Virtual open homes

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It’s home movies but not as you’d know it.

A Queenstown graphic designer has developed internet technology for video home tours that are becoming a major tool for local realtors and seem likely to catch on further afield.

Umoview director Jack Williams calls it a “24/7 video open home”.

Using high-definition “steadicam” cameras, his team produce a video “walkthrough” of a property to put up on the net.

Williams says it’s specially designed to help real estate agents market properties.

“It’s not replacing agents, it’s just another layer of information.
“Once you see it, it’s a no-brainer.”

Surprisingly perhaps, Williams is not aware of any similar set-up elsewhere in New Zealand.

But it’s of extra relevance for Wakatipu real estate agents because a high proportion of buyers come from overseas, he says.
“Agents can remotely walk someone through a property.”

It saves time for buyers and vendors as well as agents, Williams maintains.

Say someone wants to buy a three-bedroom home. Rather than driving would-be buyers round town, an agent can show relevant listings via video tours so clients can narrow down their choices before seeing maybe just one or two properties.

“If you visit five open homes, you can forget what’s what – here you can view a home over and over and get others’ opinions too,” Williams says.
There’s also less intrusion for vendors or tenants – “There won’t be the tyre-kickers.”

Local Harcourts salesperson Deni Bevin says that comes in handy, especially when marketing apartments.

“They’re rented out for long periods of time so it’s often impossible to show people through them.

“So I just park [buyers] outside in my truck and show them the video tour on my iPhone.”

Bevin’s a big convert: “It’s going to revolutionise the industry.
“The internet’s a cardinal tool for real estate searches and the key is putting your product above everyone else’s.”

For Hoamz salesperson David Penrose, video tours give out-of-town buyers more confidence than just viewing two or three photos.
“There are other similar tools but this is better – the footage is very very smooth.”

Also sold is local Bayleys salesperson Albert Voschezang.
“Even your Southland farmers, who are a big market for us, can get a good idea of the property before they set foot on it.

“We don’t do house plans online [in NZ], which is pretty much standard in Australia, but the video certainly gives people a really good idea.”
Umoview video tours last about five minutes and are priced between $265-$499 depending on house size – the vendor usually picks up the tab.

The video tour starts with the property’s location being pinpointed by Google Earth.

Williams says the idea for his business arose when he was providing walk-through videos of unbuilt properties for architects and developers.
Videoing properties that already existed seemed like a logical progression – “and it’s easier”.

His company also produces videos on bare-land sites, the camera showing views from various vantage points.

Video tours also come with optional extras like voiceovers and floor plan overlays, Williams says.