Outside of luxury listings, virtual tours have always been something of a solution looking for a problem. Sure, they look cool, and they definitely impress homeowners, but even a brand-new agent with the ink barely dry on their real estate license could tell you that they never really did much to, you know … actually sell houses.
Of course, today the reality on the ground is that technologies like virtual tours for real estate are offering a viable alternative to showings to help agents keep their business afloat. After all, when people are scared to leave their homes, virtual tours offer a seemingly perfect solution.
That’s why we decided to give you some actionable, real-world strategies to incorporate virtual tours in your showing arsenal. We’ll go over the tech behind the tours, get insight from some top-producing brokers already using them, and finally give you some creative and affordable ways to use them yourself.
What Are Virtual Tours for Real Estate?
Although the term virtual tour has become synonymous with 3D tour software like Matterport or newcomer Asteroom, in the real estate industry, a virtual tour is any tour of a home or other property that buyers can view remotely. In others words, recording a Facebook Live video of a listing walk-through that you share with only your best clients is technically a virtual tour.
That said, there are basically two flavors of virtual tours that real estate agents can start using today to help save their business.
1. Self-guided Immersive 3D Tours (e.g., Matterport)
A self-guided immersive 3D tour is what most agents think of when you mention virtual tours. These virtual tours use 360-degree cameras to capture images of the different rooms of a house, then use software to stitch these pictures together and create a virtual replica of the home that buyers can then “walk” through on their computers and phones.
Matterport tours are excellent examples of self-guided immersive 3D tours. Another (less pricey) option is Asteroom. Asteroom offers a fantastic, interactive tour for a fraction of the cost. You can get your gear for less than $100, and their monthly subscription to tour hosting starts at $20.
Here’s a quick rundown of the pros and cons of these tours to help you decide if they’re right for your business:
Pros of Self-guided Immersive 3D Tours
One of the best things about 3D tour software like Matterport is that it allows buyers to virtually walk through a space—and it puts them in the driver’s seat. A buyer can sit on their living room couch and “walk through” your listing on their own time. If they want to linger in the spare bedroom for 20 minutes in order to see if it might fit their home gym, they can do that. If they want to skip the dining room or basement, they can do that too.
As many experienced agents know, there are tons of buyers out there who just want to be left alone to check out your listing on their own time. For these buyers, an agent walking them from room-to-room and explaining everything is more of a nuisance than a service. Most smart agents pick up on this and let these buyers wander on their own and then meet up later to talk about the space.
Cons of Self-guided Immersive 3D Tours
First and foremost, self-guided tours like Matterport never quite capture the way a home feels. Yes, they technically show everything there is to see, but any experienced agent will tell you that the “X factor” that they can highlight is what truly sells listings.
Another problem with self-guided tours is the technology itself still has some glitches to work out. Bad lighting, bizarre image distortions, and uneven picture quality can all make your virtual tour look kind of cold. Worse, the tours tend to load slowly, and can only be hosted on certain platforms.
2. Customized Video Walk-through Virtual Tours
The other main kind of virtual tour that agents can use to show buyers their listings are customized walk-through virtual tours. A customized video walk-through virtual tour is when you use livestreaming software, like Zoom, Google Hangouts, Facebook Live, or Instagram TV, to walk a remote buyer through the listing to highlight the features that make the home unique, and help explain away the issues that might give them cold feet before putting in an offer.
These tours can either be prerecorded and posted on Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram, or, even better, custom-tailored to the needs of your best clients. Here’s a quick rundown of the pros and cons of these kinds of virtual tours.
The Pros of Customized Video Walk-through Virtual Tours
First and foremost, a video tour that you shoot, edit, and post yourself gives you one monster-sized advantage over Matterport or other 3D tours. You’re in control of exactly what your audience sees and when.
It’s hard to overstate how powerful this is for agents. Here’s why: First, you can start the tour with the best parts of the home you want to highlight. Anyone who has sold anything ever can tell you how important first impressions are to sales. Second, and maybe more importantly, you can talk your audience through the not-so-great aspects of the home while they’re watching your virtual tour.
For example, let’s say a bedroom is too small, but two of the walls are not load bearing and can be easily demolished. That’s not something that they would get from wandering through the listing on Matterport. Finally, and best of all for agents trying to build their personal brand in trying times, you get to include your biggest asset as an agent right now—your personality and expertise.
The Cons of Customized Video Walk-through Virtual Tours
There really aren’t too many downsides to shooting and editing videos like this. You can shoot them on your phone with a stabilizer on a sunny day, and edit them to your liking.
Of course, you’re going to need access to your listing to shoot them, and for some agents right now, that might be an issue. However, this is only a temporary problem.
Pro Tip: Always Try to Incorporate Your Brand in Your Virtual Tours
A virtual tour sitting on a website somewhere might help buyers view your listings, but won’t do much to help build your brand. Instead, you need to make sure your personal brand shines through in everything you put out these days. That could mean getting your videos edited, creating click-worthy images to promote them on social media, or just making sure your own social media channels look as good as you are.
