In 2020, when most of the world goes digital, property managers will hardly impress prospective residents with standard images and written descriptions of their buildings. Given that 93% of buyers search and shop for homes online, virtual tours are what can help you win the battle for their attention and interest.
Virtual tours not only showcase an apartment building but also allow you to engage a broader audience with your listing in Google: It favors virtual images over digital ones, displaying them more often in search results. Therefore, apartment listings with virtual tours get 87% more views. Moreover, prospects are 130% more likely to book based on a virtual tour – providing a great opportunity for landlords to find new reliable tenants.
It’s all well and good, but how to make virtual tours for your real estate properties? What are the PropTech startups and tools that can help you create VR tours? In this guide, you’ll get those answers and more.
In real estate, virtual tours refer to simulations of existing locations, composed of multimedia elements such as videos and still images. They may also include effects like music, texts, and narration.
A virtual tour is also known as a 3D tour or a panoramic tour, reminding us of Street Views on Google Maps. It allows property managers to demonstrate for-sale or for-rent homes digitally so that buyers could see the inside of an apartment building online.
In other words, virtual tours help people experience your location remotely.
Here’s what it looks like at a website:
As a virtual tour creator, you can make it interactive (so that viewers could control what they see, with zooming and arrows) or non-interactive (so that viewers could see only what you show them).
To give you an idea of what a 360 virtual tour experience is like, here is a real-life example for a NYC luxury apartment from the Manhattan Real Estate for Sale YouTube channel:
As already mentioned in the intro, virtual tours are beneficial for property managers willing to engage more prospects and to boost their building visibility in search engines. Therefore, you get more exposure with less offline showings, attract a broader audience of international buyers, and filter out prospects who are not serious about buying or renting your home.
Nevertheless, the top five benefits of creating virtual tours for your properties are as follows:
1. They Are More Accurate than Photos
How often did it happen to you when buyers came to see an apartment and complained that it looked different from in photos? Yes, professional images are still essential to include in Google My Business listings, but virtual tours drive more interest because they are more accurate.
When looking at your apartment via virtual tours, buyers see it from different angles. Therefore, virtual tours complement your marketing efforts, building both awareness and trust in your product. While you cannot take a picture of every corner to satisfy viewers’ curiosity, 360 virtual tours do the job for you.
2. They are More Engaging than Photos
As has been said, websites and listings with virtual tours receive 87% more views from prospects than those without. For customers, they are more interactive and user-friendly, allowing them to explore your property the way they want.
Virtual tours are perfect for introverts who feel uncomfortable or even pressured when exploring a home with a property manager. Besides, virtual tours are more engaging for your prospective clients living in other cities or even countries: It makes sense that they can’t come to you anytime and ask for a real-life tour.
More than that, virtual tours in your business listings help your residential services stand out from other offers on the market.
3. Virtual Tours Minimize In-Person Showings
In 2020, when, “thanks” to COVID-19, both renters and property managers had to get familiar with the “social distancing” term, virtual tours become true saviors. They allow you to minimize in-person showings but continue staying the course during these uncertain times.
Spending less time on meeting prospective clients in real life, property managers become even more productive at work. Virtual tours in listings become your chance to focus on other aspects of your business and think of alternative marketing strategies for better results.
4. They Appeal to Larger Audience
Thanks to their interactive nature, virtual tours grab the attention of people faster than static images or lengthy descriptions. They create the illusion of presence and appeal to our social instinct, allowing viewers to respond in the interaction with visual images you give them.
And given that visual content is processed 60,000 times faster than text, such 360 virtual tours in real estate attract a broader audience, regardless of nationalities and native languages.
5. They Tell a Full Story
When you create a virtual tour to introduce properties, you highlight all the details: rooms and spaces in the building, the extra features and services, and any other aspect a buyer might want to know about it. You may add texts to it, tell a story of the building, consider different types of navigation, and inform a viewer about anything you believe is necessary.
All the above makes a virtual tour a multifunctional instrument for promoting real estate. It’s cost-effective and easy to create, and it helps you present properties in a more attractive and explorable manner.
So, you’ve decided to create a 360 virtual tour for your property like this example from Park Central Apartments in Utah.
With a few simple steps, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge to create engaging virtual tours for your lists. Here goes your step-by-step guide on become an expert virtual tour creator.
1. Choose a Tool to Help You Make a Virtual Tour
Given that virtual tours become more and more popular, we can find dozens of free tools for their creation and editing online. Some sellers and property managers film their tours right from their mobile devices, while others prefer the professional equipment.
So, first and foremost, decide on tools you’ll use to create and edit virtual tours. If you choose to film a tour via your mobile phone, you will still need a video editing tool to cut everything together. Or, you may want to download a specific video tour app with all the features and create a tour with its help.
