“First ever”… Er, not actually…

Friday saw-according to some sources-the dawning of a new era in estate agency. Online agency sellmyhome.co.uk claimed to be holding the first ever “virtual open house” via its Facebook page. The property was a two bedroom flat in Hackney and it was claimed that the virtual tour would chime with, “the demographic of first time buyers in Hackney and wider London, who struggle to take the time out of hectic schedules to visit numerous properties” [sic]
This chiming of the demographic (what marketing course have they been on?), does generate some further discussion:
Without wishing to pour water on their bonfire, here at Cheshire & Co, alongside many other agents nationwide, we have long offered the facility for a vendor to have their property videoed and the walk through tour posted online for people to view within their hectic schedules of using the internet whilst at work for non-work related activities/watching the box set of Breaking Bad/painting their toes/generally faffing about or indeed for people who genuinely want to look at the property, with a possible view to visiting it and if all the fates are aligned, making an offer. There we have it people, it gives a potential viewer/purchaser further detail before deciding to visit the property. Note the clue; before actually visiting the property, as a living, breathing individual. Now of course, there may be some people-who-for whatever reason, choose to buy the property purely from the virtual tour. If it is a first time buyer, I would cautiously opine that if you are parting with the best part of £300,000, it would pay to go and actually look at it, but similarly there may be investors and more seasoned property purchasers who are willing to take the chance. If so, fair play, and trust me, no agent is going to argue against such a move. The fun begins when the surveyor goes round and discovers the Japanese knotweed clinging to the outside of the kitchen wall, which was artfully edited out in a sweeping panoramic move that would befit a David Lean cinematic epic. According to Will Clark, the agency’s director, “customers have been crying out for a way to cut down the hours spent on the business of property viewings” [sic] Well William, I rather believe that it is your agency that wants to cut out on the hours spent showcasing properties to prospective purchasers. As is expected in today’s social media driven world, the virtual tour was featured in several online property websites, that allow viewers to comment accordingly (take note the producers of Top Gear). One gentleman who chose for his name to appear in lights on more than one occasion, was David, who works for www.virtualwalkthrough.com/agent He did a great sales pitch for his company (who wield the camera to post the tour), but what he did repeatedly acknowledge was that the virtual tour was a means of people deciding whether to actually go and physically view the property. His most telling comment was, “I have said this a million times now. We never discourage buyers from physically visiting properties before they invest in them, we just provide more information online so that they can better decide which properties they want to physically visit.” [sic] He also let slip that this was the first virtual tour that his company had done for an online agency.
David, you and I are singing off the same song sheet (other clichés are available). William-of online agency lustre-you are technically correct that the tour for the property being marketed by your company is a first in that it is the first one carried out by the company that you employed to do it that they have sold to an online agency; but that is about it. Virtual tours are a phenomenal tool to have at one’s disposal, but they complement the rather quaint notion of the agent earning their fee and meeting the interested parties at the property, something that an online agency, virtual tour or no virtual tour, don’t do.