Fiverr is without a doubt the best option for editing virtual tours right now because you can leverage talent from around the world to make sure your brand really shines online for as little as $5.
The Best Real Estate Virtual Tour Software for 2020
When it comes to real estate virtual tour software, everyone is going to tell you that you need all the bells and whistles to make a “real” virtual tour. There’s only one problem. You’re not the only agent reading this article, and there are likely to be hundreds more like it telling agents to start using virtual tours.
That means your virtual tour is going to be the same as everyone else’s, and sites like Zillow will do even more to remove you from your listings online. Instead, we think smart agents are going to try to put themselves into these tours in order to stay relevant. Either way you go, here are the best real estate virtual tour options currently available for agents, teams, and brokerages.
Facebook Live Virtual Tours
Facebook Live can be a great place to start posting virtual tours for your listings or other listings on the market in 2020. It’s the one social media platform that the majority of your audience is probably using these days. Even better, if you make your virtual tours entertaining, you can spend a few bucks to boost your post and reach an even bigger captive audience to start filling your lead funnel again. All you really need are the videos to post.
How Much Do Facebook Live Virtual Tours Cost?
Unless you end up boosting your post on Facebook, which we do recommend, posting a virtual tour video walk-through on Facebook is free, and doesn’t require any special software once you’ve created the videos.
If you’re working with a lot of millennials, then Instagram TV is another great place to either livestream or post your virtual tours. Again, if you can make them fun and show off your personality and expertise, they can be a great way to show off listings and drum up some new leads.
How Much Do Instagram TV Virtual Tours Cost?
Unless you end up boosting your post, which we do recommend, posting a virtual tour video walk-through on Instagram is free, and doesn’t require any special software once you’ve created the videos.
If you want to put your audience in the driver’s seat, then Matterport is probably going to be your best bet for virtual tours until rivals like Ricoh step up their game. Of course, considering the speed the real estate tech market is moving these days and the increasing popularity of virtual tours, expect new features to be rolled out quickly for both.
How Much Do Matterport Tours Cost?
Matterport charges agents a monthly fee to use their software; it offers several tier, from free if you only have one listing to $9.99 a month for five listings, $69 per month for 25 listings, and for brokerages, $309 a month for 100 listings.
The Matterport proprietary camera, on the other hand, is a little pricier. It comes in at an eye-watering $3,395. That said, you can also use supported Ricoh Theta cameras, which start at under $200.
A relative newcomer to the virtual tour space, Ricoh has slowly been gobbling up market share and winning over real estate agents with its virtual tour camera and software.
How Much Do Ricoh Tours Cost?
Like Matterport, Ricoh Tours has a monthly subscription fee, but it’s a flat $45 per month for unlimited tours. The real savings comes from their camera, which starts at around $160 for a low-end model.
How Creative Brokers Are Using Virtual Tours for Showings in 2020
While it’s important to know what virtual tour technology is available on the market, knowing how top-producing agents and brokers are leveraging that technology is even more important. In order to get your creative juices flowing and give you some ideas for showing listings virtually and building your brand at the same time, we reached out to a few of our friends in the industry who are already using them for some advice.
Vickey Barron, top-producing Manhattan luxury Broker at Compass:
“Funny story: I couldn’t get new photos of a new listing, so the listing couldn’t technically come to market yet. That said, I had mentioned to a client we would be listing this residence and he asked if there was a way to see it. The owner (seller) sprang into action, led a video tour, and now we are in negotiations. It’s all about getting creative during difficult times.”
With The Right Team Virtual Tours CAN Lead to Closed Deals
Running a Team or Brokerage? Come Up With One Solution You Can Roll Out to All Listings
Aleksandra Scepanovic, Managing Director of Ideal Properties Group:
“As we launch our ‘Showings on Demand’ virtual listing viewing capability, we are strongly encouraged by the opportunities it affords to everyone involved in the home-showing process,” stated Aleksandra Scepanovic, Managing Director of Ideal. “Our engineers have been working on developing a full-cycle digital alternative to rental and sales transactions.
“The fluid and rapidly evolving situation surrounding the coronavirus outbreak in and around New York City has seen our team quickly ramp up the effort. On the apartment rental front, for instance, from client registration to lease signing, our procedure will offer clients an experience comparable to in-person showings while affording them the luxury of seeing their selection of homes on their mobile or desktop devices, remotely and in the safety of their own environments. In a city of renters, we believe this digital procedure is going to be extremely valuable to everyone involved.”
Over to You
We know times are tough out there, but this is NOT the time to be a secret agent. Instead, why not join the conversation and tell us how you plan to use virtual tours in your real estate business in 2020 and beyond. Together, we CAN do this!