Lincoln real estate market adjusts to new normal of COVID-19

VRLY May 26, 2020 0

The Lincoln real estate market has been humming along for years, setting records for sales volume and sale prices several years running.

That trend appeared to be continuing in the first couple months of the year, until the COVID-19 pandemic reared its ugly head.

Like many other businesses that rely on face-to-face interactions, with tasks that can’t be done from home, the local real estate market is feeling the effects of the coronavirus.

“It hasn’t ground to a halt, but it sure has slowed to a crawl,” said Rich Rodenburg, partner and associate broker with Coldwell Banker NHS Real Estate.

According to figures from the Realtors Association of Lincoln, home sales appear to have slowed down over the past couple of weeks.

From March 23-April 8, only 165 homes were put up for sale, compared with 366 new listings in February, the last month for which full stats are available.

During that same period, 201 sales contracts were signed, compared with 330 in February, and 191 sales closed, compared with 257 in February.

One further illustration of the slowdown is a decline in open houses.

Rodenburg said that on March 15, there were 100 open houses scheduled in Lincoln. That was the Sunday after Lincoln Public Schools and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln decided to have students stay at home.

This past Sunday, April 5, there were 51 open houses.

Some local real estate firms have stopped doing open houses altogether. Rodenburg said his firm recommended agents no longer hold open houses, and he personally has stopped doing them.

He still does occasional showings by appointment, but he said he is very careful about what he touches and makes sure to sanitize everything.

“I have Purell in one hand and Handi Wipes in the other,” Rodenburg said.

RE/MAX Concepts, another Lincoln firm, announced April 3 that it was temporarily suspending all open houses.

“We feel this decision will not only help protect our Realtors and their clients by lowering the curve,” said Larry Holmes, owner and broker of RE/MAX Concepts, in a news release, “but also will demonstrate our strong support for other businesses who have been forced to make difficult decisions during this time.”

Holmes said RE/MAX agents are continuing to schedule private showings — with protective health measures in place — and virtual tours.

Shannon Harner, president and CEO of Homeservices of Nebraska, which owns Home Real Estate and Woods Bros Realty, said those firms’ agents still are allowed to do open houses, but they also are embracing virtual tours as well.

Interest in virtual home tours has increased quite a bit not only in Lincoln but across the country.

“We’ve seen a huge rush of agents scrambling to find 3D virtual solutions to bring real estate listings to buyers,” said Tyler Irons, co-founder of VRLY, a Lincoln-based company that offers immersive 3D video tours of properties for sale.

“I get emails and calls daily from agents and brokerages alike not only in Nebraska but across the country,” he said, noting that some real estate brokerages are requiring every listing to have a 3D tour.

Irons said VRLY is growing rapidly and has plans to launch services in South Carolina, Florida, Texas, Utah, Massachusetts and in Canada.

It’s not just agents who are seeing coronavirus complications.

Rodenburg said he was working with an elderly couple who wanted to list their house for sale April 1 but decided to put their plans on hold because one of them has heart problems and was worried about potential exposure to the disease through showings.

Rodenburg also said he’s had a couple of buyers put things on hold because of financial concerns.

Coronavirus is also causing headaches for home inspectors and appraisers, Rodenburg said, because sellers are often leery of letting people traipse through their homes.

The good news, said Harner, is that unlike the real estate crash of the late 2000s, the current slowdown is not due to any structural problems with the market.

She noted that in 2008, there were more than 2,000 homes for sale in Lincoln at any given time, and mortgage interest rates hovered around 6%. Now, there are just more than 800 homes for sale in the market, and interest rates are hovering near a 10-year low below 3.5%.

“Today, the foundational framework of our economy is solid,” Harner said. “There is no oversupply in the market or plunging prices; healthy appreciation, slow and steady, has created a balanced and robust market to withstand the financial ramifications of COVID-19.”

Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.

Business reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

3 Reasons Photography is Important in the Real Estate Business

VRLY January 29, 2019 0

Photography is beautiful in every way. It’s not just an art of taking photos or the use of
light to create images, it has been used to tell beautiful stories over time, save memories
and grow businesses. Photography is more about vision and not just about the clicking of
the shutter button like we all do these days. A photographer or someone with a good eye
is more likely to take better pictures and beautiful images than an amateur who’s
handling a camera for the first time.

