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As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, virtual tours are becoming increasingly popular in the real estate industry. Realtors have had to get creative when it comes to showing houses, as the pandemic has fundamentally changed how many people do business. Open houses have always been an integral part of real estate to attract potential buyers and investors. 

Rather than give them up, realtors are implementing technologically advanced 3D virtual tours to showcase their properties. For some, the idea of implementing new tech into your business may be daunting, but rest assured, it’s not as complicated or intimidating as you might expect. The following is a helpful guide to get you started in the world of virtual real estate tours.

The Benefit of Going Virtual

Amid the pandemic, virtual tours are a safe, easy way to meet clients and showcase homes without putting anyone’s safety at risk. As home tours involve more than one person, they can be tricky to plan in our current climate. Not only do agents have to practice social distancing, but agents would have to be thorough in sanitizing between tours. It takes a significant amount of time. 

Suppose you and your interested visitor would prefer to meet in-person for a tour. In that case, you can still use a virtual tour to give them a brief overview and employ pre-screening measures. Ensure everyone is as healthy and low-risk as possible before you meet. After screening, you can move forward to in-person appointment scheduling. This way, time management is easier for all parties involved.

Virtual tours are also more likely to attract out-of-towners. Those living in other states will appreciate being able to check out a house and make informed decisions without traveling to visit a home that winds up not being what they want. They’re also a great way to keep open houses private and avoid attracting stray passersby that aren’t actually interested in buying but just want to get a peek inside.

Some realtors are hesitant to invest in materials necessary to start virtual tours. Is it worth the long-term investment? Will virtual tours still be a thing after we get a vaccine? The truth is, virtual tours have been on the rise for a while now. Even when COVID is under control, realtors will likely continue implementing virtual tours. You’ll have the experience to be ahead of the curve.   

What Does a Virtual Tour Entail?

It has always been commonplace for sellers and agents to share photographs of homes online. The problem with images is that they’re static and can only give you a shallow representation of the space. Virtual tours use 3D technology and shifting viewpoints to guide visitors through a 360-degree rendering of the home. 

Most tours include schematics, floor plans, and a dollhouse view to provide visitors with a complete look at the house. You’ll be able to look inside every room, from floor to ceiling. In some ways, a virtual tour can be even more beneficial than visiting in-person, as you’ll be able to easily access it again and again. 

There is no time limit on how long you could spend exploring every nook and cranny of the property. If you and your client schedule a physical viewing later on, clients will already have an idea of the house. They’ll know which rooms or areas they might like to inspect more closely before deciding to take the next step.

How to Implement a Virtual Tour on Your Website

The first thing you’ll want to do is to create a virtual tour page that includes all of your tours in one place. It’s best to keep things simple and easy to navigate. Visitors will appreciate having one specific page they can return to as they check out each tour.

That said, if your website has a featured section, it would be helpful to link to your virtual tours there and then update it regularly. Realtors showing multiple properties should give each one equal exposure.

Whether you’re an agent, broker, or property manager,  Matterport is beneficial in helping you increase commissions and reach a wider audience. As one of the leaders in 3D technology, Matterport had become an increasingly popular program for realtors looking to craft virtual tours for the first time. Purchase it for your iPad or iPhone, and then begin to film your first space today. No professional photography skills are needed (although you can certainly use a professional-grade camera if you prefer) to use Matterport. It’s easy to publish the results online and make them accessible to mobile and desktop users.

Matterport offers free demos to get started, as well as numerous features to make your tours accessible and attractive. Along with letting you create detailed floor plans, the software enables users to do several other cool tricks, including taking measurements, generating 3D virtual tours, creating 4K print-quality photos, and engineering guided video tours. Once finished, it’s easy to upload your completed product to social media websites and embed your 3D space to your official site.

While many agents are using fancy tech or hiring professionals to create these tours, some prefer to document the home themselves and then share it on social media. Others use video chat services like FaceTime or Zoom to virtually walk with their clients through the house, taking questions and suggestions for where to aim the camera as they go.

Zillow 3D Home is another more economical option. Zillow 3D Home Tours is free and specifically designed to work with iOS-compatible devices. However, you might need to purchase some extra equipment, like a tripod and a phone mount. Zillow images take longer to scan and might not be quite as high-quality as Matterport, but it’s still an excellent option for those who don’t want to invest in a pricey software program. 

Don’t underestimate the power of intuitive controls with minimal frustration. A website with slow load times, poor image quality, or confusing directions will turn people off and make them exit before they even begin. 

How to Set Up For a Tour

Just because your client isn’t with you in the flesh doesn’t mean you should skimp on the staging, lighting, or cleaning. If anything, these things become more important than ever since people only have a virtual representation to use as a guide.

One thing that can make or break a virtual tour is the lighting. Make sure you know the inside of the house well before you begin filming anything. Poor lighting is particularly detrimental to film, as it can completely change the way a room looks. You might even need to add more light than you usually would if you showed the house in person. The point is, you won’t know for sure until you try. 

Take a walk through the house. Figure out what light you need and where, and highlight the natural light where you can. Knowing the general layout of the house before you start the tour is integral to the process. Open the blinds and turn the lights on ahead of time. Camera movements should be fluid and graceful, so online visitors can get the house’s flow and feel like they’re walking through it, even from far away.

When it comes to staging, take as much time and detail as you would if your client were there in person. Virtual tours aren’t an excuse to be lazy when it comes to decluttering a space. Clean and polish the house, hide unnecessary items, and don’t let pets roam through space. Open all interior doors ahead of time so you won’t need to disrupt the flow of your video feed. And finally, it might sound simple, but make sure your camera lens is clean!

What Should Your Tour Include?

Now that the scene is set and you have all of the tools you need to create a fantastic virtual tour, what should you include? Like any tour, start on the outside. Introduce prospective buyers to the house’s exterior, the street, the driveway, the elegant wraparound porch, and any other eye-catching front yard elements that add to the overall appeal. Let your client feel what it might be like to walk up the path to their new front door every day.

By showing real footage of the property, you’re already setting yourself up for success. Clients do not just want to see renderings or recreation—they want to look at the actual house itself. It might surprise you how simple it is to showcase the home virtually. People will appreciate being able to navigate the house on their own terms, including rewind, freeze-frame, zoom, and other online features.

Keep in mind that certain features of the house might translate differently online than they would in person. If you’re trying to show a client the size of a kitchen island, make sure you walk around it and don’t just film it from far away. Give people the chance to see the scope and depth of each room. Before you start, it’s a good idea to practice your tour. Find the best vantage points for each part of the house. 

The main thing to keep in mind when creating a virtual tour, regardless of whether you opt for a simple route or a pricier, technologically advanced 3D experience, is to try and duplicate an in-person viewing as much as possible. Think carefully about each step and try to put yourself in the prospective buyer’s shoes. Check your work and take your time.