Is WhatsApp changing real estate?
MAIN IMAGE: Heather van der Spuy, co-owner and principal of Steer International Properties, Craig Hutchison, CEO Engel & Völkers Southern Africa and Richard Gray, CEO Harcourts Africa.
Whether it’s for updates on a family reunion, the exam schedule from your child’s teacher or updates on when potential buyers will be viewing a home – for millions of people WhatsApp has become the preferred communication platform. Is it changing how real estate does business?
Two years ago an estate agency in London estimated that around 80% of the offers they received were made over WhatsApp rather than the traditional telephone call – they said especially among Millennials this was the popular choice.
The same agency continued that although nothing beats face to face conversation – as tone of voice can get lost in written words and messages can be misconstrued – the positives about Whatsapp include that is a faster form of communication, it is recorded, which helps to avoid confusion about what was said and what wasn’t. It is also a great organisational tool, for instance, to help set up viewing times, confirm or cancel appointments, etc.
The prevalence of WhatsApp groups everywhere from workplace to family and friends to church or sports clubs seems to indicate that this method of communication is equally popular here although perhaps not just yet to conclude such an important transaction as buying or selling a home.
Heather van der Spuy, co-owner and principal of Steer International Properties in Cape Town, says although she recently completed two sales via Whatsapp with international clients, she finds that local clients prefer to use email. She does use Whatsapp a lot in her daily communication with clients such to confirm appointments. “I find it’s a great way of keeping a record of a conversation plus its user friendly,” says Van der Spuy.
Craig Hutchison, CEO Engel & Völkers Southern Africa, says it is still rather difficult to trace the exact ROI that digital and social platforms have on the real estate industry due to the journey a buyer or seller takes from awareness to action.
A buyer or seller visiting a property website has already gone through the customer journey and is at the end of the funnel closer to taking action, where-as that same client’s journey might have started with awareness on social media. However, there is no doubt that digital marketing is vital in today’s property industry and they are seeing a monthly incline in the activity and direct social actions taken by the customer.
“there is no doubt that digital marketing is vital in today’s property industry…”
“We believe agents might not be using this platform (Whatsapp) to its fullest potential as yet for direct marketing, but in terms of client interaction it has definitely increased the enquiries. A client can now drop an agent a quick message requesting advice as this is a less intrusive way of communicating. They might not be ready to take action, but it is critically important that we offer clients a source of information. Fifteen years ago a client would pick up a phone, call an agent and get the information they need – today they turn to Google, social media, recommendations from friends and more” says Hutchison.
“We encourage our agents to ask a client how they came across them in order to be able to gather more accurate statistics on the impact of social media. A client showing up at a showhouse, might have only known about it through a Facebook advert, thus listing the source as show day is not enough in today’s extensive marketing toolbox.
“Accurately tracked & traced, we can say that over the past 12 months, clients who we have come from social media as the root source have been 12% of total leads on buyers and 7% on sellers,” concludes Hutchison.
Richard Gray, CEO Harcourts South Africa, says they’re also seeing an increased demand by clients to communicate with their agents and staff in real time which has resulted in a growing expectancy for instant feedback. This means that phone communication applications, such as WhatsApp, are fast becoming the primary communication tool for clients.
“These applications have also become part of the marketing process as many sellers and landlords expect the agent to harness their database to effectively market the client’s property to an instantaneous audience, and rightly so,” Gray continues.
“The integration and feeding of saved contacts and social media connections to a singular mobile device has propelled client service into the spotlight and the necessity for agents to be trained and educated on continuous feedback and prompt customer service.”
The integration and feeding of saved contacts and social media connections to a singular mobile device has propelled client service into the spotlight and the necessity for agents to be trained and educated on continuous feedback and prompt customer service. Estimates from four of their offices across the Cape Peninsula, which includes the rental division, indicate that 70% of communication with clients is done via Whatsapp and 20% of offers are confirmed via this platform.
Gray says many of their agents are now introducing WhatsApp marketing plans into their mandate strategies. There are many advantages to these applications:
* They are very user friendly when sending media such as videos, photographs and embedded links to inquiring clients, which make them perfect for real estate communication.
* The WhatsApp status allows agents to market homes to a growing mobile database without contacting prospective buyers individually. This strategy is becoming very popular on multiple platforms as a subtle non-invasive arm of a real estate marketing plan.
“With WhatsApp being owned by Facebook and Instagram it is no wonder this tool has the ability to cross pollinate communication and diversify it into a multi-pronged communication force,” ends Gray.
What about Facebook and Instagram? Have you picked up different preferences for methods of communication? Email your thoughts to email@example.com.