No, you’re not imagining it. Open house attendees, showing appointments and even your fellow agents are video chatting a lot more often these days. It makes sense that in our hyper-social world, buyers may want to crowdsource their decision before they make an offer.
But they’re not the only people who can get ahead using video chat technology. Agents can also leverage live video chat apps to keep in touch with out-of-town clients, update buyers about small changes that have been made due to contingencies or inspections, or to simply show off their latest listing to other agents who are too busy in the field to swing by the broker open.
See which video chat app is best for you and your clients:
1. Most Intuitive: FaceTime
FaceTime is the native video chat app for Apple mobile devices — iPad and iPhone. FaceTime is designed to use your wi-fi connection first, but will connect and run through your data if wi-fi is unavailable. Here’s how to check to ensure that your iPhone knows to use wi-fi first, with data as a backup.
Biggest FaceTime advantage: Unlike other apps that require a special download, FaceTime has just one barrier to entry: it’s available to iPhone users who are contacting other iPhone users. This makes it a great option for anyone, regardless of their technical prowess.
The technology comes pre-loaded on your iPhone and you just have to tap the FaceTime icon within your contacts to make a FaceTime call.
Biggest FaceTime disadvantage: FaceTime is still a 1-to-1 app, so you can’t yet host a group video chat. Rumor has it that you’ll be able to host group chats with the launch of ioS 11 this June.
FaceTime best practice: Even if the purpose of the call is to show off the listing, be sure to start every call in selfie mode, so you can quickly establish a connection before you turn the camera on the property. And remember to avoid looking at the corner where your face is; always make eye contact with the call recipient when in selfie mode by looking at the lens.
2. Most Versatile: Skype
Skype has big-time name recognition, making it an easy sell if FaceTime isn’t an option. Unlike FaceTime, you can use Skype to host a group video chat, making it a convenient choice if you’re recording a chat with two or more people who aren’t in the same place.
Biggest Skype advantage: You can use Skype to call mobile to mobile, or mobile to desktop. If you’re working with an overseas client or someone active duty in the military, they may have the best experience by chatting via the Skype desktop computer application (as desktop connections can be more stable than mobile devices).
Biggest Skype disadvantage: Unlike FaceTime, which allows you to change from selfie mode to forward-facing (and back), Skype wants you to pick a camera mode in advance. If you have time, you can try to set up so you are in the shot of your forward-facing camera to greet your client, then you can “get behind the camera” as you show them the listing.
Skype best practice: If you’re calling from one Skype account to another, the call is free. Be sure to exchange Skype usernames in advance so you can find and connect with one another prior to the call.
If you are calling a landline or mobile telephone number, you’ll need to purchase (relatively inexpensive) Skype credits. In that case, remember to buy the credits in advance so you’re not late for your call.
3. Best Sound and Connection Quality: ooVoo
While you’ve been using the standard video chat apps that have been around the longest, ooVoo has been quietly emerging as a leader in terms of crystal-clear calls. More than 100 million users have now downloaded ooVoo, which is available for both ioS and Android devices.
Biggest ooVoo advantage: Video chats can go wrong quickly, and when they do it’s usually because of a lost connection or sound and echo issues that turn off users. ooVoo’s engineers have worked to:
- Recognize your network and adjust the configuration accordingly
- Boost audio quality by reducing echoes in calls
Biggest ooVoo disadvantage: Even though it’s growing in popularity, your clients may be wary of using a brand-new technology they’ve never heard of. It may take a bit of convincing (and troubleshooting) to get a tech-averse client to use ooVoo.
ooVoo best practice: The app allows you to easily change from a video chat to a regular call. When hosting an ooVoo chat with new users, try starting in video mode and promise that you’ll switch over to a regular call if they get stressed or overwhelmed.
4. Best Newcomer: Google Duo
Announced this last August 2016, Google’s Duo platform is (in our humble opinion) the video chat app Hangout always wished it could be. The technology promises to switch seamlessly between wi-fi and data, and to slowly reduce clarity when a connection’s bandwidth is reduced. In short, it solves a lot of the issues that we have with other video chat applications.
Biggest Google Duo advantage: Duo was built with end-to-end encryption, making it a super-safe application if you’re chatting with clients about important, confidential topics (like making an offer).
Biggest Google Duo disadvantage: Like FaceTime, Duo is designed for 1-to-1 calling. That means no group chats — you’ll have to go back to Google’s Hangouts for that feature.
Google Duo best practice: You know that sinking feeling you get when someone is video chatting you and you aren’t sure why? Or maybe you haven’t showered yet and you’re not sure if you’re about to be projected live into a 50-person birthday party for your grandma? Duo understands that anxiety, so they built a “Knock knock” feature that shows a quick preview of who’s calling and why.
So if you’re calling to video chat a client about their offer being accepted, try holding up a “GREAT NEWS!” sign when you “knock knock” them, and they’ll be much more likely (and excited) to answer your call.
5. Global Dominator: WhatsApp
While the U.S. has been busy with SMS and iOS messages, nearly one billion people around the world are using WhatsApp. The messaging app (and its user data) is considered so valuable that Facebook paid $19 billion for it back in 2014. After years of loyal fans begging for video chat capability, WhatsApp launched the feature in November 2016.
Biggest WhatsApp advantage: WhatsApp is considered the crown jewel of global messaging apps, so it’s perfect for agents with overseas clients. Keep one record of all your communications by using to WhatsApp to discuss properties and transaction details, then leverage the app’s video chat technology when you need to host a recorded showing or share big news.
Biggest WhatsApp disadvantage: If you (or your clients) prefer to live off the grid, WhatsApp may not be for you. The company admitted that it shares phone numbers and usage information with its parent company, which Facebook uses to customize ad experiences on the site. However, all data that is shared within the app — messages, voice calls, video calls and text files — remains private and backed by WhatsApp’s encrypted technology.
WhatsApp best practice: WhatsApp is extremely intuitive, but you may want to download it and test its features (from finding a contact, to messaging them, to video chatting) so you can get to know its full capabilities before you use it with a client. If you end up working with global buyers, you’ll want to be on your A-game, as they’re likely to be “super users” who take advantage of the technology constantly.