Tips for Video Showings of Real Estate (i.e. a House)
Updated: Jan 13
I believe that it's critical for prospective buyers to be informed prior to a showing about how to best go about a virtual showing. In this article, I wanted to share my top tips.
Observe the area of a property online prior to showing, including outside of the main listing that may be intentionally hiding negative elements.
Sometimes a buyer will start a video of a property and decide just by a glimpse of the area or the house itself from an angle not shown in the pictures that they do not want to even walk in. In the case of live video, while sometimes it's easy to rearrange appointments at subsequent properties, sometimes it's not. In the case of recorded video, through the Google Map street view you can often see much of what I would see before entering the property & that 1 step of a few minutes can save me much more time than that.
While there are dozens of area factors that you can check out online, here are just a few:
1. If you're looking in an area where flooding can be an issue in certain areas, as is the case in Hampton Roads, check if the property is in a flood zone (how to do it within the Matrix portal that Adam can set up for you if he hasn't already)
(Image courtesy Youtube)
2. Check the crime of the neighborhood (1, 2)
3. Get a visual of the area via Google maps, including street view, aerial view, and their 3D mode in the event that you are looking in an area with a sizable enough population density for the 3d mode to be possible.
3d mode example:
Street view example:
Also, if you are doing future in-person showings & 1 property is distant from others, it can be frustrating for buyers to drive all the way out somewhere only to find that there is no way that they would live there without even walking in.
4. Check to see how busy the street is.
Arrange a Video Platform Prior to Showing
It's best to arrange with your agent in advance what video platform you'd like to use. We can do recorded or live. I prefer live (specifically Zoom due to built in recording and Zooming options) if you're available. Live options include Facebook messenger, Zoom, Skype (Adam.B.Garrett), Google Hangouts (Adam.B.Garrett@gmail.com), WhatsApp, or we can quickly transition from a regular call to a direct video call if you have an android phone like me. If you'd like to use another platform, just let me know.
Also before the call you might want to look into the options for recording the Zoom session:
Use a Large Screen with Realistic Audio
It's best to be using as large of a screen as you have available and sitting relatively close to that screen to get the best experience with a video showing. If that screen doesn't have built-in speakers, be sure to set up speakers (or even better, noise-canceling headphones) in advance and have the volume at as close to a normal level as possible (i.e. so you can hear how loud a neighbor's dog barking, a train, a plane, or traffic noise would be if you were present). It's also ideal to be sitting behind a keyboard for you to take notes if desired regarding the many pros and cons that I and you will together likely point out. While in person I typically take these notes in writing or audio recorder, I don't when my phone is being used for video showings.
Look at Virtual Tour First if Home Has One
If a home has a virtual tour, by all means, look at that before requesting a virtual showing. Often the virtual tour won't show a number of places, such as the exterior of the home, attics, and garages, but a virtual tour is a great step towards whether or not a virtual showing via video makes sense for you.
Advanced Notice on Area Video
Whether you want to look at association amenities (i.e. pool/clubhouse), the neighborhood, or local area amenities, be sure to let the agent showing you the property know in advance. For instance, it would only add 30 seconds to the time required by your agent to mount their phone to their dash for you to begin your showing a few, 5, or 10 miles from the area simply en route to the home as long as they have a solid camera/dash mount like I do.
Live & Recorded
While not typically available with agents (including those who fill in for me; I don't know anyone at my firm of around 100 agents who does live+recorded simultaneously on different cameras), it's ideal to do what I typically do, to have both a live and a recorded video going at the same time, and not within the live platform like Zoom. The reason why is that the quality of a recorded video will typically be superior to a live one due to reception. Also in some cases, a live video may not be viable at all due to reception or could be very spotty, even in relatively populated areas if buildings have too significant of an impact on reception (think of a stone home with a basement). I have a setup for both live and recorded on 2 devices (Samsung S22 and S21 Ultra 5G) simultaneously, while likely less than .1% of Realtors have that including a device that holds the 2 together & has lights. That said, there is often a significant delay prior to a recorded video being uploaded, so don't be surprised if it takes 8 hrs, and in some cases, even more, since a single 1 hr showing could take 3 hrs, so 8 hrs of showings would likely take significantly more than 8 hrs of uploading. I shorten upload time by uploading via hard wired connection (my upload time online is around 20 MBps), but it still takes a long time due to the quality & size of the video as well as the need to transfer from the phone to the computer first to get the benefit of hard wired uploading via ethernet cable on my laptop (an I-7 Lenovo Thinkpad P-17).
