In an interview last week for PropertyWire.ca, I offered my thoughts on the rise of technology and the trade of real estate. As we currently bridge straddling the 'old school' program of traditional print promotions while the internet plays an increasingly critical role, the way real estate will be presented will radically change. And it all starts with a floor plan.
Read on below for the story.
How to Enhance Visual Experience and Add Value to Your Service
Heather Wright, Real Estate Trade Journalist
Published on Propertywire.ca, a resource for Real Estate and Mortgage Professionals, July 2011.
There are several facts that are indisputable in Real Estate. The key to competitive edge is putting additional weight to the concept of value-add; the impact of digital media is profound, as is the growing consumer expectation for visual experience – and, sometimes you need to spend money to make money.
Knowing these truths, Real Estate Professionals are required to be proactive in meeting these needs- not just to stay personally competitive, but to continue to add value to the profession as a whole- and have means of expressing it.
Like describing the value of your service with intangibles, so is the same with visualization of a space. Sometimes it is easier- and more effective to show rather than tell.
There is a service that meets these needs, enhancing the growing need for a rich visual experience, and the enhancement of service: Floor Plans
Fight Fire with Value
When trying to articulate value, as Laurin Jeffrey, Real Estate Salesperson, Century 21 Regal Realty Inc., Brokerage says, one must put your money where your mouth is. Floor plans were prohibitively expensive years ago, and are now more accessible, and should be included as a matter of service, especially when trying to communicate value in the face of other players in the market who choose to position their business based on commission only: “Now more and more people are offering it, and prices are getting quite low. There really is no reason agents should be providing this as part of their listing services. If we want to fight back against the FSBO tide, then we need to show the value we can add. This is one of those ways.”
Jeffrey feels too that the industry is evolving to the point where this will become client expectation rather than ‘nice to have’, and is seeing it in his own business: “I think a lot of buyers feel slighted when they cannot see a floor plan. I would say half or more ask me for them, maybe even more. House buyers generally do not ask, but condo buyers do. I do think I have ever had someone not buy because of a lack of floor plans, but I am sure it would make my life easier. We could weed out bad layouts much faster and identify the right types of unit way easier. It would help when bringing buyers, and thus would also help with selling my own listings.”
The Internet: You’re In or You’re Out
There is no denying the presence of the internet in Real Estate, both as shopping tool, and as means to access information. There are reports that suggest that upwards of 80% of consumers use the internet to look for homes, at least initially.
Knowing that the bulk of the traffic is out there, waiting for you to supply them with a visually rich reason to linger on your page, is a very compelling reason to up the ante, agrees Steven Fudge, Sales Representative, Bosley R.E. Ltd (http://www.urbaneer.com): ‘In an increasingly competitive market, realtors committed to success need to provide the highest calibre of service while offering a comprehensive sales and marketing program. Today, this requires straddling the 'old school' program of traditional print promotions while being aggressively present on the internet. “
Fudge breaks down the nuts and bolts of this presence: “Now that the digital age plays a critical role in the trade of real estate, online 'e-zine' property promotions will become increasingly common. Expect a growth in high-style multi-content property promotions that integrate Google maps and real time video showing area schools, community services and neighbourhood amenities, blogs and vlogs (video logs) that promote interior, exterior and area property features, and contractor/architect/designer-friendly 3D floor plans available to buyers for use both before and after the property purchase.”
Dan Kapelus with Toronto Drafting Company (http://www.torontodrafting.com) says that there is no denying the importance of the internet as a shopping tool, and that the floor plans he does addresses that need: “This (floor plans) should be common practice. Especially with all of the shopping we do online. The first place you look, even for a rental property, any type of property, it is going to be online.”
And as Kapelus suggests, knowledge is power: “There is probably some benefit in withholding details, but I think the more information you put out to support the product, the better. You scare away the unwanted people, and attract the more serious buyers.”
The Floor Plan
Kapelus s offers a basic floor plan package for Realtors for up to 2000 sq ft for $150. “We create drawings onsite, using lasers, and we draft it with CAD software, and do the drafting onsite- windows, doors, appliances. We then submit a PDF file of a blueprint. It is done completely to scale, so you can basically do your planning from the drawing itself. “
“This gives a potential buyer the layout of the rooms. If they are not able to make it to the house...they can see the layout from a top view, something you wouldn’t get unless you had floor plans... From a top-down view you can see how the rooms are adjacent to each other. Like where the doors swing, closets, indication of where you want to put things.”
The benefits of this service are not just for the clients, but for the Realtor as well, as Kapelus explains, “If a buyer is not interested, it means that they don’t have to go all the way to the house. It prevents people who wouldn’t be interested otherwise- so they aren’t wasting the Realtor’s time. The more information about the house upfront, the better.”
It can also work as a sales tool for Realtors:” It might actually create more interest for somebody who might not have been interested if they’d only seen the pictures. Maybe because of the floor plans, then they can imagine what they can do with the house. It shows them the potential of the house as well.”
Seeing is believing
You are not just selling property, you are selling the experience. Listing descriptions are great, but language only goes so far to really deliver maximum impact. The best way, of course, to get a feel for a property, is to go and see it. If that isn’t possible, or even viable in the early days vetting properties, this comes in a close second.
Pictures do not do justice to depth and sense of space, whereas a floor plan will do that, as Jeffrey explains: “I think people like to see floor plans because it gives them a way to visualize the space. Photos and room sizes do not do enough to allow people to construct a proper image of the space in their minds. With a floor plan, they can put the put the dimensions onto something, they can picture how the photos depict the rooms.”
Fudge agrees that, while seeing a property is best, the emergence of digital media tools are a boon in helping define visual space, and helping to deliver on experience, even for those who can’t physically get to a property: “Even though nothing surpasses viewing a property in person, sophisticated advancements in technology will soon provide previously-reticent out-of-town buyers sufficient accurate information to initiate an online purchase without ever walking through it.”
Floor plans are helpful to all clients, but are particularly useful- when space is at a premium in smaller spaces. They are also helpful if people are buying a house that will require renovations, as Kapelus suggests, this is a proactive tool ““With the amount of old houses that don’t have any plans, they have to get done eventually. It definitely adds value. For the buyer they can get those full plans- and then they have them, and then they can start planning what they want to do.”
“For example, my friend bought a house a couple of weeks ago, and I went and drew the plans for his house. He doesn’t even move in for another month, but he has already been able to get custom sized furniture, and figure out how much paint to get- before he has even moved in to the house.”
For those clients seeking smaller spaces to customize and call their own, a floor plan is an integral part of the puzzle, as Jeffrey says: “Especially with condos, people want to see floor plans. All new units have them, but it seems they are all thrown away, lost or forgotten by the time it comes to re-sell. Especially with smaller spaces, people want to see where the walls are, where the windows are, how the different rooms relate and are joined to each other.”
Part of being able to etch out your niche in a competitive marketplace, is being able to communicate your value- and to lay down the brass tacks of what it means to provide full service. The key to articulation is understanding the definition, both in terms of what it means to your own business, as well as what it means in the eyes of your clients.
A client that has their needs met, has received value for their commissions paid, and has been able to connect emotionally with a property because of enhanced visual engagement, will be a happy client.