Photo: Mike Benna / Unsplash

COVID-19 has dramatically altered the homebuying landscape. In the absence of open houses, along with a decrease in physical showings, real estate professionals have had to rely on digital tools when it comes to marketing their listings.

Despite homebuying activity tanking across the Vancouver region in April, one real estate company has found that the use of digital marketing has soared amid the pandemic.

According to data from Roomvu, a real estate marketing and analytics platform, 43 percent of listings in Metro Vancouver now link to some version of a virtual tour — pre-pandemic, only 24 percent of residential listings on the market used this technology. Across Greater Vancouver, Fraser Valley and Chilliwack, similar trends were also observed, with the use of digital marketing tools rising from 28 percent to 38 percent after the pandemic took hold.

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“Through the use of virtual strategies, agents were able to continue selling and marketing homes in spite of social distancing requirements,” reads the report from Roomvu. “Technology like 360 degree-photography and Matterport videography allow[s] buyers to tour virtual open-houses and examine properties without being physically present in the home.”

The analysis, which examined data from over one million listings on MLS, found that the use of digital marketing has increased by 370 percent from 2010 to mid-April 2020.

Roomvu sorts digital marketing into three main categories — photo slideshows, virtual tours and videos. In Metro Vancouver, at least 18 percent of homes on the market in 2015 used one type of digital marketing, 3.4 percent of which included some version of a virtual tour. Five years later, the popularity of virtual tours jumped to 7.3 percent, while the use of digital marketing increased to just under 30 percent.

Further analyzing the impacts of social distancing on digital real estate marketing pre- and post-COVID-19 outbreak, Roomvu noted the trends associated with specific keyword data. In one case, the keyword ‘open house’ was used in 14 percent of listings before the height of the pandemic, then dropped to 4 percent post-outbreak. Similarly, ‘virtual’ was applied to just 1.3 percent of listings, before shooting up to 6 percent.

While the onset of COVID-19 has heightened the need for virtual tours and digital gimmicks, Roomvu suggests that the use of such technology has been trending upward over the last five years.

“While we don’t predict the demise of the in-person open house or property tour, we do anticipate that digital marketing will increase in importance and will continue to be adopted and used by various stakeholders in the real estate industry,” concludes the analysis from Roomvu.

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