Only when you can step away from your normal day, can you ever really take a good, long look at how you are doing things. And in this time, it has become abundantly clear that the process, the ordeal, the buyers put themselves through- or that they tolerate- is broken. This is part of my three-part exploration into how Virtual Tours become part of the normal buying process, in New York City, or anywhere.
I have created what I think is a fairly in-depth look at the things that have made buying in NYC a challenge, over and above the prices, the strict co-op board review, and the competition in the marketplace notwithstanding. Certainly I have considered how co-ops may want to ease/change their standards to be more competitive with condominiums (and to increase their value), but here I’m only looking at the process of buying, not the prices or any particular buildings, really.
Here are two questions that I want you to keep in mind as you read through this list of the “shlep factors” that have been part of the buying process:
(1) Is the hero’s journey a necessary condition to feel good about your purchase? That is, is there some inherent challenge that a buyer feels he/she/they must go through to feel good about what they’ve purchased? That is, is a random, annoying, frustrating, and energetically inefficient process a good thing?
(2) Will people fully appreciate why incorporating virtual tours into the buying process could make buying easier? That is, will we revert to the old process?
(3) Where Does Emotion fit into the Virtual Buying Process? How do you create an emotional connection with a computer screen? Is it possible?
(4) Where does salesmanship fit into the buying process through virtual tours? Is a broker still a value-add? (I’ll give this away. YES. Buyers and sellers still cannot get out of their own way)
(5) What is the value of live showings, open houses, etc to create momentum and excitement for a property? Can we recreate this feeling in Virtual Touring?
#NoShlepping is my hashtag. There may be no way to avoid everything on this list. But at least for now, we have a Top 10 List of things that don’t work in the buying process. Maybe Brokerage 3.0 will solve for many of them. I think they will:
Communication- Email is a Disaster
Tech-enabled platforms like RealtyCrunch can absolutley eliminate the slow boat approach to communication. A platform where conversations about properties can live and move along much more quickly. This should be transformational. Email really should be largely dead, and yet it won’t die anytime soon. Let’s keep it away from conversation better served by a more conversational platform! The issues with communication do persist, however
Coordinating Property Access with Agents
There are two issues baked in here. The first is that listing agents sometimes make it hard to even access properties. This may be a lazy agent, it may be a very busy agent, or it may be a challenge with co-op rules. It also could be the irritating reality on Manhattan apartments. THERE ARE NO LOCK BOXES. That is, often there needs to be two (2) agents at every showing. This is INSANE, but if each side is represented, an in-person showing is still going to be a challenge to coordinate.
Virtual touring can solve for any of the above. Now, you can tour from your couch and do not have to coordinate with anyone.
Cabs & Subways
Surely, the logistics of traffic, ubers/taxis/lyft/Via/car service- all are a pain. We accept this as part of life, but why? Why do we have to shlep around in any form when we can eliminate so much travel with virtual tours?
When you Live Far From Where You Want to Buy
How do you squeeze in showings? Let’s say that you are looking to buy in Brooklyn but live in Manhattan. Daresay I ask you- when do you do all of your viewings? Weekends? How long will this take? Perhaps virtual tours can meaningfully expedite your purchase process. Yes, you’ll want to tour neighborhoods, but you can tour on the weekends- and can cover much more ground, especially in collaboration with a good agent.
A corollary problem of this is when you want to move close to your children’s school, and live elsewhere, giving you perhaps only 30 minutes a day when it might make sense to visit apartments before (unlikely) school or before pickup. This is so limiting! Why not tour from your apartment?
When you Work Far From Where You Want to Buy
What if you live uptown and your office is all the way downtown? Again, the issue is really just logistics. The comment is often, “If they are serious, they will find a way.” And that may be true, but again- when you cut down to only the serious viewings, you can commit to the buying process with more vigor and less shlepping.
Let’s say you don’t live in NYC. And you want to buy here or invest here. It’s a geographic extension of when you live far away of where you want to buy, but a real separate category. You can probably coordinate and get inspired far more quickly than you would otherwise. This notion of having to have a “friend in NYC” to preview apartments for you. That can be dead now. You do it, virtually, yourself!
Well, this is the whiny part of the list. Who wants to shlep around when it’s 90 degrees outside. You can be in your beach chair and see an apartment, or stay in the a/c and do the same. This makes shopping in Winter, traditionally an unpopular time of year BECAUSE of the weather. Who says the “buying season” now can’t be winter?!?
Coordinating Spouses, Partners & Other Valued Opinions
What if someone can’t see an apartment at the same time? What if your mom, whose opinion you value, can’t come in from the suburbs until Thursday? Who wants to risk losing an apartment? And, frankly, how critical is it that your mom physically sees every property? We can quickly rule out some losers, you can stay at the office and work on your business, and your mom feels included!
The Noise of Open Houses
Some people just don’t like open houses. They want their privacy. They don’t like the pressure of so many people. They like to process in a quiet apartment. They want to experience a home as it will be when they live in it. Now, virtual tours mean that they can experience a home without so much mess, so many people- never mind that right now no one wants to be around people- this is just simplifying the experience, forever!
The Noise of Brokers
I’m certainly not going to badmouth anyone here, but there are salespeople who talk too much during property showings. Never mind that they might be late, or rude, or act in a way that actually distracts you and turns you off from an apartment. What if you could tour apartments, ask questions in real time, but avoid someone you feel is too pushy? Voila! Virtual Tours! Ticks all of the boxes.
Let’s Get Rid of Shlepping!
Let me know what other compelling reasons you can think of to add to our #NoShlepping list of reasons to move to Virtual Touring for our 1st and 2nd round of showings- if not more! Thanks! – Scott & The HRT