Virtual model is set to boost marketing
retoria born and bred Michelle Milnes, founder and managing director of multinational agency Property Studios in the UK, has now expanded her virtual property marketing company to South Africa, launching an office in Pretoria.
Milnes cut her teeth in the real estate world in the UK, but two aspects of the property sector nagged at her. “First, I was shocked at how little attention was paid to marketing homes, which are the most expensive thing that most people will ever sell,” she says. “Secondly, I didn’t see any estate agents grasp the potential advances of digital media, virtual technology and creative marketing available to the property sector.”
In 2014 she set up Property Studios, offering affordable, accessible and creative marketing to the property sector through pioneering technology. Today, the company boasts the largest catalogue of cutting-edge technology products enabling photo-realistic digital makeovers and renovations of property. These include 3D modelling, virtual reality tours, micro-sites and virtual staging. It can, for example, virtually complete a half-done church conversion or landscape a derelict yard.
Precise personalisation of visuals for prospective buyers drives the success of the business. “A particular space – say, a two‑bedroom loft apartment – appeals to a variety of prospective customers for different reasons,” she says. “A retired empty-nester couple may be interested in a stairlift and disabled access, a young creative professional may want a home office with studio space, while a couple buying their first home may want an entertainment area. We tailor each visual package accordingly, and it works.”
Her team – now 50 strong – conjures all those options. They virtually create complete developments, give homes for sale virtual makeovers, new gardens and they virtually dress show homes for some of the largest names in the UK’s property sector.
The company’s focus on virtual technology has also proved prescient as Covid-19 made virtual viewings the norm, at least for many potential buyers’ first look at a property. Live interactive viewing enables online viewers to experience the property while chatting with the agent in real time.
Coming back home
“South Africa faces major challenges, like the economic recovery from Covid-19 and the recent unrest,” says Milnes. “But the property sector is tremendously exciting: there’s still interest from international buyers, and semigration shows there’s huge appetite. It also feels good to be doing business in my homeland again, especially with a strong product that’s proved itself in a market as competitive as the UK.”