At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, real estate companies needed to find a way to reach potential home buyers without having physical contact. Enter the virtual tour. Rising demand for this technology has made the practice of adding virtual tours to listings practically commonplace, and this only became more popular in the era of social distancing.
But will virtual tours continue to become the industry standard now that the pandemic is coming to a close? Here’s an overview of the current trends surrounding virtual homebuying.
Are Virtual Tours Here to Stay?
Yes, but not necessarily for the same reasons we had during the height of the pandemic. In the coming years, it’s likely people will continue to be wary of the health concerns associated with visiting properties and opening their homes to strangers. However, if current public health trends continue, this level of caution will probably not be as high as it was before vaccines and lower case rates.
In truth, what was once a necessity has now proven its value to many buyers. Virtual tours will stick around because buyers have gotten used to having them. The new types of media are helpful to many home buyers who would not otherwise be able to have an in-person tour due to time constraints or physical distance.
Who Benefits From Virtual Tours?
Buyers of all types can benefit from the availability of virtual tours. Typical home buyers will only get to walk through a home once or twice, but with online tours, they can relive the experience as many times as they would like before making their decision. Buyers can also more easily enlist the opinions of their family and friends.
Virtual tours are also paramount for buyers moving from out of state or overseas. Viewing a home in person is most likely not feasible. Detailed online tours can help the buying process move more smoothly and bring buyers peace of mind when buying sight unseen.
Others are using virtual tours because of changes in the real estate market. It is a seller’s market right now, and homes are moving more quickly than before. Many buyers find themselves in bidding wars for homes and losing out on houses that went up the same day. Things move quickly, but with virtual tours, buyers can see a home instantly and make an offer without waiting for an appointment or an open house.
Millennials are also jumping on the virtual home-buying experience. As a generation that has grown up with access to increasingly advanced technology, they are used to being able to make informed purchases online. Within the last several years, the automotive industry has moved online with pictures, reports, and virtual tours to assist decisions. The real estate industry seems a logical next move for millennials who crave the ease of online shopping.
How Can Agents Make the Most of Virtual Tours?
1. Use the Best Tools
A phone camera will probably not take photos or videos at a high enough quality. Instead, choose professional camera equipment with 360-degree capabilities. High-quality video cameras are also a good investment for agents committed to making virtual tours a part of their process.
Not sure you’re able to learn new photography and video skills? Alternatively, hire a professional to help you get and publish the footage you need.
2. Prep the Home
When it’s time to capture the home for its virtual tour, have homeowners put away extra decorations and clutter. You want the house to look its best since this will be a lasting online impression.
Extra furniture and personal clutter will detract buyers from picturing their own belongings in the space. On the other hand, make sure the house is somewhat furnished, which will help buyers get a sense of room proportions.
3. Highlight the Home’s Best Features
Don’t let the camera skim over the accents that are most likely to wow visitors on a tour. Show off the granite countertops, hardwood floors, deep closets, and any other winning features.
Each buyer will have a different set of qualities they’re looking for in a home. Use your expertise to imagine what home buyers would love about that particular property.
4. Be Transparent
Showing the best features should not exclude you from disclosing aspects of the home that buyers should know about. Disclose ceiling heights, building materials, and any other information you would normally share to help buyers make an informed decision before they enter the offer and closing process.
Virtual tours will work best if buyers trust that they are a good substitute for in-person experiences. Practicing transparency will help both agents and buyers make the flexibility and ease of digital experiences a win-win improvement.
5. Create a Good Flow
Buyers will want a virtual experience that’s as close to them physically being there as possible. Start at the home’s entry and establish how the house flows from room to room. Build them a virtual blueprint with your tour so they feel they have a good grasp of the space’s dimensions and layout.
6. Be Available for Personal Tours
Some clients may want another home tour other than the one they can view online. Offer to take them on a trip through the home with you via video chat. They can ask questions and get real-time answers, and they can request to see certain features of the house they were curious about that the virtual tour didn’t show.
Especially for buyers who cannot come to the home personally, a private virtual tour can go a long way towards establishing peace of mind.
Virtual and In-Person Tours Both Have a Place
Even though real estate is heading into a more digital space, there is still a time and place for in-person sales. Many buyers will not be comfortable purchasing homes sight unseen and will want to take the time to see houses personally.
Walking through a home allows potential buyers to open drawers and closets, test the water pressure, experience how the house smells, and see any number of things that can’t be conveyed through a camera. If time and distance allow, support buyers through the in-person process and encourage them to use online tools as a supplement.
About the author: Evelyn Long is the editor-in-chief of Renovated, an online resource for the real estate market. Her freelance writing has been published by the National Association of REALTORS®, Insights for Professionals and other prominent industry magazines.