19, Redfin let buyers choose their preferred video-chat tool, and on March 22, this whole experience became available on Redfin’s iOS app. It will soon be available on the company’s Android app as well.
“The future of real estate has come earlier than any of us could have anticipated,” said Glenn Kelman, CEO, Redfin. “The way things are during the pandemic won’t last forever, but at the end of all this, things won’t go back to the way they were either. We hope we’re well prepared.”
Agents have quickly adapted their touring approach so that prospective buyers feel like they’re right there with the agent, even if they’re not in the home.
“During video tours, I become the eye of the buyer,” said Jill Thompson, agent, Indianapolis Redfin. “I’m talking more than I would on a traditional tour, pointing out things that would be obvious in-person but that aren’t as clear through a camera lens, like the quality of workmanship on any repairs or whether or not a room would fit a king-size bed.”
Redfin last week canceled all open houses until further notice. Customers can still schedule in-person tours with agents in cities where local public health ordinances permit it, although no more than two customers are allowed on such tours, and agents won’t ask customers to shake hands, staying six feet away from them throughout the tour.