The Value of Virtual Tours

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When I developed my marketing plan at Help-U-Sell Harbinger Realty, I tried to think like a seller.  “What would I want from a real estate broker if I were to sell my home, knowing what I know?”  was the question I asked myself.  Along with that agent having credibility, being full time, successful, honest and reliable, I would want them to market my home professionally. 

As I made the “marketing” list of “must haves”, a Virtual Tour was at the top. A virtual tour, quite simply, is a series of photos stitched together to give a wide, or a 360 degree perspective of a room or exterior.  It is NOT a one-frame still shot with music in the background.  Why would a seller want a virtual tour to promote their home?   Because it has been proven that if your home has multiple photos and a virtual tour, it is up to 500% more likely to be viewed by the consumer. That’s huge. Additionally, I have learned after working with many buyers that they love to go home after the open house or showing, find the property online, and share the emailable virtual tour with their friends and family. This further mentally commits the buyer to your home.  

Though I provide a virtual tour with voice over narration for 100% of my clients, I am stunned how few local agents provide this service to their sellers on a consistent basis. Nationally, I believe that 8% is the correct percentage of listed homes which have a virtual tour.  This is amazing.  As of this morning, in Hamilton Township, NJ, virtual tours are provided on 19% of all properties listed between $200,000-$299,900 and only 29% of all homes listed between $300,000 and $399,900.   Our “new” MLS system, Trend, makes it easy for us to now identify which homes have a tour, with a little video camera icon next to the property address.  You can come to your own conclusions as to why 10% more homes would have a tour in a higher price range. 

Why would a professional real estate agent NOT provide a virtual tour as a standard marketing service as they would provide a for sale sign, or say property flyers? 

  1. Cost.  Some virtual tours cost as much as $125 each.
  2. Time. Some real estate companies require their agents be present at the photo shoot.
  3. No system. Once a tour is shot, it must be uploaded to the broker’s website, the MLS, and Realtor.com. It just doesn’t appear there magically. So the agent must have a system in place to make sure that when busy, their administrative assistant has made sure the tour is uploaded to these sites. 
  4. Laziness.  See #2.

As virtual tours evolve, one day soon they will be replaced with video tours, with brilliant digital photography broadcasting the home and the seller’s personal story onto your home, office or handheld computer. Until then, we must make due with what technology and cost effectiveness allows us — which is much better than having one photo to promote the home.

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2 Responses to The Value of Virtual Tours

  1. Tom says:

    Video is not the future – it’s here now. Heard this the other day on NPR: http://www.wbur.org/news/2007/65258_20070312.asp

  2. Mike Elliott says:

    Tom:

    Thanks for your link. At the Help-U-Sell manager’s conference in Scottsdale last fall, Brad Inman was a guest speaker and he made a presentation about video in real estate. The presentation blew me away, with sellers being interviewed about their home, and providing a “walking tour”. Personally I love video, and can’t wait for it to be more readily acccessible and affordable. For all the reasons listed above (cost, time spent, another task to complete for the listing agent) I dont see agents jumping on this bandwagon very soon. Only 20% +/- of all agent slocally provide a $70 virtual tour, and I can’t see them making the jump to a $400-$500 video tour.

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