Most people have experienced lifestyle changes as a result of Covid-19 and social distancing guidelines. These changes have led to a shift in must-haves for some local homebuyers.
Giselle Feiger and Aileen Stapleton, real estate brokers at Hodge & Kittrell Sotheby’s International Realty, have seen a recent spike in buyers’ requests to view homes with the following features:
1. Homes with great interior lighting and plenty of windows
2. Homes with a designated office space
3. Multigenerational homes
4. Homes with access to high-speed internet
5. Homes with a designated space for projects and hobbies
6. Homes with large pantries for food storage
7. Homes on large lots in more rural locations
8. Homes with a private pool
9. Homes with a private gym
10. Homes with an entertainment room
Many homebuyers are focused on finding a home that provides comfort and a high quality of life. As many people begin to work remotely, it’s especially important to find a home that includes designated spaces for work, family time and home projects.
If you are currently on the market for a new home, be sure to make a list of must-haves to review as you browse new listings and go to showings. You may be surprised how your own needs have changed in just a few weeks.
Technology is a vital part of our daily lives in the twenty-first century. Especially over the past six weeks with the stay-at-home orders in place, we have come to rely on technology more than ever. Zoom has become a household name and allowed many businesses to stay afloat and keep their employees working virtually from home when even just 10 to 15 years ago, that would not have been possible. Agent Van Starling recalls his social studies teacher explaining the concept of virtual reality in 1991 and Van thinking he had lost his mind. Van explains, “The teacher told our class that one day people will interact in an artificial world known as virtual reality as much as they do today in person.” It turns out that his teacher was correct.
In the real estate industry, the need for technology continues to evolve but the need has greatly intensified over the past few weeks. Agents have come to value the importance of high-quality photography and property videos more than ever before and have seen the need to try new technologies such as Matterport 3-D tours. Technology is becoming more present in all aspects of a real estate transaction from marketing to showings and open houses to inspections.
In the past, property videos and 3-D tours were mainly only used for high-end listings. Now, these interactive features are almost considered a necessity. Our office has seen a rise in agents utilizing the Matterport technology to market their listing online, which is a 3-D digital program that scans the home to create a 3-D interactive floor plan and also scans room-by-room so one can virtually “walk” through the home. Agent David Worters explains that he commissioned his first Matterport tour last week for his listing that had been on the market for a few weeks, and with “normal” springtime showings down, he decided he wanted to capture some virtual showings. Worters explains, “[virtually] ‘walking’ through the house is much more engaging for a consumer compared to just clicking through traditional listing photos.” Matterport’s technology offers buyers many options for viewing the property: the “dollhouse view” creates a 3-D version of the house and allows it to be rotated from any angle, the inside view allows you to “walk” through the space as you would in person, and the “floorplan view” creates a bird’s eye view of the layout. Other helpful features that enhance the convenience of Matterport are the measurement tool which allows users to measure walls and even furniture in the space, and the tagging feature which labels certain features throughout the house that sellers want to point out to potential buyers. Worters explains that the process of gathering the imagery is quick and easy on the seller by illustrating, “The technician simply determines the most logical path for the Matterport device to go through the home, finds the optimal spot about every five or six feet along the path, and then the device does the rest.” He said the turnaround time is about 24 to 48 hours. Matterport’s technology can also be beneficial to the seller due to buyers being able to tour the home online and only deciding to take a tour in person if they like what they have experienced virtually.
Starling explains that, “Showings via FaceTime have become that of a norm and Zoom office meetings and client consultations are now typical.” Facetime also allowed Starling’s out of town clients to feel as if they were present during the inspection. “Just this week I served as my client’s while I held my phone during a pre-drywall walk-through with a builder. The project manager spoke to my client as if he were there and not just on the screen- we looked at electrical outlet, HDMI, and lighting placement and addressed change order items that had come up over the last month, all while my client was in the comfort of their home in Cleveland, Ohio,” remarked Starling. Although communicating virtually can seem unfamiliar, the more we embrace and learn from it now, the better off we will be going forward. Starling said, “The technology has been available but we now see just how useful it can be in the world of real estate.” He hopes that going forward, these newly learned technologies will help agents better assist out-of-town-clients.
Virtual open houses have also become a new normal, thanks to available technologies like Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams. Agents Aileen Stapleton and Giselle Feiger hosted a virtual open house via Zoom and remarked, “We found Zoom to be the best platform for hosting the Virtual Open House, as we could require the names and email addresses of all participants and, thus, capture buyer leads.” They had 44 registrants, which is more than double the amount of visitors that would usually come to an in-person open house. They said that many of the “visitors” participated by asking questions, complimenting the home and offering feedback via the chat box and microphone features. Feiger noted that even the process of preparing and setting up for the virtual open house versus an in-person one greatly differed. She said, “The process of setting up a traditional, in-person open house often involves the usual marketing but also small, intentional touches like placing directional signs around the neighborhood a few days ahead of time, attaching balloons to the directional signs, or providing water bottles and granola bars to the buyers and agents spending their weekend afternoons house hunting.” Since there would be no signs and balloons to advertise the open house, Feiger explained that they sent email invitations to their contact database, announced the open house on their social media pages and posted information in real estate-related Facebook groups. She also said that sending the Zoom link out once more as the open house started was an effective way to remind people to join. Besides getting the word out about the virtual open house and setting up the Zoom call, not much setup was needed except arriving a few minutes early to do any tidying up and making sure the camera was ready to go. Stapleton and Feiger were so encouraged by their first virtual open house that they are hosting another one on May 5th.
The past few weeks have presented the real estate agents with some unusual obstacles to overcome, and our agents have risen to the challenge. Moving forward, our agents will continue to use newfound technology long after stay-at-home orders are lifted. We are optimistic about the future as we are now positioned to assist our clients in ways, just a few years ago, we would have never thought possible.
And the people stayed home and they became teachers, musicians, artists, barbers, chefs, and dog groomers. Others welcomed new family members, rested, took walks, celebrated birthdays, and learned new skills.
Kitty O’Meara’s quote beginning, “And the people stayed home,” has gone viral since the beginning of the pandemic, which describes an idyllic story of how the world could be when people are forced to stay home and be creative.
While many would not describe this time at home as “idyllic,” we are grateful for the ability to stay safe at home, the new skills discovered and perspectives gained during this time.
Like us, many local small businesses have been a part of the Raleigh community for years, and they need our support now more than ever. Next time you start to add an item to your Amazon cart, consider whether you can purchase the same item from a small local business. Many shops are taking orders online, over the phone or through social media as we continue to #StayHome. Find a list below of some beloved Raleigh small businesses that would really appreciate your support during this time.