Image courtesy Google
Mind Your Signal
While Adam's already doing what he can to boost his signal, if the person on the other end of the call doesn't have a great signal, the image quality will be weak and even the audio can fade in and out. If you are in a home that has wired cable internet, it's a good idea to used a wired connection rather than relying on wifi. If there's no wired connection available, be sure that you have a great signal or wifi connection, depending on whichever is faster. If you're in a building with low signal, check to see if the same signal is present outside of the building. If you're in an area with low signal, look at your carrier map to see where better coverage might be present. Alternatively, consider going to a location with faster wifi. For instance:
1. outside of a Starbucks
2. in a library
3. at a 24 hr truck stop with tables & free wifi, etc.
It's not a bad idea to do a speed test on whatever device you plan to use prior to joining the live video session. In some cases, you might want to check the speed at a few places. There are a number of programs available to do speed tests, such as if you Google "Internet Speed Test"
There's little that Adam can do to improve his signal beyond having one of the best phones available. While he's looked into remote options for signal boosting, he hasn't found one that's a great solution for him to carry around during a showing (if you know of one, please let him know) even though he's found fine options for in-home signal boosts with lengthy (i.e. >5 minute) setup process and in-car options to boost signal.
Adam also recommends disabling the video on your end when he's showing you the property. That way the signal that is present can focus on Adam's video for you.
More Tips for Recorded Video
Hi-definition recorded video can take some time to upload even when uploaded over a hard-wired connection (i.e. 3 hrs for a 55-minute showing plus the time required to get to a hardwired connection from the property being shown if Adam can get to one directly after).
Also, videos are typically downloadable prior to being visible directly on Google Drive. In case you see an existing file but can't view it directly on Google Drive, just download it for faster viewing.
Typically you'll see an image on the video if it's viewable directly on Google Drive,
You won't see an image on the video if it hasn't processed enough to be viewed directly on Google Drive. Time is of the essence with these, so being able to download to expedite things can be a big help when it's not showing as an image like it is above. If you're unable to download, you can come back to it periodically as sometimes it will be viewable directly on Drive rather than just downloadable to be viewed on a separate program within an hr of getting onto Drive.
Sometimes I'll break the video up into increments close to 5 minutes since longer video uploads tend to be more problematic. Some buyers opt to wait until all are uploaded and some would prefer to watch as they come in (even if at times they upload out of order).
Following watching the video, it's important to let me know whether you have questions &/or would like to go head with an offer since properties can go under contract any time.
Some videos may be disoriented, rather than slowing down the process of getting the videos to you by 1 or a few hours by whatever time is needed plus a potential delay in my availability to make that change, it's best to take a minute or 2 to get familiarized with disabling screen rotation (the fastest approach) on a mobile device or rotating the videos yourself on a laptop if you aren't already familiar. Here are more details on that.
Consider earnest money deposit in advance if you trust your agent's firm or whoever the EMD is being made out (i.e. the closing company) & want to save potentially $30
While not typical, some find it best to get an Earnest Money Deposit in the mail or initiate a transfer to their real estate firm before they see properties so that by the time it arrives, their agent can use it if need be. Typical timing of when an EMD is needed is often within 2 business days of contract ratification (when buyer & seller have agreed on terms) so standard mail often won't get there in time.
One negative of that is that sometimes a listing agent will request the EMD go to their company, though often listing agents are understanding with out-of-towners for an EMD going to the buyer's agent's firm. If the EMD is not used in a transaction, it can go right back to the buyer. Also, if no contract is ever created between buyer and seller, the EMD should not be deposited, while the check itself can be held if needed.
If you don't do an advanced approach on this (most buyer's don't), you will typically incur higher costs of transferring the funds vs standard mail. For instance, many banks will send a check for you to someone for free, while a much lower number of banks will provide you a free wire transfer. Synchrony bank will provide 3/month after you have an account with them for 5 years as of the time of this writing, which is how I have free wire transfers. If you don't send an earnest money deposit in advance, often your best bet will be to use a wire transfer, even if it's $25 or $30.
I have heard horror stories firsthand where an EMD was pocketed directly by the agent. For one, the EMD should never be made directly out to the agent. If something like that ever happens to you, and the agent refuses to return your EMD, reach out to their principal broker. If they don't do anything about it, reach out to the real estate board for that state. They could lose their license over something like that.
I hope that's helpful!