What do buyers want to see in your real estate listing marketing?

Agents could be missing out on sales because because of listings with mediocre photos and the absence of floor plans, virtual tours and other details that make the property stand out to buyers, according to a new report by real estate marketing firm BoxBrownie.com.

The report takes a closer look at what BoxBrownie Global Director of Sales Marketing and Revenue Peter Schravemade calls one of the most underrated sections of the National Association of Realtors’ Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends report.

He notes in the report that the NAR stats show that 89% of prospective homebuyers want to see listing photos, 67% want floor plans and 58% would like a virtual tour.

Professional photography a must

The report states that more than three quarters of agents (76%) hire professional photographers for their listings. High-end properties were more likely to have professional photos of the listing, according to the report, which noted that listing with sticker prices of $500,000 or more had an 85% or more chance of having professional photos, while 71% of properties under that amount included professional photos.

Schravemade adds in the report that brokerages have a duty to their agents to make sure quality photography is used in every listing — even if the pictures are shot by the agent.

“We do believe educational institutions and bodies should take greater responsibility in training listing agents as to how to go about marketing a home for sale or lease,” he wrote. “Part of that training should include sections on what constitutes professional photography.”

Virtual tours saved the industry?

Maybe not so much, according to the BoxBrownie report. Virtual tours are nothing new — they’ve been around for more than two decades, according to the report — but 360°, 3D and other virtual tours were touted during the pandemic as a major shift in the way homes are sold.

The report add that only 5.9% of homes on the market are offering virtual tours. That’s a far lower figure than those reported by the National Association of Realtors, which reported that 35% of listings are offering virtual tours.

The BoxBrownie report believes those figures are exaggerated by the area of the country surveyed, sample size and other factors. “Other research is simply looking at links provided within listings and assuming they are virtual tours rather than videos or slideshows,” Schravemade said in the report.

The conclusion: virtual tours could give agents an edge with their listings. “They are no longer difficult to shoot, cost-prohibitive, or time-intensive,” the report states. “Importantly, purchasers value them highly in decision making around the purchase of a home.”

Back to the drawing board

Just under 10% of listings of single-family homes offer floor plans, but more than two out of three homebuyers want access to them. “This is not a figure worth shouting from the mountaintops, but it certainly is an improvement on the previous number we had from a 2015 study, which said that only 5% of MLS listings included a floor plan,” Schravemade said in the report.

BoxBrownie suggests asking every seller if they have floor plans available. These might be available through the appraiser, as floor plans are often included with appraisal documents.

If they’re not available, retail outlets like Home Depot offer plan draws starting at about $100.

Remote workers could continue to drive the post-pandemic market

The pandemic-driven trend of working from home is driving home buyers to suburban areas in search of larger residences, and it could just be the beginning, according to a new report from the real estate media company Homes.com.

Homes.com President David Mele discussed the report at the National Association of Real Estate Editors 54th Annual Real Estate Journalism Conference, noting that while the flight to the suburbs trend is real, it also is likely to continue well after a vaccine becomes widely available.

“This is really just getting started,” Mele said in the panel Suburban Migration and Coronavirus Changes. The trend could increase post-pandemic, he said, because many workers are still waiting to see if they will work from home permanently.

Homes.com’s study of more than 1,000 consumers and 600 real estate professionals shows that buyers are not only moving away from urban areas, but they’re also making more long-distance moves.

Mele said that the survey revealed that 70% of respondents said their pandemic relocation is permanent. One out of three respondents who relocated in the last 12 months did not plan to move prior to the pandemic. And one in four said the move “was sparked by a change in their job situation, presumably caused by the pandemic,” the report noted.

Forty-five percent of those who haven’t moved said they would if given the opportunity to work from home, and 20% said working remotely made their move possible.

Industry professionals were optimistic about 2021 as well, with a majority of industry experts (57%) anticipating continued robust homebuying activity. Another 28% of respondents said they expect more transactions next year.

“The surge in the work-from-home population has rewritten the playbook for many homebuying and rental decisions, from when and where to relocate, to what people are looking for in their next residence,” Mele said in a press release. “That, in turn, is prompting changes for real estate professionals, many of whom are expanding their market area to better serve clients who are moving farther than before. If working from home becomes standard operating procedure for many companies, as predicted, these changes will be with us for years to come.”

Other highlights from the survey include:

  • 40% who moved or plan to are moving more than 100 miles away, and are moving over 500 miles.
  • Approximately 30% are leaving cities for the suburbs.
  • 15% are looking for less populated areas.
  • 78% of real estate professionals said requests for home offices are the No. 1 change. Larger square foot was next at 57%, followed by outdoor recreational spaces at 45%, and upgraded kitchens at 44%.
  • The buyer’s market has made made sellers less likely to accept a contingency (69%), show a house without a pre-approval letter (59%), negotiate on repairs (57%) or negotiate with buyers for a quick sale (40%).