Virtual tours have been around for a few years now. They have taken off in some markets, most notably the US and it's becoming the norm in some markets, but here in the UK take-up has been much slower. However in part due to Covid this is now changing and more estate agents than ever are seeing the benefits of virtual tours. So why should your business be using them?
The most obvious reason to be using virtual tours is efficiency. Virtual tours save time and money, not just for your agency but for vendors and buyers too so everybody wins. This is reason enough to be using them anyway but there are more benefits besides, read on to find out more...
What is a Virtual Tour and which is best?
Before getting too far into the benefits, it's important to be clear about what a virtual tour is, and what it is not. There is a wide range of different offerings being described broadly as virtual tours by estate agents in the UK today. In simple terms it is any way of allowing people to view a property remotely online. However not all virtual tours are equal. The current offerings fall into the following categories:
Video Slideshow - This is a series of photos presented as a slide show and delivered as a video, often with some image effects and a sound track thrown in for good measure. While it does mean the slide show is automated so there is no need to press next/previous picture and it can be shared on video sites such as YouTube, it doesn't offer any more insight into the property than the 2D photos themselves on which it is based.
360 images - These images give the viewer the ability to look in all directions from a fixed position so they do show more detail than regular 2D photographs. Often though the quality of these images is not the best quality and while some sites do give the ability to link several 360 images together to view different rooms, navigation is often clunky and they don't allow the viewer to move around and look at spaces from where ever they want.
Video Call - This can be as simple as a FaceTime/WhatsApp call or similar. It relies on the vendor or tenant walking around a property showing buyers using a smart phone. While it can have it's uses in certain situations, the quality is generally poor and doesn't look professional and vendors don't enjoy doing it.
Video Showreel - Some videos are little better than the video call described above, however a well produced video does have a place and can draw viewers in so great for complementing a virtual tour. A professional video can certainly be a great introduction to a property but it will take a fixed route so doesn't give the viewer the ability to take the tour anywhere they want.
Virtual tour - A true virtual tour allows the viewer to see the property from many different positions and gives the best view of the property short of being there in person. The best solutions allow users to use VR glasses to give a truly immersive experience. In some cases they provide views of the property that even visiting the property in person cannot give, such as a dollhouse view or overhead floorpans. The industry leader at this time is Matterport. In addition to the above it also allows viewers to take guided tours and gives the ability the measure anything in the space. Others are playing catch up though, so the technology is sure to advance.
The Business Case for Estate Agents
An agent offering additional marketing support such as virtual tours today will stand out from the crowd helping to attract more listings which is a good thing. However the true value of virtual tours for agents is to save time and money.
How many times as an agent have you accompanied viewings with a potential buyer only to find the property is not right for them at all? By having a virtual tour available many can qualify themselves out of a property without taking up your time or that of the vendors. If they like what they see on the virtual tour they're sure to book an in person viewing meaning you spend your time with the buyers most likely to buy.
Why do Vendors and Landlords like Virtual Tours?
Vendors want to show off their property at its best but it can be hard to keep it looking clean and tidy all the time while still living there, and it's not always convenient to be available for those last minute viewings. It can be frustrating after making yourself available and getting the place ready for a viewing, for it to be obvious very quickly that the buyers are not interested, or worse still that they are time wasters just being nosey.
A virtual tour allows prospective buyers to not only see the place at its best, but at any time day or night. If they like what they see they'll usually want to visit in person meaning fewer in person viewings overall but those that do take place are with serious buyers with genuine interest. Those that don't like what they see can qualify themselves out at this stage and therefore not waste the vendors time.
For Landlords there is also the additional complexity of finding times that also suit an existing tenant at the end of tennacy. Often the landlord may need to wait until their property is empty before arranging viewings, thus making it more likely to have longer periods with the property being empty. A virtual tour not only means prospective tenants can view an 'empty' property at anytime, importantly they can do this before the previous tenant moves out so being ready in principle to move in much sooner.
Why do Buyers like Virtual Tours?
It's not only agents and vendors that don't want to waste their time, the same applies to buyers too. Virtual tours make is easy to view many properties quickly and at no cost to draw up your short list to visit in person.
This is especially useful when looking outside of your current area, common examples being:
Landlords investing in areas away from where they live.
People relocating to different parts of the country for work or perhaps retirement.
Those lucky enough to be looking for a holiday home.
The ease of using a virtual tour may mean buyers look in areas they hadn't previously consndered. Properties with virtual tours are more likely to be viewed early than those without and be first on the list for viewing in person and ultimately an offer.
In addition to providing a better and more convenient viewing experience, a good virtual tour has some other benefits.
Real floorplans give more accurate views of the rooms including furniture which give a better perspective of how the space can be used.
Some offerings include a Dollhouse view so viewers can see how rooms relate to each other over different floors. This can be especially useful if the buyer is thinking of renovations with the ability to see where supporting walls are or where services might need to run.
Measuring tools are available in some virtual tours, allowing the viewer to measure anything in the property with a good degree of accuracy. Answering questions such as will their bed fit in a room, or can I get my car in the garage.
While we still have to live with Covid, virtual tours make it safer for vendors, buyers and their families as well as agents and their staff. Any reduction in the need for in person viewings while still allowing transactions to take place and business to continue has to be a good thing for all those involved and the wider community.
Why is Reality360 different?
Reality360 offers a range of services which include virtual tours. We use the industry leading platform from Matterport which can be used in conjunction with other images and filming including aerial filming using drones to produce professional video introductions to properties all in a cost effete manor.