Photography has transformed the way we live and see the world today.

Real estate, on the other hand, involves selling, buying, investing and managing real
estate properties legally be it buildings or lands along with any natural resource that can
be found on it. The real estate covers all property management services in general.

The real estate market is highly competitive because there are more and more real estate
firms springing up every day with new ideas, more access to funding with limited access
to clients. So, many real estate agencies out there are struggling to keep afloat or stay in
the market even. This is why they have to come up with several ways to stay ahead of the
competition, wow potential clients and try something new in a way that they keep
pushing the envelope to stay successful.

Here are the 3 categories of real estate there are,

1. Commercial real estate: This includes public buildings such as parks, offices, schools,
educational centers, and hospitals.

2. Residential real estate: The word “residential” says it all. Split-level, castles, duplex
and bungalows are all residential real estate.

3. Industrial real estate: Warehouses, industries and manufacturing plants all fit into
this category.

Ways to Promote Your Real Estate Business

  • Use of social media: In the modern world today, social media is the biggest platform
    used to promote almost everything if not everything. Social media platforms such as
    Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn are used to put yourself and business on the market
    and the world to see so the proper use of social media will help promote your business.
  • Blogging: Having your personal blog also helps put your business out there and helps
    you improve online visibility. By posting helpful and relevant real estate related content
    that will help people that intend to invest in properties and also other real estate
    businesses, this could help you get the trust of potential clients.
  • Hosting webinars: By hosting webinars you’re able to reach out to new audiences,
    meet potential clients and decision makers thereby putting your business on a larger
    scale and making your business more accessible to potential clients.
  • Creating a company website: With a company website, you’re able to share all
    services, product, and offers offered by the company. Ads about all services also are to be
    put on the company website. All this put together would help clients distinguish between
    the kinds of services they want and help them know all services offered by the company.
  • Photography: Photography covers all aspect of the modern world today. The niche of
    photography that covers real estate is known as architectural photography which
    involves taking photographs of all kinds of architectural buildings. A photographer with
    a good eye and vision who would take photos of your real estate properties to post on
    your company website, showcase at your webinars, use for social media promotions and
    to also send to potential clients will definitely be a game changer in the real estate
    market. Like the saying goes “a picture speaks more than a thousand words”.

Few Tips on How to Take a Good Photograph

  • Good Camera: Good camera’s take good photos. Getting a good enough camera will
    always get the job done and also the photographer should have at least some type of
    experience with photography not necessarily architectural photography. With experience
    and a good camera, it’s only normal for better quality pictures to be taken. A camera I
    would recommend for an individual as a beginner would be the cannon T6i.
  • Shaky Camera: Avoid camera shake or shaky hands during photo-shoots as this could
    cause the photos to blur which produces a low-quality image. To avoid blur images you’ll
    first have to learn to hold your camera correctly and in the right way using both hands.
  • Use of Simple Background: The use of simple background is always best as it helps
    you determine what gets in your shot as you have to focus your camera on what you want
    your potential clients to see without including side attractions or distractions in your
  • Know the Basic settings: learning the basic settings e.g. ISO among many others
    makes you a better handler of the camera.
  • Learn to clean your camera leans regularly.
  • Knowing when to use and not use your flash.

Use of Drone Technology for Real Estate Photography

Drone technology is no more a technology solely meant for military applications, these
days people of various professions use drones in their field of work. In property
management services we are beginning to see realtors using drones to make their job
more proficient and to stay ahead of their competition. Using drones, they can show a
property from different angles with relative ease, thereby assisting them to possibly close
a customer. For example, using drones they can give an aerial view of a building, see
different areas of the property including and different angles of it too, they can make fun
create videos to use as ads and so much more. Although there are obviously some
regulations against the indiscriminate use of drones for privacy and security reasons, a
realtor can obtain permission from relevant agencies in order to use drones.

Photography is not the only you can grow your real estate business of course, but is it
sure most important in the sense that if done right it should transform your real estate
business, put it on the map and take it places given it’s done properly. So, if you’re
looking to grow your business, photography is one aspect of marketing to look into
because it does it all.


