Recently, visual marketing has taken nearly every industry by storm. With photos and videos appearing on our mobile apps, news feeds, and websites, it’s no secret that interactive, visual content is on the rise everywhere — and the real estate world is no exception.
In 2016 alone, HGTV (a television channel known for its shows about home improvement and remodeling) reported seeing an immense rise in viewership. The Scripps Network, HGTV’s parent company, reported that HGTV’s revenue had grown 7% from the year before, indicating an increase in viewer interest in visual content regarding real estate and home ownership.
Our actual real life housing market, as it turns out, similarly echoes the turn towards visual content marketing. Despite the industry’s often archaic way of approaching home selling and buying, the advent of video and virtual tours has completely changed the way many agents now approach home presentation.
Rather than being limited solely to still photos of rooms and exteriors, listing agents are now able to give prospective buyers a realistic feel for the property on virtual walk-throughs. In a cyber tour, viewers are able to see firsthand the size of rooms in relation to one another and how it might feel to actually walk through the layout of the property — all from a quick browse on the Internet.
The Current State Of The Real Estate Virtual Tour
While the shaky, three-minute handheld phone or camera video still appears on a number of online listings, interactive online experiences have grown incredibly advanced in recent years. With the rapid proliferation of virtual staging softwares, there are now whole companies dedicated to creating virtual reality (VR) marketing campaigns for real estate properties. The rising popularity of virtual tour use in accommodation sales has led these teams to create VR experiences for all kinds of living spaces: apartments, college dorm rooms, and — of course — single family homes.
Although some have written off virtual tours as a fad, their increasingly widespread use among listing agents gives the impression that they might actually be here to stay. For Sarah Stovall, who ranks in the top 1% of North Atlanta listing agents for single family homes, virtual tours — and especially 3D virtual tours — are a huge advantage for sellers.
“People…have already been all over the Internet looking at pictures and virtual tours of the home…and the space that they do want to see,” Stovall shared. Since visuals are becoming so readily available, top listing agents value virtual tours more than ever in order to be able to compete with other online content.
When listing a house, Stovall and her team aim to include the maximum amount of pictures and video they’re able to upload for a property on the MLS. For higher-end homes in her market, Stovall makes the effort to include 3D tours — “and the 3D tours are a big deal,” she added.
Some advanced agents, including Stovall, have even begun moving towards drone tours to offer an overhead perspective of the property, which showcases highlights of the neighborhood that prospective buyers wouldn’t normally see.
“I like the drone tours and drone pictures so that people can get a perspective of where the house is in relation to the neighborhood amenities, [or] in relation to the schools. Where is it in relation to a major thoroughfare highway,” Stovall explained. “I’ve been using those in my listing shows [as well].”
Why Real Estate Virtual Tours Work So Well
The primary advantage of virtual tours, naturally, is that buyers are able to enter a much more interactive experience. Room proportions and room relations — such as where the bedroom sits in relation to the kitchen, for instance — become easier to imagine. While browsing in a 3D tour, buyers can better visualize themselves in the space in a major way.
Another aspect of adding video to online listings many wouldn’t think of, however, is how increased media propels the listing up to the top of the search engine. According to Stovall, that fact alone has drawn many more viewers to the site — reporting a 100-120% increase in online hits since adding video and 3D tours — and ultimately resulted more sales overall.
“I want to present myself [and my clients] in the best light I possibly can. And that’s having great pictures, video, drones, or picking pictures that capture attention right away. Putting the maximum pictures we can put in our MLS, so that we’re at the top of the searches,” she said. “More sales have been closed. And [we’ve gotten] more hits online. It’s all about making that listing look good.”
Yet one of the most important thing to keep in mind about uploading visual content is the quality of media being attached to the listing. Often, a listing agent will include no more than a short, low quality 3 minute video to the post — but content that like that doesn’t really help attract buyers’ attention, Stovall made clear.
When she includes 3D or drone tours, she actually outsources them to an outside company so that they’re better quality and that “they’re taken from a perspective that the buyers can see, versus me walking through a house with a 3-minute video from my phone. [With a phone video], the quality is not there; the lighting may not be good. The size of the rooms may not be as easily determined,” she explained. For her, adding high-quality video and visual media is a fantastic way of utilizing all of the Internet’s available resources in order to capture the attention of the average online browser.
“I think it’s very important that everybody starts their search online. Period,” she said. “When I upload my pictures into the MLS, [I] know based on statistics that the first five pictures are the most important of any listing. And if you don’t capture the buyer’s eye with the first five pictures, they’re going to move onto the next listing. So, [I’m] very methodical on how I lay out [my media].”
For Stovall and the large number of real estate agents moving towards virtual tours, the increased benefits of adding visual-based content has made the virtual tour more than just a momentary fad. The massive increase in site viewership, improved online listing aesthetic, and overall usefulness of the home virtual tour have all made it a huge advantage for tech-savvy listing agents — leaving those who haven’t caught onto the wave far, far behind.
Virtual tours sell houses for top real estate who know how to use them. And it looks like, at least for now, they’re here to stay.
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