What's the future of video in lettings?
From virtual viewings to webinars, video became an important channel for communication with landlords and tenants, and for keeping lettings ticking along throughout Covid-19. Matt Dilkes, Lettings Director at Christopher Shaw, predicts how these solutions will be used long term.
In the lettings industry, we all took to video like a duck to water when the pandemic hit, with virtual viewings allowing us to continue to help people move and video content becoming an easy substitute for face-to-face meetings. As we head out of the pandemic, will these two innovations stick with us?
Virtual video viewings
Virtual viewings received a massive boost during lockdown where sales of Matterport's 3D camera solution increased by 630% in the first month of lockdown. Although the initial scramble for the latest tech may have abated, video viewings will definitely stay. I would even say that video is becoming more of a necessity in some circumstances - even if it's to rule out someone's interest rather than to rule them in.
In Bournemouth, where Christopher Shaw operates, we've seen a massive influx of people coming to the area. The work-from-home mentality is still very much in place and our cost of living is a lot cheaper, especially if you're still on city wages. This means that a lot of people from further away are viewing properties virtually, but there are also a lot of locals who are having to resort to viewing via video out of necessity, to make sure they have a chance to see a property before it's snapped up by someone from outside the area.
We've had a lot of properties reserved just from those video viewings - more than I probably would have ever anticipated - but there were a lot of people reserving video without even seeing the property. That's not my preference, I would prefer people to see a property before they take it or at least that they see the property very quickly after reserving it. But people are struggling so much to reserve a place that they're having to resort to taking properties off the back of a video, to get their foot in the door, which is incredible.
On the landlord side, we used to host seminars before the pandemic. We'd have nibbles and drinks and we'd get together with our landlords, whether they were already clients for Christopher Shaw or prospective clients. We'd talk about various lettings issues and compliance - but when the pandemic struck, we lost that ability.
We needed to continue to reach landlords en masse, in a personable way and that's when we turned to video. We thought it would be a more digestible content source for landlords to dip in and out of. We set up a YouTube channel and were able to get videos out in rapid fashion every week to two weeks. There were compliance changes as well as regular news and Covid-19 updates so there was a lot of content that we were able to cherry pick from. There was also an emphasis on maintaining a presence with landlords and tenants, and reassuring them that you were still there to support them too - but now this is less critical.
Now, the pace of new lettings legislation has slowed and our video content with it. We're starting to scale back and we'd like to revert to seeing people in person, because there is no substitute for being able to have a conversation face to face. I do think we will continue to create content, but not to the same extent. We will continue to create videos when there is something topical to talk about but we'll now need to find a balance. Lettings demand is booming and we'll need to reprioritise activities that worked so well during lockdown to ensure we have the capacity to meet that demand.