HAMILTON HEIGHTS — Rick Hernandez showed more than 100 people three apartments on West 141 Street in less than half an hour.
The veteran real estate broker started using the video app Periscope to host virtual open houses about three weeks ago and has already gained more than 550 followers.
“I didn’t see anybody else doing this and I was very surprised by that,” he said. “I did one transmission, I didn’t have any followers and nobody knew me but I had 50-60 people watching. I went from zero to 100 followers in 48 hours.”
During the virtual open houses or “ScOpen House,” Hernandez takes questions like how close each listing is to the subway, if there’s a laundry room in the building, to square footage, and details on any renovations.
Salvatore Prividera of the New York State Association of Realtors has not heard of many realtors using Periscope but is not surprised that Hernandez is using the app to show listings. The app streamlines the process and connects brokers to Millennials looking for apartments, he said.
“Consumers who are on the market looking for an apartment or home are doing their search on the internet,” he said. “Certainly realtors are embracing technology to help them meet their clients and customers where they are and often that is through use of internet tools or apps on their phones.”
Brokers are usually only able to show listings between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. — when the super lets them into a building. Using Periscope to host open houses lets people take five minutes off work to go apartment hunting.
They can narrow the search by looking through the virtual open houses and only visit the apartments they are serious about renting, Hernandez said.
It also appeals to out-of-town buyers who are looking to move into New York but don't have the time to search for apartments before the move.
“They are saying, ‘Listen, I can’t actually be there but your virtual open houses definitely help because I can see what is going on, I see the apartment, but I don’t have to visit with you there,’” he said.
So far, three people have made offers on apartments from seeing them in the virtual open houses. Given that he is new to the medium and this time of the year is when the market cools down, Hernandez expects that number to grow in the future.
More than anything, the open houses help get Hernandez’s name out there. People who see it on Periscope tell their friends who they know are looking for apartments. The account is connected with Twitter and Instagram.
Once the open house is done, the videos can be seen on replay. Hernandez said the videos get about twice as many views on replay as they do live.
“It definitely helps your business,” he said.