For realtors, Instagram Reels has become a platform to do business differently. Image: Shutterstock
When TikTok was still around in India, Mumbai-based Rafique Merchant experimented with selling dream homes in 60 seconds. Though he didn’t make big sales through those TikTok videos, he got thousands of inquiries for showcasing affordable homes. Merchant, who has been a realtor for over 10 years, didn’t get time to explore TikTok as much as he would have liked to because the app was banned. Back then he wasn’t interested in Instagram, mainly because the Facebook-owned app was heavily picture-focused. In Merchant's words, “Instagram wasn’t massy then.”
In 2020, Reels changed that notion for Instagram and Merchant. Today, for realtors like Merchant, Reels has become a platform to do business differently. Merchant has seen a 100 percent business growth, since the time he has been selling homes on Instagram.
Over and above selling homes and commercial spaces, he has also been doing brand work. Ajmera Group, Lodha, Marathon, and many other brands have worked with Merchant in the recent past. As per multiple influencer management companies, brands pay anywhere between Rs 50,000 and Rs 1,00,000 to these realtors for marketing campaigns.
Time for a category facelift
According to digital advertising agencies, with realtors becoming content creators, the category is getting a facelift. Prince Khanna, co-founder of influencer marketing firm Eleve Media, calls them “influencer agents”. He believes, they are “in a way promoting good governance practices that directly impact brand’s ability to build investor, tenant, and community trust.”
That’s exactly why Mayank Agarwal, founder of real estate brokerage firm, The Green Cottage, became a creator. Agarwal doesn’t often sell homes, office spaces, and land on Instagram. His content is focused on educating buyers about what they should know before and after buying a piece of property, about construction details, regulations, etc.
“It’s surprising to see how many people make their life’s most expensive purchase without understanding the nitty-gritty. I wanted to give my two cents to help people make informed decisions,” he adds. Agarwal has also worked with brands but he is picky about them, mainly because this is a passion project for him and also he doesn’t want to dilute his narrative.
Influencing beyond Reels
Globally, realtors have become mainstream influencers for a while now. Jordan Nielsen, Ryan Serhant, Producer Michel, among others, are leading creators in the real estate category from around the world. In India, there are a handful of realtors like Merchant and Agarwal. Vishnu Ravindran V Designs, chetankapurofficial, and RKMumbaiRealtors, are a few other realtors with whom brands in the sector have been heavily collaborating too.
Khanna tells Storyboard18 that these creators can, “...act as a voice for the industry for the necessary reforms to be implemented by the government for the upliftment of the sector and the number of people involved directly and indirectly with the industry.” Not just real estate brands but there are huge opportunities for unconventional brands that sell safety glasses, electrical, and forcing and tiles, to collaborate with these realtors.
Merchant and Agarwal are working on projects and adding large number of clients that came to them because of their influencing power. Merchant has played a role of a realtor in an upcoming web series on Netflix. He is also getting calls and DMs (direct messages) from Bollywood celebrities and sports personalities to help them find city homes they can relax in—a dream clientele for any realtor. Agarwal is in the process of building two proptech startups.
Both Merchant and Agarwal are of the opinion that it’s high time that “real-estate agents” get organised. They say realtors need to think differently because today people are increasingly looking at content that's engaging and useful and the like on your Reel could easily turn into a buy.