With real estate listed as an essential service, there are many homebuyers who remain in the market for a new home or condo during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, with sales centres closed and in-person appointments cancelled, new home developers have had to adapt their sales practices to the new realities faced by the industry. Many have turned to online sales and marketing practices such as virtual sales centres, which allow users to view photo-realistic visuals like 360-degree tours from the comfort and safety of their own homes.
Mississauga-based architectural visualization firm, NEEZO Studios, provides real estate builders and developers with virtual marketing products like LiveSite™, a virtual sales centre application that brings the homebuying process online. Whether it’s through a desktop computer, laptop, tablet or mobile device, users can access comprehensive details about a development, explore and compare floorplans in 3D, and even see how their home would look from dawn to dusk, allowing them to see geographically accurate sunlight patterns and shadow placement.
Seeing that COVID-19 was affecting in-person sales centre experiences, NEEZO also created RED CARPET VIP-VR, a digital twin of a builder’s new home or condo sales centre that invites homebuyers to browse the sales centre and/or schedule a meeting, as well as view all of the features that would be accessible in the real sales centre. RED CARPET VIP-VR recently won a gold award at The Nationals 2021, for being the most useful virtual sales tool of the year.
But as advanced as they may seem, are products like LiveSite™, RED CARPET VIP-VR and other online methods an effective substitute for traditional in-person experiences? And do homebuyers truly care about visiting a ‘virtual’ sales centre?
To find out, NEEZO Studios contracted Leger Research to conduct an in-depth survey aimed at providing insights on homebuyer sentiment and the level of interest in online experiences when buying a pre-construction home.
The Canadian-owned market research and analytics company surveyed a database of Our Homes magazine, whose readers are homeowners and homebuyers in the Toronto and Greater Toronto area. The survey was conducted during a two-week period in November 2020 with a group of 178 participants.
While most survey respondents (81 percent) still want a physical visit prior to purchase, 74 percent said they would appreciate the option to visit a virtual sales centre. Over half (52 percent) said they would enjoy looking for a new home virtually and 63 percent said they would consider a virtual consultation with a new home builder. The ability to schedule a video appointment, phone call or a one-on-one meeting was also appealing to 66 percent of respondents.
When visiting an online sales centre, participants said the most important digital elements included the ability to browse 2D floorplans (85 percent), view the property on the lot and its surroundings (78 percent), and observe its distance to amenities. Respondents also enjoyed exploring kitchen options (73 percent) including colour palettes and finishes and appreciated being able to download a brochure and price list (73 percent).
“When speaking to prospective new clients I sometimes encounter those who say, ‘You produce extremely photorealistic 3D renderings and animations, but my homebuyers don’t care about all this digital/virtual stuff,’” said Marvin Maalouf, founder and CEO of NEEZO Studios. “Turns out, homebuyers do care. Homebuyers today are time-starved, very tech-savvy, and before they even visit a pre-construction sales centre, they’ve already done their homework — digitally and virtually.”
“This survey will be of value to demonstrate to builders and developers what their buyers want and need in today’s pandemic times and I strongly believe these sentiments will continue, even post-pandemic,” he added.
To view the full survey report, click here.