Open House. No, that’s not a Covid-19-induced oxymoron. It’s a new and effective method for conducting virtual apartment tours.
Shelter-in-place policies, social distancing and staggered timetables for gradual re-openings of state economies combined with Americans’ hesitancy to join the “current normal” lifestyle have created booming popularity for virtual apartment touring.
The Remy, a LIVEbe community in Lanham, Md., came up with a new way to conduct an ol’ real estate standby: The Open House
The 278-unit, eight-story property welcomed 51 participants for a 16-minute recorded tour at noon on a Saturday and had nine applications submitted by 4 p.m. It’s had four more since, says Jaymie Martin, Community Director.
“We recognized during our open house – with so many people participating – that it created a sense of urgency to lease in some of the prospects,” Martin says. “The interaction of the group and our staff created kind of a buzz.
“For some, when they saw the community for the first time and learned that there might be only a few apartments of a specific floor plan and sensed the enthusiasm from others on the call – it made our community even more enticing.
Martin says the tour, overall, felt comfortable. “It was more like a group conversation – which was good – rather than one-on-one conversations with staff and prospects.”
The Remy had contracted with Realync to do video tours and had been through the production process often, finding it an easy and convenient fit for its overall marketing strategies. Community Host, Amiri Connor filmed the entire video and made all the edits to include music. Martin pleasantly pointed out that the open house cost next to nothing in additional expenses – only staff time.
“Had we done an in-person open house, we would have had to spend money for food and decorations,” Martin says. “Typically, for these events, we’d have about 15 prospects show up. We got 51.”
Video open houses actually can be more convenient for the prospective residents — even if shelter-at-home policies weren’t in place, Martin says.
“Our prospects usually have done their homework about us online,” she says. “They just want to see the community. And if it’s through a video, they don’t have to take the time on their day off to drive to our community to see it.”
‘The Remy is Right’
Putting the video together turned out to be a lot of fun for Martin’s team. They mimicked “The Price is Right” game show – calling it, “The Remy is Right” — complete with theme music and the over-sized name badges you see contestants wearing on the popular televised game show.
The Remy considered doing a live virtual tour open house, having a member of its leasing team serve as the tour guide, with other staff stationed in strategic locations throughout the property, such as amenity areas. There, they would lead tour participants through a game similar to those used on the TV show. However, The Remy’s internet connection was a bit dicey, and Martin didn’t want to risk connection drop-offs in dead areas.
Another challenge – one it easily overcame with practice – was “learning to talk to yourself” while giving the tour, Martin says. “When rehearsing, we actually spoke directly to the camera, but it was a bit odd that there was no other person there listening to us.”
But when the lights came on to do the actual recording, the staff exceeded expectations while reciting the script with a warm and inviting personality.
One of its leasing ambassadors Lindsey De La Cruz was host. She stood just outside the community’s front door and greeted the viewers, then conducted a friendly and up-beat walking tour of the main lobby area, before stepping into other parts of the community, including one of the community’s 75 apartment-home floor plans and amenity areas. There, Martin and Brittney Rouse, Assistant Community Director picked up the speaking and touring roles.
The tour ended with Martin seated in the roof-top lounge area. She thanked the prospects and then directed the camera to show the beautiful view of the surrounding neighborhood.
Here are the Numbers
To market the event, The Remy invited anyone who it was prospecting through its Instagram, Facebook and other channels during the past nine months.
77 clicked on the link
51 joined the open house video tour
9 people filled out applications that day
8 of those said they wanted a May move-in date
4 more filled out applications in the few days afterward
Martin says she will conduct additional open houses and will collaborate with the Realync team and her staff on ways she could do a hybrid event: Part live and part recorded.
The Remy opened in September 2017 as the first part of a redevelopment process in that neighborhood, which is located at the start and end points of two Washington, D.C., market Metro train lines and Amtrak station. The Remy has 268 additional apartment homes in the pipeline for the community.
“We have unit inventory to fill and our team and our goal is to hit some big numbers by summer,” she says. “When our team first talked about trying an open-house concept, we considered how to broadcast it. We looked at FaceTime, Facebook Live and Instagram Live. We quickly realized that the biggest touring benefit we’d get from Realync is that we have all of our videos shot with them in one library and at our fingertips during a tour. So, if we started showing a unit style or an amenity that our prospect was not interested in, we could easily click over to another video of what they wanted to see.
Martin says The Remy has used Matterport and Zoom for tours, “but in those cases, it’s a more clunky and time-consuming process to switch back and forth to other platforms to watch another video,” she says.
Realync’s video software enables onsite ambassadors to speak while the recorded video is being shown. And during the open house, prospects typed questions via the “chat” area of the video screen and The Remy’s staff typed answers back.
Martin says the tour was able to maintain a personal touch for those prospects needing it.
“We’ve assigned our staff cellphones for work-related functions, so I was able to give those numbers out during the tour in case prospects had specific or more personal questions they wanted to ask,” Martin says. “Some were texting our staff directly during the call. So, prospects felt that they were receiving personal attention.”