Our dependence on virtual tours has skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic. Brokers, investors, buyers and renters now have a wide range of technology-based tools at their disposal to find and look inside homes. Drones enable people to see properties and neighborhoods from all angles.
But that doesn't mean old-fashioned footwork and steering wheels have no place in the real estate sales process.
We already know that house-hunters often walk or "drive for dollars" in a neighborhood when deciding whether to buy or invest. Brokers and agents are also discovering that touring an area by car or foot can provide incredible insights.
Smart brokers use technology for research, trend analysis and targeted marketing, but seeing properties and areas up close and personal can give you a real feel for what's going on in a specific neighborhood or geographical area — and what property values might look like in the years to come.
5 Ways to Make the Most of Real Estate "Drive Time"
Whether you're just motoring around your current neighborhood or taking a longer road trip to visit a new community, you'll come back smarter. You may even find some new buyers, referral sources, listings or marketing partners in the process. Schedule a couple of days each month for exploration, and be sure to do the following:
- Pay attention to the distance between homes and necessary services such as commuter stations, grocery stores, schools and outdoor areas. When you're listing homes in that area, you'll talk more intelligently about lifestyle amenities.
- Look for neighborhoods that may be on the verge of change. Big box retailers often invest in neighborhoods that are appreciating.
- Talk to local merchants. You'll not only get a great sense of the vibe of the community, but those conversations could also lead to new listings. If you're currently a broker in a specific area, talk to business owners about partnering on marketing promotions or running collaborative marketing efforts in each other's e-newsletters or social media.
- Knock on doors and ring doorbells. Especially now that many people are working from home, they might appreciate seeing a friendly (masked and socially distanced) face on their doorsteps. Rebekah Carr of Homes by Sweet Bay in Wilmington, North Carolina, says, "Finding that common ground is difficult over the phone, so our firm has found great success in door-knocking around a listing and asking, 'Do you know someone who might like to be your neighbor?'"
- Become a familiar face in the community. One quick drive through a community may give you insights, but if you do business or are interested in a particular area, come back and stay so people get to know you. Matthew Martinez of Diamond Real Estate Group in San Francisco advises, "Become a known face in your target neighborhoods. ... I've received calls from potential home sellers and neighbors who know of a potential distressed sale months after canvassing a neighborhood. By marketing myself and my services in target neighborhoods that I canvass, I stay top of mind and have put together many off-market deals and wholesale flips because the property owners can put my name to my face."
The ultimate returns in real estate come from combining the right database to pinpoint property values and trends with conventional human interaction. The dollars you spend on filling your tank or buying that comfortable pair of walking shoes will pay off in the long run!