Home buyers, sellers and real estate agents have new tools in the arsenal: social media.
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While nothing beats an actual walk-through of a home, buyers are able to better preview potential homes through YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest as sellers work to maximize the exposure of their property.
And real estate agents better take note of this increase use of social media among potential clients.
“Both buyers and sellers are doing more ‘digging’ than ever,” says Brad Officer, a realtor in Jacksonville, Fla. “Buyers and sellers want proof that you are actively engaged in the business and are a true professional.” To stay current, he suggests agents set up a professional and informative Twitter account, Facebook page and even Pinterest space.
“I call it the ‘alive factor’,” says Officer of social media. “It’s proof that you are alive and in business. With so many buyers and sellers online in their everyday lives, it's surprising that only 56% of realtors use social media, and only 12% of realtors have a blog.”
He points to a recent client’s screening process as proof: He was recently contacted by a man looking to sell his home. Even though a friend had referred Officer, the seller did a Google search, read online reviews, checked out Officer’s website, watched a video on YouTube and visited his Facebook page. “No longer is a referral alone or a website along going to cut it.”
An online listing with some images of the home and a video used to be enough for buyers, but modern buyers—especially the young ones—want more information like a YouTube channel with multiple videos and even a Facebook page for the home.
With that said, agents should learn how to use social media appropriately before jumping. More exposure can help generate more interest in a home, but only if it’s the right kind of publicity.
“If an agent hasn't invested in good photography and videography, and they are pushing the listing out to the public through social media, it's only going to make the home look cheap to more people,” says Officer.
Marilyn Urso, owner of Long Island Village Realty in Syosset, N.Y. knows the importance of having a strong social media presence. According to Urso, buyers want to see detailed images, videos and floor plans before stepping foot into a home. She also says clients want to see tweets from realtors about the market, mortgage rates or what it takes to own a home--not just marketing filler about a new property.
While being on social media is a must for agents to stay relevant, Urso says it can also be useful for buyers and agents to better focus the home search process. She uses Pinterest to post pictures of her open houses as well as other cool kitchen or bathroom designs and the latest in flooring or paint colors. This way she can learn her clients’ desires and better identify potential homes.
“It gives insight into their taste and what they are looking for in a home,” says Urso. “It saves us driving around time.”
While social media gives buyers more tools to find homes, they shouldn’t wait too long to get their agent involved. According to experts, the biggest complaint buyers have about online research is that properties are already under contract once they seek a formal showing.
“At some point, a buyer has to shut down the computer, put down the iPhone, and start visiting the homes for sale,” says Officer.