Virtual tours: Buyers want them, sellers expect them
The pandemic fueled demand for virtual and 3D tours, but even in a post-Covid world, interest in these rich media experiences remains high.
- Buyers and sellers alike have a strong preference for virtual tours on listings — and sellers are more likely to choose an agent who offers them.
- Many listing agents consider virtual tours a standard and necessary tool for marketing their clients’ homes.
- A range of virtual tour technology, from free DIY options to sophisticated cameras and services, enables agents to choose the tools that meet their needs.
Demand for virtual home tours surged when Covid-19 idled businesses and social distancing mandates kept people away from open houses. Now homebuyers and sellers have come to expect virtual tours as a necessary component of real estate listings.
"3D home virtual tours are definitely continuing to be popular post-Covid," said Matt Kreamer, spokesman for Zillow. The company's 2022 Consumer Housing Trends Report found that 61% of buyers wished 3D tours were available on more listings, a 15-point increase from their pre-Covid survey in 2019.
The tours give "people an understanding and sense of a home that's been impossible to get just by flipping through photos," Kreamer said, reflecting a new normal among home shoppers who are less dependent on open houses and more comfortable gathering information online.
From January-June 2022, Zillow listings with a virtual 3D tour got 78% more page views and 97% more saves than listings without, Zillow told Real Estate News. "That's among listings in the top 50 MSAs [metropolitan statistical areas] in the country," Kreamer said.
More than 60% of prospective buyers considered virtual tours to be the most helpful online information when looking for a home, Realtor.com reported in a 2020 survey.
Virtual tours are here to stay
Online tours that include panoramas, 3D models and floor plans answer the consumer's need for a comprehensive look at residential properties without physically being there.
"Virtual tours are an essential part of our real estate business," said Eric Boyenga, founding partner of Boyenga Real Estate Team, a Compass agency in Silicon Valley. "It is a standard practice to have virtual tours on all of our listings, typically a Matterport, as well as a video tour…. They help entice buyers to our listings; they also help decision makers who may not be able to access the home easily."
Andy Biggers, a Keller Williams agent with The Gaskins Team serving the Washington, D.C. area, said 3D tours have become standard for his listings as well. "We do a virtual tour of high resolution interior and exterior photos of most every home and condo we list."
Buyers are still visiting properties in person, but virtual tours can help them narrow their options. "Most buyers will click through some of the photos in the MLS, and a few motivated or interested ones click on to virtual tours and landing pages to see all the available media," said Biggers.
Sellers, too, increasingly expect their listings to include virtual tours. Zillow's 2022 trend report found that 70% of sellers are more likely to hire an agent who includes virtual tours and/or interactive floor plans in their services, and that number jumps to 75% for first-time sellers.
3D tech to meet every need
Depending on their goals and budget, agents can capture a virtual tour using simple smartphone applications, invest in special camera equipment and online production services, or hire professional photographers to do it all.
For the DIY agent, Zillow's free 3D Home app can be used with a smartphone or 360-degree camera to create virtual tours and interactive floor plans. The company announced in May that its 3D Home tours would be automatically shared to Redfin.
Many agents opt for professional services. "We usually use HomeVisit for the photography and Matterport 3D, and sometimes use their tour landing page and sometimes build our own to be able to add in links for the custom video and floor plans," said Biggers.
Matterport, one of the early innovators in spatial data, is the go-to option for many agents. But there are several competing products available with varying price points and features, including Asteroom, Immoviewer, EyeSpy360 and more.
With all these choices in 3D tour technology, the sky's the limit for agents looking for effective ways to market their listings — and new innovations are likely in the works. "No longer do you have to get in a car and drive around even for local context," said Travis Saxton, executive vice president for technology at T3 Sixty, the leading residential real estate consulting firm. (T3 Sixty founder Stefan Swanepoel also founded of Real Estate News.)
"In the near future, parks, buildings, amenities and everything can be rendered digitally to give the consumer a near-lifelike experience. We still see the consumer narrowing down to a much shorter list of one to three properties and that is unlikely to go away anytime soon, but times are certainly changing."