Virtual home tours have become a hot topic in real estate lately due to the stay-at-home orders stemming from the Covid-19 Coronavirus Pandemic.We believe that virtual tours of homes are going to continue to be a hot topic in real estate for the foreseeable future. Not only will the Virtual Home Tours remain relevant now due to social distancing, but the benefits of evaluating properties from the comfort of your own home will continue to be valuable as we move into the future. The most important thing you need to know is that not all virtual tours are created equal. In fact, this term has been used loosely for years in the real estate industry. For the purpose of this guide, we’re going to talk about a virtual tour led by your real estate agent, as we believe that this is the most thorough way to evaluate a home. However, before we begin, let’s look at the other types of “tours” available so that you understand the difference.
Slideshow of photos (usually set to music)
You may have heard a real estate agent refer to this as a virtual tour.However, this is not a “tour” of the home at all.Usually the photos are the same ones used to market the home in the MLS and on-line.This might be better described as a Visual Tour of the home.With 1-click a consumer can see all of the photos of the home visually as they scroll across the screen. Most home buyers would not consider this to be a “tour” of the house.
Video walk through (may be recorded on a cell phone or could be professionally done)
A real estate agent may also consider having an actual video made of a property.This could be done by the agent on their cell phone, or it could be done by a professional video/photographer.It may or may not have music or voice-over information.It may or may not include drone video footage.Think of this more like a commercial for the house.A home buyer should be able to get a good feel for the layout/floorplan of the house, however you do not have the ability to control the view of the rooms like you can through a dollhouse/Matterport tour.Many home buyers say that this does help them visualize more information about the house, and they believe this is a great tool to help them prepare for viewing a home in person.
360-degree photo tour– (3-D tour or Matterport tour)
This is actually a great tool that some real estate professionals use to provide a better feeling for the floor plan.When the photographer takes the photos they actually create a 3-D model of the floorplan and as a consumer you have the ability to click through the home to view various rooms.As you are moving through the rooms online, you have the ability to look up or down. You get a full 360-degree view of the home.This provides more of an immersive look at the house. Home buyers are able to piece together the floor plan and how the rooms are laid out.Most home buyers say that this does help them visualize more information about the house, and they believe this is a great tool to help them prepare for viewing a home in person.
Virtual Home Tour (interactive video tour of a home with your agent)
This would be your best option for getting a realistic Virtual Home Tour at this time.
It’s best to think about virtual home tours in the same way you think about viewing a home in person. When touring a home in person, you normally set time aside to go out with your agent – you will want to do the same thing in a Virtual Home Tour. Our goal is to create an experience that is as close to an in-person showing as possible when touring homes over video.
At the specified time, your agent will arrive at the house and begin a video conference with you.Once you are all present on the video call, the agent can begin to show you the home.You may want to view the front exterior (including the neighboring homes, the view of the street). As you enter the home you will be able to ask questions and have a conversation with your agent about the things you see.If you want to look inside of a closet, your agent can do that.If you have a question about the layout, your agent can help explain more details as they walk through the home.This is THE BEST way for a home buyer to virtually tour the home they are considering purchasing.
Our agents have the ability to help you take a virtual home tour. Call 469-759-3899 to learn more or schedule an appointment.
Now that you know the differences in viewing properties “virtually”, let’s see if this might be a good fit for you.Please know that starting your Virtual Home Tour doesn’t begin at the time of the showing.If you are going to shop for homes virtually – you will want to start at the beginning:
How do I get started? Deciding to view homes virtually.
You are ready to buy a home, but are not able to view them in person.This could be because you are moving across the country, or it could be due to our current Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic.When you come across a home you think might be a fit, you ask your REALTOR to show you homes virtually.In order for you to take full advantage of virtual showings in your decision making process, both you and your agent will need to go through the following steps.
1. Get pre-approved
Regardless of how you intend to tour homes, this is always our starting point.Most home buyers think that the process will be time-consuming, or that they are not prepared to take this step.However, this step is of utmost importance.In a matter of minutes, you can complete a pre-approval process with a lender.This will give you peace of mind that the homes you are considering meet your budget.
