By Kenneth Tan is Co-Founder and CEO of BeLive Technology
If you’ve seen property agents walking around, holding up their mobile phone cameras while addressing their “viewers”, know that you’re not witnessing an anomaly. What you are seeing is “live-selling” in real-time, in particular for the real estate industry.
View from Home: Pandemic-Driven Habit Shifts
The radical change in acceptance of digital viewings was driven by the pandemic, where buyers were forced to adopt Zoom viewings and even full commercial transactions online.
This forced change of an age-old, appointment-based, physical viewing habit hit American home-buyers extremely hard, with a steep drop during the initial, traumatic months of the pandemic-forced lockdown. Following a steep decline of almost 18 percent from March to April 2020 and an additional 10 percent drop from April to May, the sales of existing homes experienced a remarkable rebound, surging by nearly 21 percent in June, as reported by the National Association of Realtors.
The pandemic forced all of us to think about space differently – we were not sure whether we could get out, and suddenly, investments into larger, premium, and cosier spaces were pushed high on the agenda of American consumers.
The only way that they could access property viewings? Live streaming.
From Clicks to Contracts: Immediacy and Interactivity
Live commerce is a natural medium for the real estate industry, as buyers are always on the lookout for discounts and can spend hours researching, window shopping, and discussing. Buyers come equipped with extensive research and knowledge about the property and are looking to bounce ideas off the agent.
This medium aligns perfectly with the buyer profile for real estate live streams: 24-40 years old, characterized by thorough research before making commitments. These individuals are typically home buyers seeking validation of their investment through live property tours. Live streams, valued for their raw and authentic nature, are valued by buyers who are skeptical of fancy edited commercials produced by property developers.
According to Bloomberg, there are a staggering two million real estate live streamers on Douyin (the Chinese version of TikTok) alone. On another popular video platform Kuaishou, over 20 million people view real-estate-related livestreams daily.
Additionally, the gross transaction value of houses on the Kuaishou app alone surpassed 10 billion yuan (S$1.9 billion) in 2022.
Bid, Click, Enjoy
The most popular real-estate live streams are hosted in formats like virtual tours and auctions. Virtual tours are relatively straightforward, and live streamers incorporate comedy skits and roleplaying to draw audiences.
This is also the most popular format in the US, where real-estate live commerce streams mostly involve the agent touring the property, answering questions from their audiences, and giving tips on investing in and purchasing properties. Rick Gannon, who regularly posts short videos and livestreams on TikTok, is a popular realtor with a huge following. His audiences love that he is authentic, shares great tips, and never hard sells.
Globally, we have seen some really interesting new formats, in particular: Live Auctions. Real estate developers strategically auction off units at low prices, encouraging audience engagement through comments or in-stream interactive tools such as virtual gifting or polling. This draws huge crowds for bargain hunters or even regular viewers, who watch the live streams purely because of entertainment.
We see formats like this picking up steam but are primarily used as marketing and awareness campaigns. Imagine a prime New York unit going for a starting price of $1 USD on a time-limited livestream. The viewership would be through the roof!
Building Real Connections
An overlooked component of live streams and live commerce, in general, is its unparalleled ability to foster real connections between the streamer and their viewers. People purchase from live sellers not because they are interested in the product; they purchase because they see the live sellers as their friends.
They trust their opinions, and the live sellers know this. They try their best to be authentic, answering every question and even remembering their viewer’s birthdays or life events.
This creates an incredible bond between content creator and viewer, which was previously impossible purely via text, image, or video. “It’s like talking to the wizard behind the curtain,” said a viewer of popular podcaster and influencer Paige DeSorbo, who hosts her own live-streamed show on Amazon Live.
Live commerce transactions take up an estimated 4-6 percent of e-commerce transactions globally as compared to 20-30 percent in China. There is huge room for growth, and especially in the ever-changing real estate landscape, live-commerce isn’t just a tool but a medium to foster real connections and drive interactivity.
This innovative approach to selling is expanding to several sectors, and real estate is no exception. As this trend gains momentum, it is expected to become an integral part of the real estate landscape, offering a dynamic and immersive experience for both buyers and sellers in the US.
About the author
Kenneth Tan is Co-Founder and CEO of BeLive Technology. He grew up in Singapore and studied at Nanyang Polytechnic, earning a diploma in digital media design. Prior to creating BeLive Technology, Kenneth landed the opportunity to work for a startup video game publisher Nubee. Following this experience, he joined Tokyo Listed DeNA Co. Ltd. (TYO: 2432) as Director of Product, and in his two years there released multiple AppStore-featured products. While with DeNA, Kenneth was first exposed to live streaming video as one of the startups DeNA invested in, Showroom, was gaining massive success in Japan. Shortly after, Kenneth decided to return to Singapore permanently to explore the possibility of scaling a live streaming business in Southeast Asia.
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