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Great Moments in Video Conferencing: Real Estate Meetings & Tours

by Ellen Muraskin

Success in real estate relies on the face-to-face experience. Making every conversation face to face is not as difficult as it seems.

Paula Ravin, real estate agent, starts her Tuesday workday by clicking on a link she's populated into every 8:30 am Tuesday slot on her Google calendar: it's the weekly update she attends virtually with four colleagues at Winston-Kemmerman Realty. She can see them all, with their company-logoed coffee mugs, reporting from the office on Broad Street or from their home offices.

The videoconference -- a free feature of the hosted communications service WKR subscribes to -- is the agents' chance to pool news that all can use: new listings, new sales and rentals, price and mortgage rate changes, company relocations, new buyers they can match up with sellers, and vice versa. There's no download or plug-in necessary to join; all participants need to do is click that link (and have a camera, as most laptops and all smartphones do).

In another browser tab, Jon takes notes into a Slack channel for all to see. Renee, looking excited, shares a link to her new high-end listing, a $625,000 pre-war, two-bedroom across from Rock Creek Park. Paula makes a note to offer a showing to the Reynolds, one of her dual-income, no-kids buyers.

The relocating Reynolds are Paula's best lead and best chance at exceeding her numbers this month. They came in, like most, through her listing page, but this time she had a new tool that helped her get to buyer's-agent contract: an invitation to videochat. When she got the notification of their interest, she emailed them back with a link just like the one she uses Tuesday morning. The face-to-face meeting, the personal touch and a parallel shared desktop session helped Paula convince this couple that she could find them their next address.

Real estate agent discussing newly available properties with her client.

The Reynolds only had three days in town in which to shop in person, so virtual tours came in very handy as a way to narrow the list. When the couple did come in and find what they thought was the perfect home, Paula arranged a video conference with their two kids, live from their future bedrooms.

And when it came time to procure a mortgage, Paula emailed the same video link to the Reynolds and to one of her favorite loan officers, and the conversation proceeded three ways.

Paula has found other ways to leverage video calling in her real estate career, gaining leads without wasting face time on recreational shoppers. One way, for example, is aimed at online prospects who've shown credible interest by answering some qualifying questions and/or sat through an entire virtual house tour. These people see a Call-Me button pop up over the listing of interest. Clicking on this connects them to Ingrid, Paula's office assistant, in their choice of video or voice alone.

When the call comes in on her desktop communications app, Ingrid instantly knows which listing they've clicked from and can pull it up on her screen. And if Ingrid can't answer the call right away, a "Video on Hold" message can entertain or inform the callers while they wait. Winston-Kemmerman has seized the rare chance at customer attention by plugging in narrated slide shows of available properties, customized for the page (and the price range) the caller clicked from. During a brief discussion with the prospects, Ingrid can tell, from her app, whether Paula is on another call. She can also use the app to quickly text chat her boss, asking if she'd like her to transfer the call.

The real estate agency has gradually found new ways to use its cloud communication service as it becomes more familiar with its abilities. They signed up at first for its indifference to place and hardware. The on-site PBX is history. Agents' phones can be the preexisting IP phones on their desks, the video-enabled softphone apps on their desktops or on their smart phones; extension numbers can be set to ring simultaneously in up to ten places at once and even video calls are easily switched between extensions; a great convenience in a classically mobile line of work.

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