2. Determine your search criteria – and understand the “why” behind it
You will want to decide which items are most important to you in your next home, but more importantly, WHY are they important.Ideally, you want to have a list of 3-5 “must-haves,” or things that you cannot live without. The key to narrowing down what’s most important starts with your motivation. Ask yourself, why are you moving in the first place? What will buying a new home help you to achieve? When you connect your criteria to something that powerful, you will be surprised how quickly you find clarity.
Your agent will be a valuable resource in this stage. Their role here is to confirm your criteria, ensuring that together you are digging down to what matters most to you. They are the sounding board for your home search ideas and will be there to tell you if the ideal home you are imagining is realistic given the area you are looking in.
Regardless of whether you will viewing homes in person or via video, this step sets the stage for the rest of your home buying process.
3. Select your favorites
When viewing homes online before your tour of homes, you will want to be hyper-realistic about whether or not the homes you are saving on-line as your favorites are actually a good fit. For example, if one of the top items in your search criteria is a large back yard for your dog, but you find a listing on-line that has a fabulous media room and the most gorgeous finishes, yet the home doesn’t have much of a yard, you need to stop and review your criteria.Ask yourself, “Is what has drawn me to this home more important than the criteria I’ve created?” You may also ask yourself, “Do I need to revisit my must-haves?” Of course, there is no right or wrong answer, but you want to think through the process.You should also discuss any changes to your wants/needs with your agent.
One thing we encourage our home buyers to do (when viewing homes in-person or virtually) is to only keep the top 2 homes in their sight.We do that by ranking homes as you view them.After seeing the first 2 homes, we determine which one would be the best fit if there were no other homes available.Then with each new home toured, we compare the newest home viewed with the current number 1 choice on the list.
4. Narrow your search – gather more facts
Once you have a few homes you really like on-line, it’s time for your agent to help you learn as much as possible about the homes. This could include viewing any other video or walk through tours provided.This should also include review of any disclosures, list of updates, or previous repair receipts that could be available. Your REALTOR may also contact the listing agent to ask any further questions before setting an appointment. If you have specific questions regarding the home, now is the time to bring those to your agent’s attention.
5. Schedule a live virtual tour
It’s best to think about virtual home tours in the same way you think about touring a home in person. You normally set time aside to go out with your agent, so it’s best to create an experience that is as close to this as possible when touring homes over video. The ultimate goal is to simulate viewing the home through your eyes. The most important result of virtual home tours is that you can see the property in a way that gives you confidence in making a decision, and being there live is a great way to ensure that.
Keep in mind that when you walk through a home in person, you instinctively take in the home through all of your senses. If the home features certain smells, you pick up on it immediately. If the floor dips in an area, you feel it. If there is a busy road nearby, you might hear noise in person. Knowing this upfront, and having an agent who understands this, is what separates great virtual home tours from bad ones. Your agent is truly your eyes, ears, nose, etc. This explains why those discussions your agent in advance are so important.It is critical for them to have a clear understanding of what you are looking for when you walk through a house.
6. Schedule a second showing if needed
After reviewing all of the information in advance, doing all of your due-diligence, and participating in the Virtual Home Tour with your REALTOR, you may still be unsure about making an offer.You should schedule a second showing with your agent to see the house.If you are able to attend in-person, this is the best option.However, if you are unable to attend in person for any reason, ask your agent to schedule another Virtual Home Tour.Many times, if all of the steps above have been done thoroughly, you won’t need to schedule a second showing.However, if there are any questions at all – it’s best for you to work with your agent to see the home again.Please know that seeing a home a second time is not an inconvenience at all….however, knowing that you missed out on a home you loved is heartbreaking.
Purchasing the home
Remember, when you are buying a home your REALTOR is there as a trusted resource for you.They are your advocate, and they are there to help you through the entire process.Not only can you view homes virtually, you can complete the contract paperwork remotely through electronic signatures, and many of the purchase documents can be emailed to you securely.However, we understand that viewing the home in person is an important step.Our goal is to provide you with all of the tools and options to help make your move go as smoothly as possible.
During these current times of uncertainty, and stay at home orders, you should consult with your agent or check your county's website to learn more about the shelter in place policy in your area. As we continue to navigate this “new normal” world we live in, you may see more mentions of virtual home tours ramping up, keep one thing in mind — they aren't created equal.
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Give our agents at a call at 469-759-3899 for a free and confidential discussion about real estate. We have been helping change lives, one home at a time, for 15 years.