The BOOM of Virtual Open Houses amid COVID-19Community
Virtual tours and virtual open houses on social media are quickly becoming a popular option for buyers in place of the traditional open house – and offer an incredible opportunity that benefits the consumer. Mathew Luponi, Public Relations Specialist at Coldwell Banker.
Virtual open houses have come to support - if not replace - the regular open houses you have been promoting to sell properties. Throughout COVID-19, we have been extremely advised to avoid any unnecessary gathering, big or small. Here’s when a virtual open tour comes in hand to get the sale done without leaving your house.
What is a virtual tour?
A virtual tour is a collection of 360-degree photos that are interconnected between each other. They follow a sequence that guides the user through the property - from the entrance to the living room, with the possibility to go to the backyard or the master bedroom. Because you’ll get a 360-degree view of each room of the property, the users are able to have a full experience as if it was a real life interaction. They can go into every room in the property, go back and stare as many times to the floor or ceiling as they want.
Amid COVID-19, this seems to be a great alternative to open the doors for every listing without necessarily letting many people in. We do not know yet for how long we will have to keep social distancing for, but meanwhile, we can still help our clients find their perfect home and stay safe in the process.
Virtual tours or virtual open houses are already common among agents who specialize in relocation or vacation homes. This boom is not entirely new to the real estate industry. Virtual tours have been in the market for some years now, and we have no doubt that it is here to stay and become part of your everyday listing. But why? We will resume it like this: a virtual open house is the best alternative when you are seeking a quick, accessible and high quality solution to engage with your clients. And if you are looking for living proof, here’s a virtual open house created before the COVID-19 outbreak:
The main benefits of virtual tours
We can talk and talk about all the benefits of virtual tours, but we will sum up all the great features you can get from them in the next four benefits.
1. 24/7 from anywhere in the world, no matter the device you're on
Regular open houses are hosted at specific times on specific days. Take advantage of your remote capabilities, and share the tours to your clients whenever you want. Virtual tours are available at any time of the day and can be visited unlimited times from anywhere the client may be - couch or office desk.
2. Show your client the best fitting listings
Not every house is the right one for every buyer. The tour would allow you to filter out those buyers who would have visited the property otherwise and tell you “Not this one.” You would end up with an unhappy prospect and less time to review other potential properties. So, why not focus your efforts to give them all possible options and reduce the time for them - and you - to drive around?
3. Engage through immersive experiences
When you give your prospects the opportunity to preview the house through a virtual tour, you allow them to get a feel of how it would be like to be inside the property without actually being there. They would experience a smooth transition between the rooms and would have the ability to look exactly to what they want. They would picture where they can relocate their comfy sofa or how it would be like to cook while entertaining in the kitchen.
And finally, but extremely important now...
4. Get as many people in without worrying about social distancing or over crowded open houses
You won’t need to sit and wait for people to start showing up - late or in a rush - with a virtual open house. The more the listing is advertised through your Multiple Listings Services (MLS), emails or social media, the higher the probability to find the perfect match for the property. Providing this immersive experience to your clients and visitors, will ensure constant traffic to the tour without moving a finger.
Which are the downsides of virtual tours?
Of course, we have some downsides with a virtual tour. Here are 4 cons about having your open house moved to a virtual experience:
1. Virtual tours can be a new experience for some prospects
If you have a prospect that needs all their senses triggered with one visit, it may be hard at first to get used to this virtual experience. To add to this, not everybody has the same preferences nor is quickly able to adapt to such technologies. But think about when Google Street View was launched. Did everyone start using it on the first day? And are most people using it today?
Virtual tours, as any other technology, can be new to your clients, but as Google Street View and many others, it is just a matter of time and exposure. Making sure you are available to them or sharing a few instructions in the description of the tour, are great ways to make a seamless transition.
2. Virtual Tours could lead to many question
Just like a regular open house, home prospects will have many questions in regard to the house: when was it built, have the rooms been recently painted, how old is the carpet, and what is that stain in the corner, among many others. The setting will change, but you’ll be able to answer all of these by preparing a list of FAQ you can share beforehand with the client or by adding them to your tour description.
Another good idea for clients using virtual reality for the first time is to schedule a conference call and have them review the property with you. They will be able to navigate around while you can highlight some information necessary to make them feel comfortable and in control.
3. Virtual tours are a real estate investment
The final cost of having a virtual tour for your listings will highly correlate with your market. If you have a demanding clientele, you might want to hire a professional photographer to take the pictures for you. In contrast, you could invest in a tripod and high quality 360-degree camera. Good news is that there are many options to choose from, at different price ranges, and adjustable to your needs.
4. High quality virtual tours require extra time
To create an engaging virtual tour, you need 360-degree pictures and a software to put them together. However, if you want high immersive ones, you need to put extra effort. Virtual tours often have features like navigation hotspots - that will take you from one room to another, and media hotspots, for photos and video.Are you more interested in providing a great ambience? You can add background music or a playlist for your online visitors to enjoy while navigating the house.
