The Internet continues to change how we do most things, and this is especially true for buying and selling homes. It may be difficult for some to imagine, but not too long ago homebuyers had to visit a home in person to get a real sense of what it had to offer.

Homebuyers of yesteryear didn’t have the luxury of sifting through countless, ideally filtered, listings from the comfort of their couch. But what about sellers? Has the Internet shifted power to homebuyers, such that fewer and fewer prospective buyers are attending vital, in-person open houses?

“I will tell you: sellers love virtual tours!” says Justin Havre, Team Leader of Justin Havre & Associates, Canada’s #1 RE/MAX Large Team. Justin’s award-winning team of agents consists of passionate adopters of innovation and technology, who were more than happy to provide encouragement to homeowners looking to sell.

Virtual tours do, however, come with a bit more front-end effort, but the benefits make them well-worth the investment and commitment. In the past, sellers tended to focus their efforts on ensuring the home was up-to-date and on-trend. They spent little to no time concerned with the weather and indoor lighting needed for a professional home photo shoot.

Though homesellers have always understood the importance of their homes showing well (primarily during open houses), how a home “shows” is what is changing for the better. Homes now need to show well virtually in order to get noticed online and rise above the competition. In tandem with an ample set of professionally shot photos, virtual tours are a game changer.

While traditional open houses are still important and shouldn’t be skipped, virtual tours have become critical to today’s homebuying experience. This article explores why virtual home tours are so important to 21st-century homebuying, and to homesellers, as well.

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What is a Virtual Tour?

For the scope of this article, we define a virtual tour loosely as a broad and evolving concept of showcasing your home digitally. By today’s real estate practices, a virtual tour typically implies that a property has one or all of the following listing features:

  • A well-crafted video that simulates a thorough walk-through of a property
  • An interactive 3D model that incorporates high-res images and information into a connected experience controlled by the viewer
  • A guided, interactive remote viewing (AKA virtual showing) of a property hosted by an agent
Matterport Dollhouse View of 3D House Model

Sample “dollhouse” view of a 3D house model. Image courtesy of Matterport.

However, we also believe that a comprehensive photo gallery, logically organized, can also serve the purpose of a virtual tour. Keep in mind, though, that an increasing number of homebuyers are expecting all of these virtual tour options before deciding to visit a property in person. This includes incorporating highly detailed information and floorplans, as well as having “Instagrammable” photos.

In short, we recommend that homeseller treat their entire respective listings as “comprehensive virtual tour packages”, and that they stay abreast of best practices used in effective listings. A good rule of thumb is to include what you would expect to see as a homebuyer, while emphasizing the unique strengths of your property and nearby neighborhood.

Drone Aerial View of Large Brick Home

 

Virtual Tour Stats & Trends

  • Listings with virtual tours receive 87% more views than home listings without tours (Source: Realtor.com)
  • 54% of buyers skip over listings of properties that don’t include virtual tours (Realtor.com)
  • 61% of buyers said they wished more listings included 3D tours (Zillow)
  • 46% of millennial buyers said they would be confident making an offer on a home they toured virtually (Zillow Consumer Housing Trends Report 2021)
  • 60% of sellers say that including a virtual tour in their home listing is very or extremely important (Zillow)
  • Only 17% of sellers say that a virtual tour is “not very” or “not at all” important (Zillow)
  • Listings with a Zillow 3D Home tour got, on average, 68% more views on Zillow than listings without (Zillow usage analytics April 2022 – June 2022)
  • Listings with a video tour get 4 times more inquiries than listings without video (HomeJab)
  • 73% of people say they’re more likely to hire an agent who uses real estate video (HomeJab)
  • 76% of sellers say that including a floor plan in their home listing was a highly important listing characteristic (Zillow)
  • 75% of home buyers consider a virtual tour to be a significant factor in their decision (Planet Home Lending)

 

Virtual Homebuying & Selling

In the past, buyers interested in a home would have to physically visit the property to get a sense of the size, layout and other attributes. This meant buyers had to schedule time off work, arrange for child care, and make other arrangements to visit homes during open houses and other windows of opportunities.

The hustle and bustle of traditional weekend open homes is not a pleasant experience, as properties are usually crowded with “looky-loos” and other potential buyers, all of whom are typically distracting. Your comments on the property and your ideas for upgrades, need to be sotto voce or expressed with subtle glances between you and your spouse.

What has been inconvenient for homebuyers has been inconvenient for homesellers, as well. Living in a home for sale can be a prolonged hassle, as you need to keep your property in a persistent state of being able to “show well” at a moment’s notice.

