Let’s face it. When it comes to real estate marketing trends like virtual tours, being an early adopter has its benefits. Sure, the old cliche that the explorers get the arrows has some truth to it, but along with the arrows comes the gold. And when it comes to virtual tours, the gold rush is starting now.

That’s why we worked with top-producing agents from around the country as well as our own coaching partners in order to show you how smart agents are generating leads from virtual open houses right now. So, if you want to learn some tricks of the trade or just want to stay in the loop, here’s our guide to how agents are making the transition to virtual open houses.

The 5 Rules for Successful Virtual Open Houses

1. Change Your Signage to Promote Your Virtual Open House

Micheal Lafido, Chicago Broker, Founder of Luxury Listing Specialist Certification (LUXE)

Using Virtual Open Houses

Over in Chicago, luxury broker and founder of the Luxury Listing Specialist certification, Michael Lafido, is leaning into virtual open houses in a big way. His epiphany came after he realized that a virtual open house is much, much more attractive to buyers than a website, video, or pretty much anything else he could send them to. Even better, signing up for a virtual tour is much less of a commitment than scheduling a call or piling in the car to view the place in person. It’s the perfect combination of high interest and low commitment.

Here’s Mike’s strategy:

First, Mike records well-produced virtual open houses for all of his listings. He then uploads a video to his site and creates a single property landing page that lets potential leads sign up for the scheduled open house.

Next, he schedules the open house in his MLS, Zillow, and Realtor.com, and in order to pull in as many leads as possible, he advertises the open house on his for sale signs right in front of the listing.

This means nosy neighbors can get that sneaky glimpse into their neighbor’s house without having to step a foot inside, but do have to give up their contact information to do it.

2. Create a Custom Lead Follow-up Strategy

Sean Moudry, Top-producing Broker and Coach, Founder at 16Strategies.com

Using Virtual Open Houses - Sean Moudry

Our newest contributor to The Close, Sean Moudry, didn’t mince words when it came to offering his best tip for a successful virtual open house; follow up, follow up, follow up!

In fact, since virtual open houses require less commitment for your guests than live open houses, you’re going to have to work a little bit harder to convert them to leads.

Of course, a phone call or text is generally more effective than an email, but mirroring the preferred communication style of your lead also works very well. If they called, call them. If they emailed, send an email. If they texted, text them back.

Whatever you do, do your homework and study those comps! You should be able to rattle off alternatives that they might like better immediately. Think of this as a cold call, because many people will treat you like you’re cold-calling them.

Once you know your comps backwards and forwards, here’s a quick follow-up script you can use in a text message or on Facebook Messenger:

“Thank you for attending… what did you like most about the house?”

(wait for a response)

“Okay, great! What did you like least?”

(This is conversational and will quickly uncover their objections.)

If they are not interested, do a quick search for a (one) property that has the feature they want.

“Have you seen the house down the street? It has [feature they want]?”

That’s it. Quick, persuasive, and to the point.

3. Upgrade Your Camera & Microphone

Using Virtual Open Houses

While your old iPhone with the cracked screen may be perfect for FaceTiming with your friends while you watch “90 Day Fiancé,” you’re going to want to upgrade for your virtual open houses. While its camera might still be pretty good, a small upgrade in image quality and a big upgrade in sound quality will have a positive return on investment (ROI).

While a DSLR or a mirrorless camera will get you professional video quality, they’re expensive, and setting them up for live streaming generally involves a cord to your laptop and other tech wizardry. Even if you have money burning a hole in your pocket and manage to figure it out, odds are many people in your audience will also be watching from their phones with slow connections. That makes these cameras less than ideal for your virtual open house.

The GoPro line of cameras offer a nice balance between image and sound quality and ease of use for live streaming. Starting with the Hero 7 Black at a reasonable $229, GoPro has three models to choose from that offer native live streaming. You can also upgrade the microphone easily to get better sound quality. The Rode VideoMicro is only $59 and has great sound quality.

4. Dress Like You’re Headed to a Job Interview (Because You Are)

Using Virtual Open Houses

While this might sound like a no-brainer to some agents, you’d be surprised how many listing agents I’ve worked with showing multimillionaire-dollar homes in New York City who showed up dressed like they were on their way to the gym.

No matter what you think, this strategy can and will backfire on you. After all, in a very real sense, you ARE on a job interview. Your audience is thinking about hiring you to represent them in the largest transaction of their lives. Why give them even a tiny reason to doubt your professionalism if you don’t have to?

If you’re in doubt, we have a tongue-in-cheek article on what not to wear here, and a basic primer for men on how to dress professionally without breaking the bank here.