All these features sound amazing, but they require time that you may or may not have at the moment. Some softwares, like DiveIn Studio, offer you Assisted Virtual Tours that only require you to upload 360-degree images. Once those pictures have been uploaded and any additional information you want to be displayed has been added, you will have your tour ready to share with the public within 48 business hours.
Could a virtual tour save your real estate spring market during COVID-19?
The entire world is being impacted by the outrageous coronavirus’ spread for the past weeks, and the real estate industry is no exception. Preventive actions, such as MLS removing the open house field to keep agents from scheduling any, have been implemented already. Many of us have been asked to work from the comfort of our home.
However, some agents are still hosting private showings to only high intent buyers. Agents who decide to still host open houses, are not necessarily doing open houses anymore. Some measures that have been taken include:
Agents have to limit the number of people that enter the house at once. The last official announcement advised we should avoid any gathering of more than 10 people for the next 15 days.
They must clean and disinfect before the next group is allowed to come in, which requires more effort and time from the agent. Unless, nobody touches anything in the house, which is hard not to do for home prospects.
Additionally, some people still need to move in and out of their current properties. For this reason, real estate agents have to find innovative ways to perform their job even during the pandemic. As a result, the National Association of REALTORS® has published a Guide for REALTORS® with updated directives from the WHO to allow real estate agents to take the appropriate precautions when interacting with potential buyers.
Some agents are being asked to remove the listings from their websites upon the homeowner request. Agents could possibly be exposed to people with coronavirus so homeowners and themselves are trying to step back until all gets better. Many prestigious brokerages, like RE/MAX Canada, are asking their agents to postpone open houses and are encouraging the use of technology. In addition, Compass, one of the top real estate brokerages in Los Angeles, has already advised its staff to set up virtual house tours.
What you need to create a virtual open house
In order to have a virtual open house, an agent needs: 1) 360-degree images and 2) Virtual tour software.
With these images and the software, you’ll be able to create your own virtual tour experience as customized as you want. And depending on your resources and the time you have to create it, you can find out the best combination that suits your need
1. 360° Images
First, the property photos must be 360 degree images, not panoramic pictures. To have a better understanding, here is an example of how a 360° image looks like.
These images can be taken with a 360-degree camera or by a professional photographer. If you are planning to have full control of the images and are looking for a long term solution, buying a 360° for your agency or yourself is a great way to start creating tours right away. In case you have allocated budget for a professional photographer, you can ask them to take them instead. Either way, it will depend on the time you have, as well as the investment you want to make.
Now that we are in context and we know how to get those amazing 360° images, let’s talk about the software.
2. Virtual Tour Software
There is a wide variety of softwares for virtual tour creation, with different features and for specific markets. Divein Studio, for example, has two options to create a virtual tour depending on your time and resources.
If you have multiple listings and are looking to get those tours ready to share in less than 2 days, you can use the Assisted Virtual Tour option. For an Assisted Virtual Tour, you only need to upload the 360° images and some instructions. A team of creators will review the images, define a path, add the navigation and any additional assets you share; all in less than 48 hours. Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? This option is a great tool if you are in a hurry, or if you need to focus on other tasks like following up with your clients or closing a settlement.
On the other hand, if you are looking to create a customized flow within the house and have the extra time, creating a virtual tour with a Do It Yourself Builder is the best option. A Virtual Tour Builder lets the agent add all the 360° images of the property and add connections or navigation hotspots between them. Additionally, the tour has a section to add the description of the property. For example, the address or location information and/or the contact information of the real estate agent in charge are great descriptions for a property.
As you get familiarized with the builder, you’ll be doing virtual tours easily and as you get more visitors, even optimizing your virtual tours to help them enjoy the experience. All of this without installing any software or calling an editor to make a change.
To summarize all of this, you can tell that if you have more time and resources, you can make your own tour with the images of a professional photographer. On the other hand, when you have a more restricted budget and are looking for a faster solution, an Assisted Virtual Tour with a 360 camera can get you up and showing in less time. At the end, it is up to you and your preferences how you choose to create the best virtual tour for your clients.
Let us help you with your first virtual tour
Creating a virtual tour is no rocket science, especially when the software is tailored to deliver the necessary feature in one click and without costing a small fortune. No matter the path you decide to take, here is what you should expect to get:
The experience should be simple yet informative to the online visitor. A great virtual tour will deliver clear navigation, the option to review different scenes with just one click, and the freedom for the user to decide where to go. Going from the kitchen to the room and then into the terrace, or any variation to this, is what a virtual open house does. It lets your visitors decide. Also, the tour should let them get more details or contact information about you in the description section, as well as allow them to share it with family members to get their comments. All of this will make the potential buyer of that property feel more engaged and confident to double check and compare between houses, before making the final decision.
And to make this happen, we at DiveIn Studio, have a Basic Plan with a free Assisted Virtual Tour to showcase one of those listings you know will be the perfect match for that special client. Just send us the 360° images, and let the Creation Team do the rest.
Oprah does not lie. If you want to incorporate virtual reality to your business, we want to hear from you! DiveIn Studio is here to help real estate agents and agencies to start creating virtual open houses today. Feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions. We will gladly assist you!