468 Totowa Ave. in Paterson — Courtesy: NAI James E. Hanson
By David Gill
The coronavirus pandemic has done more than present a major health crisis to the American people — it poses a major threat to commercial real estate and the economy at large.
To help drive interest in the midst of social distancing, brokers have come up with the concept of virtual real estate tours, using videos of properties to show them to potential investors or tenants. Doing so is now increasingly common for NAI James E. Hanson, a Teterboro-based firm that has created video tours for properties in Passaic and Bergen counties.
“We weren’t getting the numbers we were hoping for at times like this when people aren’t willing to get together to look over properties in person,” said Cameron Silverstein, an associate with NAI Hanson. “So we had this idea some months ago: ‘Why don’t we throw together some videos for our properties?’”
Mini Shockley, a marketing coordinator with the firm, said the concept was born of necessity in light of restrictions on non-essential businesses during the COVID-19 crisis. She and Silverstein came up with the idea and have produced tours for 30 Corporate Drive in Wayne, 468 Totowa Ave. in Paterson and 260 West Crescent Ave. in Allendale.
Video courtesy: NAI James E. Hanson
NAI Hanson works with a local vendor to produce the videos. According to the firm, they have led to a significant jump in traffic on the properties’ websites, although exact data was not immediately available.
“We’re getting brokers, people looking at a new market, people who want to expand,” Shockley said, adding that mid-April brought an increase in responses.
“We’re seeing an uptick in industrial activity, businesses specifically related to coronavirus, surgical masks and equipment providers,” she said. “Our area, the New York metropolitan area, gets more looks from abroad because of our density and all the available properties we have here.”
The pandemic has also made it possible for video production firms to target real estate companies. One such business is Videoms, based in Los Angeles, which was founded by Evan Brandt and Jason Schwetz in January 2019 and is now working with firms in New Jersey. Videoms produces video memorandums for businesses in all walks, but Brandt and Schwetz’s more than 30 years of experience in commercial real estate led them to set their sights on this industry.
“I normally bought properties on site, but when I bought a property in Alabama, I tried a drone video of the property and I thought it was phenomenal,” Schwetz said. “This led to the idea of doing videos of commercial and multifamily properties.”
Videoms has set up a national network for producing its videos.
“We have drone pilots across the country and we train them,” said Brandt, who serves as Videoms’ CEO. “We have one product based on drone footage and one product based on satellite footage.”
Since breaking into the commercial real estate sector, Videoms has created tours for between 200 and 300 properties, accounting for more than $2 billion in assets. The firm has worked with national brokerage firms such as CBRE, Marcus & Millichap, JLL, Cushman & Wakefield and others — many of them in the state — along with New Jersey-based companies like First National Realty Partners.
“Virtual tours have definitely upticked since the virus,” Brandt said. “Many brokerages in New Jersey and the New York City area are very active in this area.”
Now Videoms is branching into a new product called Vidtro, which “stands for video introduction,” Brandt said.
“It allows brokers to virtually introduce themselves, their backgrounds and their certifications,” he said. “These videos allow brokers to say, ‘This is who I am, and these are the deals I’ve worked on.’ ”
Other technologies are allowing brokerages to introduce properties virtually.
“We do use Zoom for our virtual meetings,” Shockley said. “We’re trying to incorporate a live Zoom tour, allowing the buyer to tour a space and allowing us to answer questions. It works well when we have access to the property, although that isn’t always possible.”