5. Keep Updating Your Virtual Open Houses on Your MLS & Zillow

Using Virtual Open Houses

Once you have a date set for a live virtual tour or just want to get your listing to the top of Zillow search again, you can update your open house start and finish time in the listing remarks section of your MLS. You just need to add the URL at the end of your listing remarks in the following format: #virtualopenhouse url date start time-end time. Here’s what your URL should look like: #virtualopenhouse https://www.exampleopenhouse.com 012/31/2020 12:00 PM-2:00 PM.

One quick caveat here: Zillow is currently bumping listings with virtual open houses to the top of search results, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to keep doing it. Just remember, you’re not the only listing agent reading this article!

Virtual Open House Tips From Douglas Elliman Brokers

Using Virtual Open Houses

Founded in 1911, Douglas Elliman has grown to become synonymous with luxury real estate around the world. Today, Elliman is the second-largest independent real estate brokerage in the country, and closes more than $28 billion in transactions annually.

As you can imagine, Elliman hasn’t thrived for this long in the cutthroat world of luxury real estate by ignoring trends in real estate marketing. That’s why we reached out to them to check the pulse of brokers using virtual tours to adapt to today’s challenging new market. Here’s what they told us:

Tips From Gerald Germany, The Gerald Sears Team, New York City

Using Virtual Open Houses

What strategy are you using to drive traffic to your virtual open houses?

“Email blasts via Imprev and a custom broker list I pay for each quarter (over 15,000 agents). This will ensure the entire brokerage community is invited to participate in the Zoom call. The free Zoom option allows up to 100 agents and allows you to run the Zoom meeting up to 40 minutes. There is no risk you will get over 100 agents for this type of open house.

“We also use social media promotion on Facebook and Instagram as well as our internal Douglas Elliman email list.”

How has the response been?

“Great, in regard to broker participation. In one hour, I recruited seven agents in Chelsea to participate as an open house presenter. I am doing a very specific Zoom Broker Open House Tour: Chelsea one-bed prewar co-ops.

“There are currently 25 active Chelsea listings that fit my target criteria. During my first Facebook Live open house, I had over 200 people come in and out. This was before the mandate changed. We still had access to in-person showings. For Zoom virtual open house, we will know on Friday. I don’t think this format has ever been done in NYC.”

What tips do you have for our readers?

  • “Practice with Zoom or Facebook Live before you conduct your first Virtual Open House. Know the features and controls of Zoom or Facebook (FB) Live. Going live for the first time is not the time to learn.
  • Have a Zoom room meeting host as emcee (MC), if you will. In my case, that person will be me, as I am the event producer.
  • Have a Zoom room monitor to fight against Zoom Bombing. The Zoom link will be sent out multiple times to many people. This is easier than sending out a Zoom meeting ID. For the less tech-savvy, it is easier to click on a link and follow prompts.
  • Know the listing presenters and know everything about their listing in the event you have to jump in to help them due to technical difficulties. They might get bumped off, lose Wi-Fi, or can’t turn on their microphone.
  • Know all the inventory in your market so you can answer questions as they come up in the chat room.”

Tips From Miltiadis Kastanis, Director of Luxury Sales, Miami Beach

Using Virtual Open Houses

What strategy are you using to drive traffic to your virtual open houses?

“I am using social media and collaboration with different groups to get people to register. I am doing one with Knight Frank next week. I am taking a more global approach, as well as co-hosting with New York agents. Other markets are cold, bored, and have time to dream.”

How has the response been?

“I had over 100 people register and up to 77 at one time for my first virtual presentation. The response is good because I am working in collaboration with agents in markets that are cold, and they are excited to see what they can get in warm Miami.”

What tips do you have for our readers?

  • “The best tips I have are on Zoom, mute all participants. Also, start with some rules after the introduction to submit all questions through the chat feature.
  • Also, have a team member manage the chat to respond to the questions at the end, e.g., “Does that room have a closet?” “What direction does the pool face?” It is great to have a team member you trust fire off the answers right there.
  • Do your virtual open house/presentation in full-screen mode and create beautiful media for the presentation. It’s a unique time to capture so many people’s time all together—make it impactful, And the best tip is send a follow-up email with links to all of the information!”

Tips From Parsa Samii, Gold Award Winning Agent, Long Island

Using Virtual Open Houses

What strategy are you using to drive traffic to your virtual open houses?

“Our strategy to drive traffic is offering this ‘new’ look to consumers who are in the market. The Zillows, Realtor.com, and so on aren’t really prepared to help us along the way, but we’re trying very hard to get the word out there through the web, MLS, and even print advertising. Our biggest asset at the moment is word of mouth, so we’ve also been spreading the word among our colleagues and agents in the area.”

How has the response been?

“The response has been so-so in terms of the open house. In a one-on-one private virtual tour, we’ve had tremendous success with great and pertinent questions. Customers are coming away clamoring for more, which is great as soon as we can open and show the property. I feel that the demand grows as time goes on, as the spring market buyer didn’t have a chance this year. This is great for both buyers and sellers to get ahead of the curve.”

