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.
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:
“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.”
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.”
“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.”
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:
“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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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