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Virtual house tours: are you ahead of the game?

5-minute read

Virtual house tours: are you ahead of the game?
Jessie Day

Jessie Day

4 June 2020

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Virtual viewing has been a key business tactic during the coronavirus lockdown, for all sorts of industries and customer groups. As a landlord looking to rent out or sell your property, could virtual house tours help you kickstart the process?

Property portal OnTheMarket has recently launched a first-of-its-kind virtual viewing tool on its site, allowing people to filter their searches based on virtual tour availability, including 3D and video tour options. This is in reaction to a surge in demand from prospective buyers and tenants – they might not be able (or want) to make a physical visit right now, but are still keen to view.

  • How will the buy-to-let market work after lockdown?
  • The government reopens the property market with new guidelines for landlords and tenants
  • As demand for rental properties increases, what’s next for landlords?
  • Coronavirus support for landlords

Property magazine The Negotiator ran a quote this week from OnTheMarket’s Commercial Director, Helen Whiteley, revealing the site’s findings that ‘users who engaged with a video were over 200 per cent more likely to send an enquiry’.

It sounds like a useful tactic, but how easy is it to put into practice? Our guide to virtual viewing covers everything from virtual house tours and how to run them to setting up virtual property viewings with your agent or listings portal/website.

What are virtual house tours?

They're property viewings without setting foot inside the property. Virtual viewings and virtual house tours let users take a 'walk' through a property, looking inside each room (often from different angles). They usually work a lot like Google’s Street View, but can also be a recorded ‘fixed’ video, or a full 360-degree viewing experience.

The level of sophistication depends on your budget, and technology set-up (or your agent/listing website).

How do virtual house tours work?

What’s available will depend on your estate agent or website. Here are the most common property virtual tours, and how they work:

3D virtual house tours (and self-guided or 360 virtual property tours)

Again, this works a lot like Google Street View. A 3D self-guided house tour will often start from a bird’s eye view plan, zoom in and let you navigate the layout with your mouse or trackpad. The Zoopla example we looked at even lets you take your own measurements.

Video

This is what it says on the tin – it's where you or an agent walk around the property and record a video. Not as easy during lockdown, and sometimes lacking in high-tech functionality, it's a lower-cost option if the property is vacant or all parties are able to observe social distancing measures.

If you’re doing this yourself, lots of agents will let you submit your video for editing, before they make it available to viewers.

Virtual appointments

This works in much the same way as usual, with a booking system and calendar appointment slots. You or your agent will connect online with the prospective buyer or tenant, and show them around the property, talking through any questions and giving lots of detail.

Zoom is a good tool for this, but lots of other video call options work too.

Ask your agent about online viewings

You’ll need to check in with your agent, and different companies will require different things from their selling/renting landlord customers. Here are a few key questions to ask them, if you’re keen to make use of property video tours:

  • do you offer virtual property tours?
  • what tools do you use (are they 360 virtual property tours, for example, or do I need to send in a video)?
  • what do you need from me, to increase property viewings?
  • how should I prepare my property for a virtual viewing?
  • do virtual house tours come with an increased fee?
  • what happens after a virtual tour is uploaded or conducted?
  • can I access any viewing figures/data?
  • are prospective tenants/buyers able to give feedback?

How to conduct a virtual house viewing

If you're doing it yourself or you're not sure how to carry out a house viewing online, here are the basic jobs to do first:

Set up with Zoom (or something similar)

Zoom is famed for its virtual meeting features, but works brilliantly for things like virtual property tours, too. You can give multiple people access (so the prospective tenant or buyer, landlord (or seller) and agent can all be on the tour together), and answer any questions then and there.

Other good options are WhatsApp, which lets you share a video easily, and Instagram or Facebook Live – familiar with millions of people, but you’ll need to ensure good privacy settings are in place.

Decide on a time and date

This is just the same as a regular in-person viewing, but you may get more flexibility as you won’t all need to be there in-person, and evening or early morning tours, for example, might be an option.

Will you do a commentary?

You’ll need to decide this ahead of time. Once on the Zoom (or similar) call, who’ll be directing the show and talking the viewer through your property? Decide this in advance, go at your prospective buyer or tenant’s pace and leave lots of room for questions, feedback and next steps.

Do I need a professional (or can I run it myself)?

This is up to you. Read through the guidance we’ve set out in this article and weigh up the benefits of sorting a viewing out yourself against having a professional take care of everything for you. If you’re registered with an agent anyway, they may offer virtual viewing options as standard.

Making virtual house tours work (our top tips)

Virtual house viewings are similar to regular property viewings, when it comes to preparing your house or flat and making it as appealing as possible. The difference is, you might not be there to make any quick adjustments, or show the best assets and features off up-close. To get ahead of these niggles, here are our top tips:

  • get rid of the clutter (invest in storage and show off your space. It’s hard to see past the clutter when you’re viewing online)
  • do a deep clean (dirt picks up on camera, thanks to different lighting, so make sure your property is spick and span before you expose it)
  • go for quality (if you or your agent are running the show on an iPhone, for example, make sure you’re using high-quality video)
  • let the light in (lighting is very important, and you can help things along by opening windows, curtains and doors to throw light on as many spaces as possible)
  • leave time for questions and feedback (it’s important to treat this as a serious viewing, ensuring the viewer has everything they need to make a decision)
  • plan your route (a calmly-paced walk-through will give the right impression, so decide in advance how you’ll walk through the property and avoid doubling back)

From cultural institutions and outdoor beauty spots to the properties on the rental and seller’s market, virtual viewings (particularly virtual house tours) are popular with the UK’s still largely housebound public.

Have you used virtual viewing yet? What do you think of it (and will you continue when restrictions are lifted?) Let us know in the comments.

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