Who would buy a house online? You would probably consider real estate ‘too big’ for cyberspace. But before you knock it take a moment or two to read this little article of ours. Then you would get to understand why many real estate dealers, agents, and marketers are flocking to the internet. What’s more, many have graduated from just running online real estate ‘directories’ to actual ‘web stores’.
Let’s begin with the buyer’s side of the fence. Why would a buyer go online? Here are a few of the advantages that are attracting real estate buyers to the internet:
- It is easier to find what you are looking for online: the listings, images, prices, locations, access roads and other details are at your fingertips whether you are at home or in the office – mobile phone browsing has made it all so remarkably easy. Dealers are flooding the World Wide Web, so it gets easier by the minute. It is so easy now that big time buyers need not advertise their needs as often as they used to.
- A lot of the time the image and specifics the buyer is visualising not yet vivid in his or her mind: Browsing through several options help him or her crystallise the vision.
- Detailed information on the numerous choices vis a vis the buyer’s own budget helps him or her make better decisions.
- The US testifies that 71% of it homebuyers do all their research and seek all their listing and services online. In Nigeria, mobile phone browsing has brought ours to an estimated 35%. But the figure could well be higher. So with all the ground work done the buyer might only require one trip to the agent and to the property to make a purchase he or she is pleased with.
- Another major advantage especially with bigger properties is the fact that the internet would help buyers uncover surrounding information about the property he or she is interested in. For example, existing law suits would be covered by the press and the details would be available online.
- The internet provides the buyer with enough information (especially the prices) to give him or her, the confidence to approach home owners, dealers and builders directly. Contact information displayed on this sites give the buyer a chance to quiz the sellers personally.
- The internet shortens the home search.
- Most of all, the internet demystifies the real estate market.
On the seller’s side of the fence, here are the merits of marketing real estate online:
- It is cheaper. It costs you far less than conventional marketing and you have a worldwide reach.
- You get a very wide reach: The number of buyers flocking online to search for properties would steadily increase for at least the next twenty years.
- Information: You can display as much information as you want on the internet; you can go beyond just the images and details of the property and even display graphs, reports landscapes, aerial views, access roads, house plans, drawings and videos.
- You can display as many properties as you desire from as many locations as you want. There are no limits. As long as the website can hold it up, you can post it up.
- Websites can do more things these days. There are amazing new templates that give the buyer an almost 3D experience.
- Websites would continue to get cheaper. As more people flock into the website building and maintenance field, the competition and new technologies would drive the prices down.
- Updating information on the website is easy. You can even do it yourself. An advert in a magazine stays that way for ever. A prospective buyer might be misled if he or she basing his or her decision on a two-week old magazine commercial.
- Social network websites and chat rooms have made it fabulously easy to drive traffic to your website. There is also the interrelation off websites and blogs. It is not rocket science.
- The increasing dexterity of Nigerians with the internet makes confusion most unlikely.
- A growing bulk of actual property buyers found their deal in the cyber world before ever laying eyes on it in the terrestrial world.
- Home owners, landlords and builders can cut out multiple agency costs completely. You only need one agent/dealer with a vibrant website. You can even put up an advert on your own website and update it as you go along.
- The number of visits from prospective buyers to see property after property is reduced to less than half and that saves your time.
- Internet buyers are easier to attend to and easier to satisfy because they have a clearer vision of the property they seek and they can describe it better. Online research also equips them with ‘real estate diction’ so their communication makes more sense to you. These buyers are also familiar with the process and this saves you a lot of explanations and suspicion.
- Internet buyers are better at the bargain because they already have a clue as to what price you would close the deal on.
- It is easier to get references from internet buyers; they post it on the website for the world to see.
- Internet buyers are more likely to buy from you because they have pretty much cut to the chase before coming to you.
- The website enables instant feedback from home researchers. They can post comments and questions on your website, they can post them on your social media site walls and they can send them by e-mail. This feedback shows you which information or feature should be included on your website for greater effectiveness. That is something you cannot get from advertising.
- Peradventure you cannot set up a website at the moment, you can get your business listed on directories or better still have each of the properties you have for sale listed in online real estate directories. It would cost you a periodic token. It is cheaper than advertising and you can check out the website statistics to find out how many people actually visited your page. Many of such websites allow you to include up to 5 photos of your property. And unlike conventional media advertising; like the newspapers, you have control over picture quality.
- With marketing, the key word is visibility and the internet gives you that.
- For agencies who are working from their homes or from small offices, landing a big client is tough. In addition to the quizzing they put you through; they tend to want to check you out. An office on the top floor of a high rise building in Lekki Lagos speaks louder than the actual offer itself. Small timers can cut that out by dealing with the potential clients online and then taking him or her directly to see the property and the owner of the property as the case may be. The traffic to your modest office space would be minimal.
- Having an online presence with sufficient information would provide buyers with answers to questions they are self-conscious about asking. Questions like: What are the neighbours like? What is the night life like? How long have you been running your company? How many court cases are pending? Do you permit sub-letting, or sub-leasing? A first time buyer might fail to ask these questions even when these questions becloud anything you would ever tell them.
- Best of all internet buyers are far less likely to have second thoughts as they have already seen it all before choosing.
Tips for marketing real estate online:
Information: this is the reason for the website in the first place. Everything a buyer should know about each property should be displayed. Give them all the facts.
Images: a picture is worth a thousand words. Have different angles showing particular points you would wish the buyer to take note of. You should also have photos showing areas that the information on display talks about. Ensure that all your images are of the very best quality – getting clear and vivid photos comes first, the beauty and allure of the photos come next.
Leave the technicalities out: try to keep the information in clear and simple language. Where a ‘heavy’ word or phrase or slang is used ensure that you explain what it means. You must communicate, or else the entire effort is wasted.
Feedback: ensure you have provision for comments and questions. You need this feedback to stay relevant.
Update: Ensure everything on the site is current. Once a property is sold or committed to a buyer, take it off the site immediately. It puts buyers off when they decide on a property only to call you and hear that it has been sold.
Contact: never forget to leave your correct and current phone numbers (even your mobile number). Include your email address as well as links to your social media handles, pages and walls. Ensure that your website has a ‘contact us’ page where buyers can send notes directly from the website to your e-mail. Many people have private enquiries that they do not want the whole world to read from your ‘comments’ box. Also some will want to send you their contact details privately.
Response: respond to all e-mails, notes, comments, questions and text messages immediately – 48 hours. Remember the next seller is only one click away. Have someone by the phone all the time. Return every missed call on your mobile. This communicates seriousness to the buyer.
By now you would agree that the internet is fantastic for real estate marketing – but you would probably rather leave ‘buying’ out of it. There is no problem with focusing on marketing, as long as you do not close the door on buying.