Ayesha Lee

Q&A with Tyler Irons CEO | Founder of VRLY

VRLY August 28, 2018 0


About Tyler Irons & VRLY

Tyler Irons
Founder, VRLY in Lincoln, Nebraska

In their own words

VRLY is Lincoln and Omaha’s premier VR scanning solution with over 500+ scanned spaces across Nebraska, Colorado, and Minnesota. Our scanners are friendly, courteous, and will treat your clients with the utmost professionalism through the entire process.


At Matterport, photographers are some of our most important customers. Since we released the first Matterport camera in 2014, we’ve watched as enterprising people have taken risks and built businesses around this new medium.

Together, we are working to make 3D the new standard for people to virtually share and explore spaces. Photographers in the Matterport Service Partner (MSP) program are key to this goal, as they extend the reach of 3D to a wider audience than we ever could alone.

We want to honor our most successful MSPs, such as Tyler Irons of VRLY in Nebraska. In April of 2018, he scanned 75 spaces — that’s an amazing 3.5 spaces per business day. We sat down and chatted with him to hear his story and his tips to success.


What’s your background?

I was born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska. After serving in the army, I started my own business. I’m a serial entrepreneur — I own three businesses, all of which are still going strong. Most of the time I manage my third business, VRLY (pronounced ‘VUR-lee’), which focuses exclusively on real estate photography.


How did you start with Matterport?

I learned about Matterport while doing a digital marketing project for Berkshire Hathaway in Omaha. These guys wanted to market their properties differently, so I looked around online and that’s when I found Matterport.

Back in 2016, Matterport was not as big as it was today. I’d say about half of all agents knew about it, but few actually used it back then. We knew it was a gamble when we ordered the camera. But after seeing the technology and what it could create, we had great faith and so we took the plunge.


How successful have you been creating 3D spaces?

We’ve had some challenges — it’s still a new technology with a learning curve for both us and our clients. But in the past year and a half, we’ve been very successful.

In May 2018 we scanned 75 houses and we’re growing month-over-month. This past spring (2018) we’ve seen more peer pressure among our agent clientele. As soon as agents see their peers using it, there’s more pressure on them to use VRLY.

In the future we’re expanding past Lincoln, NE to Kansas City and more states/markets in the US Midwest over the next 12 months.



  • 85    Matterport Spaces created in June 2018
  • 75    Matterport Spaces created in May 2018
  • 600    total Matterport Spaces created
  • 3    Matterport Cameras (all Pro2)
  • 10    total employees in VRLY


How did you reach such a high volume?

For us, the key was to take this new technology and package it into a format people were already familiar with.

In our experience, real estate agents are more familiar with old-school, traditional marketing such as flyers, print, and video. Agents like the interactive Matterport tour, but because it is a new technology, they don’t know how to monetize it.

So we put Matterport into a format agents already knew well — video. We started by screen-recording the Matterport virtual tour. Next we combined it with aerial/drone photography, additional video, and of course the agent’s name and contact info.

Realtors LOVED this custom video for each property. It also fit very well into their existing marketing budget and expectations. Once agents saw how Matterport fit into video, our growth just exploded.

What’s your philosophy when talking to agents and brokers?

VRLY is the marketing partner for real estate agents. Most agents are not marketing experts. No problem. We handle the marketing side for them. This frees up agents to do what they really love — develop relationships with home sellers and buyers.

When you buy VRLY, you’re not paying for a specific deliverable. You’re paying for a full marketing package. Tools, methods, and channels may change over time, but VRLY will always be your real estate marketing provider.

Furthermore, agents don’t want 5 different people to come and make certain deliverables. They want one person who can do it all in one photo shoot. VRLY is a one-stop shop for real estate marketing. If an agent calls us, they don’t have to do anything else for that property. We do everything they need — Matterport, aerial, photos, video, and single-property website — quickly and at a decent price.



How big are you on efficiency and standardization?

This is a HUGE part of VRLY’s success. We can offer low prices because our deliverables and processes are so standardized. Our primary offering is one low-priced, all-included marketing package.

Honestly, it would slow us down if we offered a-la-carte deliverables or very custom/creative deliverables. Clients who really need those one or two special photos can hire someone else to get those. But that doesn’t happen very often.

Furthermore, it is very important to us that VRLY offers the same great real estate marketing package and service to all of our clients — no matter whether they are big or small. It’s just the right thing to do.

We built VRLY so it is a scalable model that can handle massive amounts of volume. We’re going to continue to scale because that’s how you become more successful and profitable in the long-term. Check out one of our sample single-property websites below.


