Rachel Burris8-Minute Read
UPDATED: November 08, 2022
There's no way around it: COVID-19 has changed the way real estate agents across the country conduct business. Open houses have long been an advantageous tool for generating buyer interest, but now that the doors to listings have been closed to large groups, agents are turning to technology to help home buyers feel comfortable making an offer – sometimes sight unseen – on a property.
Virtual 3D real estate tours are not new, but they’ve gained a lot of traction now that COVID-19 has limited the ability of real estate professionals to market and show properties. If you’re a real estate agent who hasn’t started to incorporate technology into your business model, now’s the time to start learning how.
Although essential to any listing, photographs of properties have their limitations. They’re intended to entice buyers to view properties in person, but they can’t be expected to give consumers a clear grasp of the space as a whole.
“You have to use your imagination to link the images together to understand the flow of the space. A virtual tour allows the home buyer to explore each room completely with 360-degree movement,” says Jerry Clum, the founder and CEO of Hommati, a company that offers cutting-edge technology services to real estate professionals. “You can see each room from every angle and perspective. You can look down to see the flooring and up to see the ceiling. You can move through the space however you want. You are able to walk up and down the stairs and hallways, giving you a feel for the flow of a home.”
Clum adds, “We also provide schematic floor plans for each level of the house, as well as a dollhouse view of the entire home, providing buyers with a more complete feel and understanding of the home.”
Real estate professionals are now using the everyday technology that’s already at their disposal.
“I spoke with an agent who videotaped all of her listings with her cell phone and posted them on her Facebook page and website,” says Tracey Hawkins, a former real estate agent who now teaches safety and security courses to real estate professionals. “The technology isn’t complicated, and cost provides no barrier to entry since it’s free, and people already have smartphone cameras.”
Through platforms like Facebook, FaceTime, Skype and Zoom, real estate agents have been able to quickly adapt to the times without having to worry about draining their marketing budgets or struggling to learn new technologies.
“It’s as easy as FaceTiming with a client,” says Michelle Sloan, broker and owner of RE/MAX TIME in Ohio. “While I walk through the property, I discuss many of the same issues and features as I would when we are doing a showing together.”
“We noticed an increase in cooperation with the owners themselves to try to show properties virtually because brokers are not allowed to go to the building,” says Fritz Frigan, executive director of sales and leasing for Halstead Real Estate in New York City. “The brokers are talking to their owners and basically saying, ‘Could you use FaceTime, Skype or Zoom to show the prospective buyer your property?’ This way, no one has to leave where they are and violate the government order, and the showing can occur live, virtually.”
You don’t need to be a videographer to create something that’s useful for your potential customers. Of course, you may need a few takes or practice runs to get it right, but we’ve asked agents who’ve already gotten the knack of it to share their insights into how to create a strong virtual tour.
Remember, virtual tours are all about overcoming the limitations of still photography and highlighting the flow of your properties. So, before you create your virtual tour, make sure you’re familiar with the layout of the home and consider what information about the home buyers are unable to see from your listing photos.
“Point out items that you can't show in pictures,” says Natalie Alchadeff, a licensed broker with HB Group in California. “The virtual tours should focus on layout, so the buyer has a feeling of what it’s like to walk through a house.”
Prior to shooting, you should also prepare the property. Make sure that all the lights are on and plan the route your tour will take. “Have doors open before you start the video,” advises Nancy Brook, licensed broker and CEO of Billings Best Real Estate in Montana. By opening doors ahead of time, you can eliminate those awkward moments of fumbling with doorknobs and create a more seamless video of the properties.
To enhance the quality of your tour, be sure to clean the lens of your camera and turn your phone to airplane mode. You don’t want calls or messages interrupting your footage.
Once you begin to film, it’s crucial that you act professional and create context for potential buyers. “Start the video with you talking to the camera,” says Brook. “Make sure to show the outside of the house and the neighborhood at the start. Then, go inside and take your time. Open doors to closets, pantries, utility rooms. Take videos from different angles in the living room, kitchen and family room.”
As you present rooms from different angles, slowly move the camera up and down to show off the homes’ fixtures, floors and finishes. Make sure you describe everything the camera sees, and highlight specific features that may be of interest to buyers.
If you’re unable to make it to your properties, you can provide your sellers with these tips. Once they’ve created the video for you, you can use basic video editing tools, like iMovie, to add a voiceover track.
Adding voiceover to the virtual tour will enable you to describe the property, so potential buyers can further understand what they’re looking at.
There’s certainly a learning curve involved in creating virtual tours. The more practice you have, the better you get. However, there’s no need to fret over the quality of your first few virtual tours.
“It’s OK if you're not professional,” says Brook. “People understand that you are an agent, so don’t be too stressed about getting it perfect.”
Time will tell how virtual tours affect real estate transactions. But for now, buyers are still searching for properties and browsing the listings they see online. Any method you can use to market and show your listings virtually will get potential customers’ attention. Your virtual tours may not lead to sight-unseen purchases, but they can motivate buyers to come view your properties once the nation is able to return to business as usual.
Interested in learning more about real estate photography? We’ve got tips and tricks that’ll help your videos pop.