How I sold my home using ZOOM during the coronavirus lock-down
Updated: May 10, 2020
My name is Rachel. I live in Denver, and I listed my 1,892-square-foot-home for sale the same day Denver Mayor Hancock announced a stay-at-home order. The date was March 23, 2020, and coronavirus was sweeping the nation. My husband and I had been planning and preparing for this sale for months, and everything had lined up nicely so far, but now, suddenly we had major reservations. We began watching the news (which, I admit, I had not been doing much of before), and realized just how big of a challenge we were up against. Questions and doubts spun in our heads. Should we require gloves to view our house? Should we require masks? Should we allow people into our home AT ALL?
We are a family of five, with three small children, and now schools were closed, my husband and I were both working from home…we were all ACTIVELY living in the house 24/7, and quite frankly we were freaking out. We quickly realized the idea of having [possible germ-carrying] strangers traipsing through our house while we were still living in the home was just unacceptable. So we didn’t. Instead, we took a really deep breath, and we told our real estate agent that we would do video home showings only. And I would host them. We assumed this would delay the sale of our home, and we were okay with that. But we were wrong. Within just a few days, we had two strong offers, and we are currently on-track to close in May. We used ZOOM exclusively for the video tours. Here’s how we did it:
I considered several video apps, and I selected ZOOM for home tours for several reasons:
1) It’s free and accessible to anyone – as long as you have internet access, you can download the app. You have no way of knowing if your buyer has an android or iphone, nor should that matter. Make it as easy as possible for the buyer. ZOOM is available on any platform, from any device.
2) It’s very user-friendly. You can schedule meetings in advance, you can have multiple parties on the line at the same time, and it’s pretty intuitive to understand how to use it. Again, my goal was to make it as easy as possible for the buyer.
3) It’s secure. I made sure to send a unique meeting ID for each showing, and I also required a password for each meeting, which provides added security. It was also important to me that I only had to supply meeting login information to my realtor to pass along to the buyer, and never had to share my personal email or phone number with a buyer.
I realized quickly that this needed to be a team effort, so I spoke at length with our listing agent about how we wanted the process to flow. Although it was a first for both of us, we came up with some great solutions for making the process run smoothly:
1) Have your listing agent vet your buyers. Typically, listing agents might not ever know what the prospective buyer’s name is, what they do for a living, or literally ANYTHING about them before they view your home, other than that they’re a “qualified” buyer. But in order to make best use of EVERYONE’S time, we needed a little more information than that. Remember, my family of five was ACTIVELY LIVING, WORKING, SCHOOLING in this house, and NOTHING was open for us to visit during the stay-at-home order, so each showing was a major interruption in our day. I wasn’t going to do it for just anyone. For instance, if the buyer had three big dogs, and wanted a huge yard and hated HOA’s, my house would not be a good fit for them. . .since we have a postage-stamp-sized yard and a strong HOA. (yes, this exact scenario actually did come up)
2) Decide how and who will schedule the tours. Each time we had a showing request, my listing agent would contact them to explain we were doing video tours only. She would ask them to download the ZOOM app ahead of time (we realized this was a good idea after spending a half-hour waiting for one very non-tech-savvy buyer to figure out how to log in) so they could be familiar with it. I would schedule the meeting in ZOOM and would send the meeting login information and password to my realtor for her to share with the buyer’s agent. The buyer's agent, in turn, would share it with the buyer. Typically, the people on the call included me, my leasing agent, the buyer and the buyer’s agent.
Brush up on your video hosting skills.
My husband suffers greatly from motion-sickness and is also very detail-oriented, so he was the best guinea pig possible for practicing my video skills on. He helped me refine some key tips for a good video showing:
1) NEVER whip your camera around like a speed-racer, ALWAYS go slow and steady. Walk slowly and carefully. Pan slowly left-to-right, then up and down for each space you show. Point out notable features as you view them, things like built-in entertainment centers, new appliances, fireplaces, large closets, views from the windows, garages, flooring etc. DO NOT point out the negatives, like dumped trash on the street or the noisy neighbor next door.
2) Be sure to start your call where your background features an attractive view (please don’t begin your call with a bunch of garbage cans visible behind you). Introduce yourself to your attendees, let them know you’ll be their tour guide, but remember there’s no need to mention that you are the homeowner. I found it easier to pretend it wasn’t my home, so I could talk up the property from a third-person perspective rather than bragging about my own house. Once introductions are done, and everyone is ready to start the tour, switch your camera view to the front (so that you see what the buyer sees, as you walk), and begin walking them around SLOWLY. A logical starting point can be opening the front door to show the view from the front porch, then walking further outside to show proximity to the street, point out access to the local walking trails, and finally the full front of the house, as you walk back to the front door. As you finish showing each area, always ask if the buyer has any questions, if they’d like to see anything again, or have you open any cabinets/doors/etc. Ask leading questions along the way, and respond to the buyer’s comments or concerns.
3) Prepare your home. Prep your home exactly as you would for a physical tour. I boxed up approximately 50% of our household items and packed them in the garage so my house would appear bigger and cleaner. Don’t forget to pack away all your personal family photos. You want the buyer to imagine this as *their* home, not yours. Clean the house, declutter all surfaces, turn on all lights and open the blinds and curtains. Repeat for every showing. . . I know, it’s a pain, but it must be done!
4) End the call with instructions. Most of my ZOOM video tours lasted roughly 20-30 minutes in duration. Some were shorter, some went longer. The limit for ZOOM’s free account is 40 minutes for a multi-attendee video call, but I had some that went past that, and ZOOM never dropped me, so you might be able to squeeze in a few extra minutes, if needed. If you have instructions for the next step for interested buyers, you (or your realtor) can say it at the end of the tour, but do not feel like you have to address that on-the-spot. Having your broker simply say “contact your agent with any questions” is completely appropriate. When ready, be sure you click “End the Meeting” so that the video window closes.
After each video tour, I chatted with my realtor to discuss how she thought it went, what we could do better next time, etc. Having her on the call with me was really crucial to helping me get better at the demonstration. It was also helpful to hear any additional comments or information she might have about the prospective buyer.
We were able to iron out all of these guidelines pretty quickly, and less than two weeks on the market, we had two solid offers, WITH NO PHYSICAL SHOWINGS! We accepted one and are scheduled to close in May.
And that’s how I used ZOOM to sell my home. I hope this has been helpful. My personal experience with ZOOM for home tours was fantastic, and I’d be happy to provide any other tips I can to help you in your endeavors. Feel free to post a question in the comments area, and best of luck with your home sale!
Read "What a house closing looks like during stay-at-home orders" for details of the closing!