It’s the era of the internet, and if you’re in real estate, it isn’t a choice to be on social media anymore – it’s a necessity. Social media has rapidly become the most dominant place to market yourself, your business, and your products, and it isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
And now there’s the largest social media platform you’ve never heard of – WeChat – which has quickly become a favored platform for international buyers to connect with agents.
WeChat was launched in 2011 by Tencent, a Chinese tech giant. According to Business Insider, WeChat now has over 650 million users, most of whom are Chinese. To give you a little perspective, there a roughly 320 million people in the United States, based on the US Census’ population calculator. So WeChat’s user base is more than DOUBLE that of the population of the USA.
WeChat began as a simple messaging app, similar to WhatsApp or Viber (if you haven’t heard of those apps, they allow for free international calling and texting over wireless internet). But then it transformed into something else entirely, adding features reminiscent of Facebook’s timelines, PayPal’s transaction services, Skype’s video calling, and more. WeChat allows users to do pretty much anything they could do with any other app – order food, book appointments, call a cab, play games, read the news – it’s essentially unrivaled, because it’s aggregated the best of every modern consumer’s favorite applications.
WeChat is, essentially, China’s Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Snapchat/Tinder/Uber – really, it’s every popular app and social networking platform that you can think of.
So how, exactly, is this relevant to the real estate world?
Chinese buyers have begun using WeChat as a method of communicating with American agents and brokering deals. It’s pretty incredible, really – it helps facilitate these overseas sales in so many ways while sparing buyers the hassle of travelling to secure properties. For example, an agent can give a live virtual tour to a buyer using the app’s video calling features. Negotiations can be conducted between agents, buyers, and necessary third parties via group messaging. Payments can even be sent through the app. In fact, last year, a New York agent brokered a $13 million deal using WeChat.
So what’s the takeaway here? How should you be using WeChat?
It’s all about putting your properties out there, and networking. While having connections in China (and elsewhere) is great, simply marketing yourself and your properties on WeChat has proven to be enough for many agents who have received unsolicited inquiries about their properties. WeChat gives agents the potential to significantly expand their reach while simplifying and expediting the process of overseas real estate sales.
Alain Pinel, General Manager of Intero’s Prestigio International program, highly encourages agents to get on WeChat and start putting themselves out there: “In a relationships business like real estate, any platform that allows direct dialogue between an agent and a client is precious. When the two sides are a continent apart, such communication is invaluable. Finally, when the medium can instantly connect the agent with literally millions of potential qualified buyers from Mainland China, that’s what I call a winner.”
So, luxury real estate agents, signing up for WeChat is definitely a good step to increase your reach. Post floor plans, pictures, and videos. Write about your listings. Use WeChat the way you’d use any other platform to market your properties. With any luck, you’ll be attracting more buyers beyond your current network in no time, and maybe even brokering deals with overseas buyers faster than ever before!