2. Finish Staging Apartment or Property
For a virtual tour to be attractive and look authentic, you will need to use actual footage of your property, not its digital recreation. Viewers will want to explore any room and corner in your offered apartment, so make sure it’s finished and ready for shooting before you come to film it.
Two things to keep in mind when preparing a listing for a virtual tour are:
- Staging: Empty homes are a bit too blank of a canvas and may create unpleasant optical illusions for our eyes. Viewers want to imagine how they live in this apartment and how they could use its various spaces, so place some familiar objects and forms when staging your property.
- Lighting: Remember about lighting. A dim one makes your area look smaller and less inviting, so please stage consistent and bright lighting throughout the apartment.
3. Gather the Equipment Needed to Record the Tour
Depending on a virtual tour app you are using, you’ll need corresponding equipment for recording. Even if you decide to create a tour with your smartphone only, you will still need a tripod with a rotating head to make your video look as professional as possible.
So, consider the following equipment for creating 360 video tours for your properties:
- A smartphone (with or without a downloaded virtual tour app) or a 360-degree (or HDSLR) camera
- A tripod with a panoramic head
- A boom mic for lower quality smartphones
4. Go on Location and Shoot the Virtual Tour Footage
Before shooting, go to your location and plan your virtual tour. Test your camera to see how lighting changes and if the image resolution is OK. Also, test out different angles to see what places to choose for each shot. Consider viewpoints that “duplicate” a subjective, human perspective.
What does it mean? For your virtual tour to look great, shoot the locations people would choose in real life when visiting your property. For example, they would first stand on landings, overlooking other floors, or they would come to a window to see the outdoor view.
With a plan, it’s time to shoot the tour footage.
5. Use the Virtual Tour App to Edit and Create the Tour
Organize your video footage into a tour that you’ll add to your business listing. For that, use your chosen editing tool to include the following:
- The option to rotate images with a mouse and zoom in on specific details
- Ability to go back and freeze the frame
- Photos and floor plans
- Clickable spots
- Short descriptions (text or audio) to navigate viewers better
Also, make the virtual tour compatible with all devices (mobile and desktop) and screen sizes. And remember to optimize it so that it would have a high resolution yet load fast. In 2020, people have zero patience for slow techs, and they won’t spend time on a virtual tour with hitches and errors.
6. Upload the 360 Virtual Tour to Your Listing
Once the virtual tour is ready, it’s time to upload it to your business listing for a broader audience to see and get engaged with your offered living environment. The process of adding a tour to GMB listings is described in detail by Google Help. Just follow the guidelines and ensure that viewers can see your tour there.
Also, reference your virtual tour repeatedly to encourage views. Mention it in your property photos and room descriptions, share it on social media, add it to your website, etc. More than that, you can even create ad campaigns and target those looking for homes in your area. Make the most out of descriptions and calls to action so people would want to click and check your virtual tour.
Long story short, promote your tour as much as you can.
Another great resource to help your create 360 virtual tours for your listings is this video from Matt Easton’s popular YouTube channel:
This easy-to-use app is the choice of many real estate agents, property managers, designers, and engineers. Kuula allows you to build virtual tours via panoramas and virtual reality. Here you can add hotspots, floor plans & maps, and audio to your tours, as well as integrate them with social media. They offer a free trial, and their prices start from $12/month after that.
This one is a cloud-hosted virtual tour software for everyone. With Lapentor, you will create streams, panoramas, and VR of your living environment. They don’t offer a free trial but have a free version for you to try and decide if their features meet your needs. Prices start from $15/month, and you get an intuitive and fast tour creator for your property.
It’s a drag-and-drop video maker for creating virtual tours and slideshows. Animoto will be your choice if you need to design beautiful videos for marketing and sales. It’s web-based but also works on iPhone/iPad and Android. There’s no free version, but the developers offer a free trial, so you could decide if the features are OK for you. Prices start from $8/month.
It’s a virtual tour platform for both property managers and photographers, combining design and marketing tools to help you engage with prospective buyers and renters. The features include a 360-site stream, panoramas, and social media integration. With TourWizard, you can create floor plans & maps, hotspots, and add drag & drop options to your virtual tours.
Describing themselves as “the only 360 virtual tour platform for smartphones,” LiveTour will come in handy for everyone willing to showcase a space in virtual reality. With this app, you can create and edit panoramas, VR, hotspots, drag-and-drops, floor plans, and floor maps. They offer both free version and trial, and prices start from $5/month per user.
For businesses like real estate, virtual tours have become a time- and cost-saving instrument to retain the attention of prospective buyers and renters. As a responsible property manager, you can use this technology to generate meaningful interaction with customers in today’s era of social distancing and online communication.
Additional Resources for Property Managers & Landlords
Lesley Vos is a professional copywriter and guest contributor, currently blogging at Bid4Papers, a platform that helps students and authors with writing solutions. Specializing in data research, web text writing, and content promotion, she is in love with words, non-fiction literature, and jazz.