What tips do you have for our readers?

“The best tip I could give is trial and error. Practice, practice, practice, and be honestly ready for inevitable failure and what your response will be. Think quick! A true story is that we had done numerous trials and all went flawless, but on the first call that was live, the technology failed.

“We all had a good laugh; we had a contingency plan and it all went smooth from therein, which was proof of the testing process! They love everything about the house and we’re expecting an offer as soon as they get a chance to walk through the property.”

How to Set Up & Boost Your Virtual Open House on Facebook & Instagram

While promoting your virtual open house on social media will help, spending a few dollars per day to boost your post can double or even triple your audience size. Here’s a quick rundown on how to create and boost your Facebook Live virtual open house from our resident social media strategist Lily Stern:

Using Virtual Open Houses - Lily Stern“My biggest piece of advice is to advertise your Facebook Live before the event. Here’s a quick primer on how to set up and boost your Facebook live event.”

1. Set Up Your Facebook Business Page

If you don’t already have one, or just want to make sure yours is set up correctly, check out our guide to setting up a Facebook Business page here.

2. Schedule a Facebook Live Event

OK, now that you have a Facebook Business page set up, you’re going to need to schedule a Facebook Live event. To do this, go to your page as if you were about to create a regular post. Then click “Live.” From there, you’ll be taken to a stream setup page, and on the left hand side, you’ll see the option to “Schedule a Live Video.” Select that and enter the date and time for your virtual open house.

3 Restrict Your Audience for Your Virtual Open House Date

If you want to restrict your audience during your live stream to a specific location, select “Audience Settings” and select “Allow selected locations.” Once you schedule your live event, there will be a link to the live video URL. Copy the link to a Word document.

Using Virtual Open Houses

4. Create a Facebook Post to Post Your Link

Now you’ll need to create a regular post on your Facebook page to promote your virtual open house using the live link you just copied. When writing your post, make sure to tease a bit of what’s to come in your open house—maybe a sneak peek at the house you’ll be touring or what you’ll be talking about to get people excited about your live event.

5. Boost Your Post to Maximize Your Audience!

Finally, click on “Boost Your Post” to set up targeting and a budget to promote your virtual open house. Once your Facebook live event has been announced, people will have the option to get a reminder before you go live.

6. Keep Posting & Boosting Your Open House

Make sure to post a few times during the week leading up to your live stream to stay top of mind, and don’t forget to save the live stream to your page once you’ve finished. That way, you can continue to promote your content and get as many views on the video as possible, even after you’re no longer live.

How to Run a Virtual Open House Using Zoom

Using Virtual Open Houses

Seemingly overnight, Zoom has gone from playing second fiddle to Skype to dominating the video conferencing market. If you’re not comfortable using Facebook or just want to get in on the latest trend, then try running a virtual open house with Zoom. Here’s a quick rundown of how to do it:

1. Download Zoom to Your Phone & Create an Account

To start using Zoom, you’re going to need to create an account. Download Zoom to your phone, create a username, and upload a headshot.

2. Test Video & Audio Settings

Once you have Zoom up and running, test your video and audio settings. Try setting up a meeting with a friend to troubleshoot any video or sound issues. While you’re here, make sure to password protect your meetings to avoid Zoom trolls.

3. Copy Your Zoom Personal Meeting ID

Next you’re going to need to copy the link you will use to invite people to join your virtual open house. Click on “meetings” at the top of Zoom and copy, then click on “Show Meeting Invitation” and copy the URL under “Join Zoom Meeting.”

4. Promote Your Virtual Open House

Now you need to actually get people to your open house. You can do this by sending out the link you just copied via email, text message, or on social media.

Bonus Tip: Work With Other Agents to Double Your Reach on Social Media

Isaac Rosenberg, Compass, New York City

If you’re one of those agents who’s trying to run leaner these days, partnering up with another agent to promote your open house on social media can double your reach online. Here’s New York City luxury agent Isaac Rosenberg explaining the benefits and throwing in some general tips for good measure:

Using Virtual Open Houses - Isaac Rosenberg“When running a virtual open house, the first and most important thing is promotion. Besides running ads, another great tactic of promotion is exchanging social media posts with other agents and brokers who are also having virtual open houses. That way, you can both take advantage of each other’s social followings.

“With the virtual open house itself, I always make sure to show as much as possible—as if you were there in real life—making sure the viewers see my face as I greet them, just as I would during a normal open house. In addition, I always make sure to tour the entrance of the property as well as the street the property is on, in addition to the nearby neighborhood.”

Over to You

We want to hear from you. Do you think virtual open houses are here to stay, or do you think they’re a passing fad? Let us know in the comments.