The French have a saying: The more things change, the more they stay the same.
In the pre-pandemic world, on-site property tours gave agents the chance to point out a property’s specific features and field client questions. If you focus on replicating that experience in your live virtual showings now, by the time a virtual tour is finished, your clients will have the answers to the 10 most-asked questions:
1. What is the neighborhood like?
Your virtual tour shouldn’t be their only source of information, of course. Buyers need to do their homework in advance via Google Earth or similar apps that allow them to toggle around the neighborhood from bird’s-eye and street-level views.
After “strolling” the neighborhood remotely, buyers can ask you to provide close-up views of neighboring homes and neighborhood features, take routes between points of interest, or focus on potential problem areas such as nearby commercial areas or street noise.
Clearly, it’s imperative to avoid answering any questions in a way that might be problematic from a fair housing standpoint. You can learn more about that here.
2. What does this specific property look and sound like from the street and as you walk toward the entry?
The condition of lawns, hardscape, trees and shrubs is hard to assess from online photos. So, be prepared to field questions and provide close-ups of these property features. Consider operating front door locks and opening doors, including the garage door, live so buyers can assess for themselves how well these features look and work. Also, be aware they will hear every ambient noise your video picks up. So, factor that into your camera use and voiceover comments.
3. How does the interior flow?
If possible, give your clients a floor plan of the property they will be touring virtually ahead of time and preferably on grid paper (even a rough drawing that’s not to scale is better than nothing).
Then, make sure you do an initial or final walk through that demonstrates the convenience of the entry (and where coats go), how the work triangle functions in the kitchen, how close the kitchen is to dining area(s), where the laundry is relative to the bedrooms and how accessible the bathrooms are to the rest of the home.
Even if your buyers don’t have a floor plan available to them in advance, they should be able to sketch one by the time their virtual tour ends because your tour will be just that good!
4. What are fittings and finishes?
Formica can look like granite and quartz like marble in listing photos. Laminate floors can photograph like hardwood. Low-end or dated appliances and plumbing fixtures can look better than they are online. A good virtual tour is “reality TV” at its finest provided you home in on the details.
5. Are the home’s systems (like HVAC) up to date or on their last legs?
A virtual tour allows you to offer close-up views of the furnace and A/C unit, the water heater, electrical panel and other systems so your buyers come away feeling they’ve done a thorough visual inspection themselves. Plus, future inspection reports that call for expensive system replacements won’t be as shocking.
6. How spacious do rooms feel?
Spaciousness is subjective. But, in general, the taller the buyers, the more head and elbow room they need to feel comfortable. So, even though the difference between 8- and 10-foot ceilings may not seem that notable in listing photos, it can feel that way in person. Agents can give a space human perspective by pulling out a tape measure or by standing next to a feature such as a fireplace whose dimensions clients can automatically visualize.
7. Will our furniture fit?
Buyers may ask for room measurements. But whether they say so or not, they specifically want to know whether their sofa, king-size bed or the baby grand piano will fit in any new property they’re considering buying. Provide any measurements they ask for live, on camera.
8. Are the bathrooms big enough to accommodate our family?
Agents can save themselves and their clients time if they find out in advance whether bathrooms have the potential to be deal-makers or deal breakers. A professional couple is apt to want double sinks and a large, updated shower in the master. A family is going to want more than one bath. Previewing and pre-screening before virtual tour day arrives is beneficial to everyone.
9. What’s the view like?
Curtains and blinds can simply be installed for decorative or privacy purposes. Or they may be hiding a neighbor’s recycling centeresque backyard. Nobody will wonder what’s behind that curtain if you push it aside and show your buyers what the window overlooks.
In a similar vein, any “view” described in the MLS listing deserves a good reality check. If you have to stand on the toilet lid to enjoy the view, that’s useful information for your buyers to have.
10. What does it smell like?
One person’s bouquet is another person’s stench. Scent is another judgment call, which makes previewing and pre-screening advisable — along with strongly encouraging in-person buyer (or surrogate) visits if there’s the slightest doubt. Our rule of thumb is simple: If the place smells like last night’s stew, it’s a go. If it smells like cat pee, it’s a no.
They key with all questions is to stick to the facts and try to give your buyers the best information without stepping over any ethical or legal lines.
Nicole Solari is owner and managing broker of The Solari Group in Solano and Napa Counties in Northern California. Nicole runs one of the highest producing brokerages in all of Northern California.