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Selling a Houston home is going to look a lot different than it did before coronavirus for the foreseeable future. It will certainly be awhile before anyone feels fully comfortable inviting people to come in and out of their home in a revolving door fashion, even for the sake of attracting an offer.

Thankfully, technology makes it possible to give potential buyers a realistic walkthrough of a home from a safe distance. As we work with some excellent Realtors in the we’ve b een learning about what they are doing to facilitate this while also offering our expertise as home stagers to help, even if virtually.

So, with all this in mind we thought we’d share some of the things we’ve learned, as well as the tips and tricks for staging a home to show beautifully virtually, for other Realtors and the Houston home sellers themselves.

Why Prioritize Virtual Showings?

Sure, a video tour won’t always live up to the traditional showing experience for a buyer who wants to see a property in-person, just as your Zoom happy hours don’t translate the same as giving your friends and family a real hug. But everyone is adapting — at work, at home, at school, and in real estate. Everywhere across the nation, people are learning how to be flexible and open to new ways of doing things in a new world.

As they are classified as essential, some Realtors are still doing very careful physical showings, but many homeowners, and homebuyers, are not very comfortable with the idea right now, at least for a first look.If they find a home they love that’s proving different, but for most people – Realtors included – the five to ten house showing days of the past are, for the moment, not something that’s happening.

Capturing a Home in Great Digital Style

Videos and great photography will be your friend if you are a Realtor or a homeseller during this time. If sellers come to the conclusion that their family is safer if nobody comes into their home – and that may be the case if they have vulnerable people living there – then they need to be able to DIY listing materials, and work with their agent to send it out to where the buyers can view it.

Start With Basic Staging

They may not be able to invite a home stager in to help them stage their home for sale right now, but there are great basics that Houston homesellers can execute themselves:

  • Deep clean, declutter, and tidy up the home. Remove most items from the countertops, save a few decorative and intentional pieces. The home can look lived in, but should be presenting a style buyers are aspiring to have.
  • Increase visible floor space by removing extraneous furniture like side tables, boxes, and toy baskets for kids. These items should be in closets, basement storage, or in the garage in an organized fashion.
  • Add some color with throw pillows, green plants like ferns (homeowners can order faux varieties online for staging purposes), colorful flowers in vibrant vases, and pretty bowls filled with real fruit.

If homesellers really need help – and many do – they can book a virtual home staging or home organizing session with a professional. We have been performing these sessions via Skype, Zoom and other platforms with great success. To learn more, click here.

DIY Listing Images

Homesellers who aren’t comfortable with having anyone inside the home can take their own listing photos using their iPhone or other smartphone camera. These images can also be used to create a video slideshow in the event that a video walkthrough isn’t feasible.

Here are a few basic tips to up anyone’s DIY photography game:

  • Use a tripod to provide a stable platform and reduce camera shake. This basic tripod on Amazon is under $20, available on Prime, and works with almost all smartphones.
  • Avoid reflections and glare in mirrors, windows, and shower doors. Retake any photos with these issues.
  • Turn on all the lights and open all blinds or curtains for your photo shoot. Pick a time of day when there’s enough sunlight to illuminate areas around windows while avoiding the long shadows that appear in the early morning or late afternoon.
  • Use props to show the scale of unused spaces. For example, get deck furniture out to demonstrate the size of a patio.
  • Take several pictures of each room and get different angles. Realtors can then help their clients select the best shots. You can also make use of photo editing software to enhance the pictures even further, just be sure what they represent still resembles what home buyers will see in real life should the process get to that stage.

Record A Video Walkthrough

Videos are a bit more complicated for a homeseller to master. The camera angle and the camera movement can be tricky for a newbie to fine tune.

There’s a specific way of holding the phone, and you need to move your entire body when you move the camera, otherwise you get that funhouse effect that makes you dizzy. To edit videos, there are a variety of free or low cost apps like Animoto, Wistia or LumaFusion that don’t require editing experience.

Here are a few tips to succeed at making a video walkthrough:

  • Look at a lot of existing real estate video walkthroughs for inspiration. YouTube and real estate brokerage websites are a great place to start.
  • Plan your route beforehand, even if it’s just a list of the shots you want to take. To give buyers an authentic tour experience, start with showing off your curb appeal, then enter the front door and begin your walkthrough of the inside.
  • Consult a variety of online tutorials like “How to make awesome listing videos” and “How to shoot real estate videos” that will provide you with the main steps for creating DIY video tours. Here’s one to get you started that is especially good for Realtors but easy enough for homeowners to follow too.

Set your phone to Airplane mode while the camera’s rolling — you’d hate to get a call or text while taking the perfect footage, and have to reshoot.

Virtual Open Houses

If coronavirus fears mean sellers don’t want to allow buyers into their home, but they are comfortable with their real estate agent being there, a virtual open house is another good middle ground.

Open houses have — for the most part — been replaced with Facebook Watch Parties, Realtors tell us. The feature — which allows a number of different users to share a live video through all their profiles and with their friends and followers — enables them to feature a home and answer live questions from the audience.

The watch parties are a free Facebook service and will be available for up to 5 hours on the platform. That means even though the live portion of the party lasts for an hour, other people can join later and watch the saved version.

Safer Live Showings

A buyer is super interested. They just want that real life walkthrough. So, if the house must be shown in person, here are some guidelines, according to our Realtor friends:

  • Limit the number of people who can enter. No more than two if possible. Buyers shouldn’t bring their kids, and ideally only one of them should enter at a time.
  • Have everyone sign a coronavirus certification prior showings. Some agents are using a special form to be signed by all parties present at a showing — this includes any agents, sellers, as well as the potential buyers — representing that, to the best of their knowledge, they are not infected with and have not been exposed to the coronavirus.
  • Require that visitors take hygienic precautions.
  • Ask that anyone who enters protective gear such as masks, booties, and gloves, and that they sanitize their hands before entering.
  • Prepare the home for minimal touching.
  • Leave all the interior doors open, open up closets and cabinets, and turn on all the lights to minimize touching of surfaces.

Clean and disinfect before and after a showing.

While most agents and buyers are coming in taking a certain level of protective measures, the CDC still recommends preventing exposure to coronavirius as the number one way to protect yourself from getting sick. Some of the things you should do when showing a house for sale this season are:

  • Ensure you’re washing your hands often
    Use hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol and rub your hands until they feel dry.
    Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces immediately after every showing

Follow health guidelines on coronavirus from the CDC and use cleaning products approved by the EPA for fighting against the virus.