For homebuyers who were relocating, shopping for homes was doubly difficult. They had the choice of either buying the home sight unseen – with the insight provided by a simple listing flyer or pamphlet, perhaps – or planning a costly and time-consuming trip to tour homes for sale.

Changing your ideal home’s attributes, such as square footage or number of bathrooms, is easier with virtual homebuying. With the click of a filter, you can add, subtract or modify your “must haves” without feeling as if you have wasted gas and time by physically visiting properties that were poor matches.

With virtual tours, buyers can now view a property from the comfort of their own homes on-demand. This is a huge advantage for buyers, as they can view homes at any time that is convenient for them. Virtual tours allow buyers to view a larger inventory of homes in a single day, which is impossible with traditional open houses.

Today’s best-in-class virtual home tours that are professionally produced and feature-laden (e.g. seamless video footage of an exterior-to-interior-to-exterior visit; integrated music; interactive 3D Matterport models; complementary done video footage; etc.) can outperform a traditional open house, no matter how well-staged a property may be.

We state this opinion on the belief that high-quality virtual tours can deliver the following invaluable benefits to homesellers:

  • They can reach more prospective buyers in a shorter amount of time with 24/7 “always-ready-to-show” availability
  • They can enable prospective buyers to “visit” and “revisit” virtually 100% of a property easily and conveniently
  • They offer a 1-on-1 experience without distractions that showcase a property in an ideal context
  • They allow you to discuss the property, openly and freely, as you browse without fear of offending anyone nearby

 

If It Benefits Buyers, It Benefits Sellers

While virtual tours are highly beneficial for buyers, they also offer tremendous advantages for sellers.

For example, sellers can use virtual tours to reach a wider audience of potential buyers. Justin Havre & Associates have found that virtual tours are especially beneficial in reaching people relocating to Calgary who can’t view a home in person. According to Havre, an increasing number of homebuyers from outside Alberta choose to buy virtually, so virtual tours are critical to broadening a listing’s reach.

Here is an example Calgary listing that includes both a recorded video tour, as well as a 3D 360 Degree interactive tour:

Video Tour of 1020 Premier Way, SW. Calgary

1020 Premier Way, SW. Calgary

Corresponding 3D 360 Degree Interactive Tour

Additionally, virtual tours allow sellers to show their homes in the best possible light by professionally highlighting the property’s best features.

For example, sellers are often encouraged to make several different home improvements before listing, but home improvements can be costly. The necessity of updating your kitchen is clear, but you decide that re-landscaping is cost-prohibitive. With a virtual tour, you can highlight the updated kitchen and focus the exterior’s highlights on the home rather than the surrounding landscaping.

Sellers are not inconvenienced when a realtor has a prospective buyer who must see the property at a specific time or day. Most importantly, virtual tours are safe, in that they reduce the number of strangers traipsing through your home at any given time during the selling period.


 

From Virtual Tour to Bidding War

As the underlying technology evolves and improves, the adoption and popularity of virtual tours will rise in parallel. In the near future, we expect to see even more immersive and realistic virtual tours that give buyers a better sense of a property and its potential.

Evolving augmented and virtual reality technologies will further drive the advancement of virtual tours, helping buyers to make more informed decisions, without wasting time, money and fuel traveling unnecessarily to see “maybe” properties.

Virtual tours are already changing the homebuying experience, and they will have an even more significant impact in the future. While virtual tours have empowered homebuyers, they have presented homesellers with the means to reach anyone in the world with their home listings.

This means more eyes on your home, less time on the market on average, and increased sale prices.

If you’re interested in buying a home, be sure to stress to your real estate agent the high importance of seeing listings with virtual tours. The process of virtually seeing a large numbers of properties will make you a more informed buyer and will help your agent better understand your needs.

If you’re getting ready to sell your home, definitely take advantage of the persuasive power of video tours and interactive 3D models, plus the increased sales reach – infinitely larger than in-person tours! An experienced real estate agent with a proven record of leveraging virtual tour technology can walk you through your options.


 

Example Virtual Tours

Video Virtual Tour from Justin Havre & Associates

12 Wycliffe Mews. Rural Rocky View County

 

3D 360 Degree Interactive Matterport Tour from Justin Havre & Associates

 

Video Tour Example from HomeJab

 

Example Drone Video Tour from HomeJab

 

Example Neighborhood Video Tour from HomeJab

 

Additional Virtual Tour Galleries


 

Virtual Tour Resources

 

More Recommended Real Estate Reading

 

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