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Virtual home tours have quickly become one of the best tools in the luxury agent’s kit. With buyers viewing properties digitally before deciding to visit them in-person, virtual home tours provide an invaluable first touchpoint that can lead to a walkthrough—or a purchase.
Virtual tours generally encompass any agent-led walkthrough of the home that is either prerecorded or delivered live. In contrast to a virtual open house, virtual home tours are traditionally given to one client at a time when filmed live.
“I work with a videographer to create an initial virtual tour for the MLS, and I create the live video tours myself with a selfie stick,” says Sara Farsani, REALTOR® at Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty in Laguna Beach. “I speak to the camera as if I am speaking one-on-one with a guest touring the home. I try to be authentic and bring energy so the viewers are engaged.”
The good news for today’s agents is that many brands—Sotheby’s International Realty among them—already support their teams’ virtual efforts with tools and resources. Whichever your preferred approach—professional videography or live walkthroughs recorded with a mobile phone—avoid common missteps with these proven pointers from two agents who have mastered the art of the virtual tour.
Prerecorded virtual tours
“Virtual tours are useful for every listing—the more exposure you can give your listing the better,” says Farsani. “Clients appreciate the exposure and efforts.”
Some agents deploy them strategically based on the home they’re trying to sell. “I use virtual tours for listings that appeal to buyers out of the area—for example, pieds-à-terre or weekend homes,” says Daria Saraf, an agent with Sotheby’s International Realty in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Regardless, both agents agree that the prerecorded version of the virtual tour is an integral marketing tool, spotlighting features that will inspire buyers to make the trip in-person to visit the property. Farsani and Saraf offer three expert tips:
1. Don’t overshare
“Less can be more if your goal is to get someone to come to the house; not deceptive video, but curated video,” says Saraf. That means making incisive choices about what to include—and one feature you should never overlook are the views. “Don’t forget to focus on outlooks from various rooms in the house, as that is what many buyers will want to know before coming.”
2. Highlight the lifestyle
Create an inviting snapshot of a life lived luxuriously in the space. “I use stagers, or personally remove items from the space if the seller is still living in the house,” says Saraf. “Then I open doors and windows, arrange fresh flowers, and feature champagne pours to create a sense of freshness, celebration, and lifestyle.”
3. Sell the surroundings
“Typically, I start my virtual tour outside the home and introduce the home and the neighborhood—then I invite our virtual guests inside to explore the home with me,” says Farsani. “Knowledge is power, so you must know the home, the neighborhood, and the features in order to create an incredible virtual tour.”
Buyers not only want to know about the home, but the area. “I include B-roll of nearby nature spots like parks and beaches to suggest the lifestyle possibilities,” explains Saraf. “Try to highlight something fun from the neighborhood that will broaden the experience of the house.”
For virtual tours on the MLS, a drone shot is ideal for showing the property and the landscape around it—but as Saraf notes, “When filming live, I do my best with my phone.”
Real-time walkthroughs with buyers
In a recent real-time virtual tour, Saraf sold a San Francisco property to buyers based out of Brooklyn who had never been to see it in person. “I previewed homes for them and then did FaceTime calls to walk them through the top choices,” she recounts. “They got so comfortable with this system that after virtually touring about 10 homes with me, they purchased a gorgeous $2-million home.”
Saraf’s tours begin in the street, showing the façade of the home and others on the block, before moving inside for a thorough tour—opening kitchen drawers and cabinets, turning on faucets, looking out windows, and sitting in gardens or on decks to let buyers hear the volume of background noise.
If possible, Saraf also drives to nearby retail, commercial, or recreation hubs to help buyers appreciate their proximity. Here are four pieces of advice that she and Farsani adhere to for real-time tours:
1. Do a dress rehearsal
“I create a ‘script’ beforehand to assist me in memorizing the facts and features of the home as well as creating a guide on how I want to present the home, and in what order, from start to finish,” says Farsani. “To prepare for a virtual tour, I make sure that the home is decluttered and bright—blinds open, lights on.”
2. It doesn’t have to be live
Self-filmed virtual tours are often conducted with viewers on the line, but they certainly don’t have to be. “If my buyers are not available to FaceTime at that moment, I create a series of videos taking them through the house in the manner I described above,” says Saraf. “I text them the videos and then we discuss the house in the evening when they are done with work.”
3. Take special requests
No need to speculate about what your buyers want to see. “I ask the clients to send me a list of the home features that they would like me to include in my live virtual tours,” says Farsani. “This way, I do not miss anything that the client finds important in their home.”
4. No need to hurry
As you accept special requests from clients, be open to feedback as well—for instance, Saraf has learned that many buyers prefer for her to move through the property in a more slow, steady, and methodical way, even though it can feel less dynamic to the agent in front of the camera. “I have personally become a much better videographer through this process,” she laughs.
Virtual tours add incredible value for clients, and delivering them is a skill that will serve any luxury agent well. “Check out YouTube or Instagram for virtual tours and choose your favorites,” suggests Farsani. “Utilize those videos as a guide on how to create the best virtual tour. With so many strong examples available, there is no need to reinvent the wheel.”
About Sotheby’s International Realty
Sotheby’s International Realty was founded in 1976 as a real estate service for discerning clients of Sotheby’s auction house. Today, the company’s global footprint spans 1,000 offices located in 72 countries and territories worldwide, including 43 company-owned brokerage offices in key metropolitan and resort markets. In February 2004, Realogy entered into a long-term strategic alliance with Sotheby’s, the operator of the auction house. The agreement provided for the licensing of the Sotheby’s International Realty name and the development of a franchise system. The franchise system is comprised of an affiliate network, where each office is independently owned and operated. Sotheby’s International Realty supports its affiliates and agents with a host of operational, marketing, recruiting, educational and business development resources. Affiliates and agents also benefit from an association with the venerable Sotheby’s auction house, established in 1744. For more information, visit www.sothebysrealty.com.
The affiliate network is operated by Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC, and the company owned brokerages are operated by Sotheby’s International Realty, Inc. Both entities are subsidiaries of Realogy Holdings Corp. (NYSE: RLGY) a global leader in real estate franchising and provider of real estate brokerage, relocation and settlement services. Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC and Sotheby’s International Realty Inc., both fully support the principles of the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Opportunity Act.