Which marketing channels have been most effective for you?

We’ve found texting to be a very effective marketing channel to people already in our database. Agents spend almost all their time on their cell phones. Of course, you should reach them on the tool that they use the most. Honestly, I think that agents are the easiest people on earth to get a hold of.

We’ll send massive text campaigns every 2 weeks across our database. This includes little bite-size content pieces such as “How do I add myself to Google My Business”. Not only do they help agents, but these also build VRLY’s brand as marketing experts. Our texts have like a 93% open rate, which amazed even me.

At VRLY, we’ve also had success offering a free, one-time scanning package to timid clients. This is an easy way to get them into our database and start a long-term relationship on a good note.


Tell me about the employees in your business.

I have two capture teams and one backend team (total 10 staff members). Each capture team has a DSLR photographer, Matterport operator, and drone pilot. Each team can get it all done for one property in 60 to 90 minutes per property, 3 to 4 properties in one day. We try to be very efficient while still maintaining a high standard of quality.

My job (Tyler) is less on the capture-side and more on developing relationships with the agents. I see myself more as the owner of a photography business rather than a true artist or photographer.


What about agents who say “we don’t need Matterport’”?

The US Midwest housing market is different from the east or west coast. Houses sell quickly (a seller’s market) and for less. Marketing budgets can be thin for some agents — which makes it harder to sell something cool like 3D. We often hear “My house sells so quickly that I don’t need you guys.”

This is understandable, but I also feel like it is short-sighted. A house may have sold quickly, but did you get the most for it? You may have left some money on the table. Better marketing may have gotten more leads who would have paid more. Ultimately, VRLY’s job as your marketing partner is to get you more and better qualified leads. The final sales decision is still up to you, the agent.

Finally, VRLY is really about helping you build your brand as an agent or broker. In a hot market, homes sell fast but this also means a lot of competition between agents and brokers. You really need VRLY and Matterport to set yourself apart. 3D is something that enhances your listing presentation. It’s a sign to home sellers that you are committed to selling this house, and to getting the most amount of value from it.



How Drones Have Transformed the Real Estate Industry

VRLY January 19, 2018 0

How Drones Have Transformed The Real Estate Industry

Drones have now been made available for commercial use which is why many industries are using them for carrying out different marketing efforts. Many real estate professionals have also used this technology to offer more viewing options to those who are looking to buy or rent the property. Drones offer professionals more convenience and more techniques to capture different views of the property for the interested parties. Hence it is safe to say that drones have become the latest agent to create transformation in the real estate industry. In this article, we will discuss some of how drones are being used in the real estate industry and their benefits.

1) Making Photography Affordable
Drones have given professionals another way to capture aerial images and videos of homes. Before drones were introduced in the market, real estate professionals used to carry out these tasks with the help of a helicopter or a small aircraft both of which were considered to be expensive. Hence, businesses can now produce better results with the help of cost-effective methods.

2) Cover-More Features
Drones have also provided people with the real estate industry to add photos and videos of all the important corners of the property. This includes the backyard, pools, yards and other important features. Before drones hit the market, a lot of the images seen were dull and did not do justice to the beauty of some of the houses. Drone Photography has solved this problem and can now be used to give viewers a complete picture of the property.

3) Dramatic Photography
As mentioned earlier, before drones real estate professionals would share pictures and videos that provided the viewer with images that would then have to be imagined to understand the whole construction of the property. Drone imagery offers real estate workers to present the interested buyers with dramatic results that seem to be more appealing and vivid. These imaging techniques are beneficial to gain attention from the prospective buyers and develop their interests.

4) Give Viewers a Virtual Tour
A drone can help you capture the complete view of the property which gives the interested parties a chance to take a virtual tour of the place. You can also use additions such as background commentary mentioning the history and other information regarding the property. Such additions will make your virtual tours more interesting.

5) Increasing Customer Attention
Using latest advancements in technology makes your business look more attractive and increases the chances of getting more customers interested. Drones can help you share the compelling imageries with a greater number of potential customers and reduces the need for convincing them to show interest.

Bottom Line
If you are a real estate professional looking to grow your business you should consider using drone imaging to transform your business and witness extraordinary growth. However, it is recommended to take help from professional photography services since some skills are required to produce effective results using drones.

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