Your customers could still be reluctant to leave their homes and view a property, it's time to consider how to make a virtual tour for real estate.

Across the UK and Europe, lockdowns are lifting and the markets are kicking back into life. But the prospect of going out to a property in person still doesn’t feel normal. Now that customers have acclimatised to many aspects of their life being available remotely and digitally; like their shopping, entertainment and profession; why should it be any different if they are looking to move or purchase a new place?

Customers are turning back to the property market and will be looking for remote viewing options for the foreseeable future. Virtual tours will offer safety, convenience and even affordability.

Step By Step Guide For Creating A Virtual Tour

For many estate agents, virtual tours will be a phrase they’ve heard thrown around. Some will already have experienced virtual tour softwares as a solution to bringing the feeling of any space to a customer's home or handset. But what many agents might not know, is that there are a few ways you can create virtual tours. We’ll cover the basic steps first before taking a deeper look at the specifics.

Before getting into the details, it’s important to note that when we talk about virtual tours the file type isn’t like a video or JPEG; it should be treated more as a miniature website that’s constructed by HTML. This means it's a flexible asset that can be hosted online creating a link and dropped into a website or any internet platform.

1. Choosing the Right Virtual Tour Equipment

Picking a camera that can capture in 3D and 360-degree is the first priority, it’s also important to pick a camera that can shoot inside and outside. However, as we’ll cover later this might be easier than you think; for example, with accompanying software, your mobile phone might cover all the bases you need.

A consideration for many virtual tour creators is whether to include the outside.

Although, if you’re going to be doing it regularly, it is best to buy a specialised camera to ensure you're showcasing your properties in all their glory.

As with any investment, it’s worthwhile doing your due diligence on the category, but a few of the key features to look out for when choosing a camera:

  • High resolution
  • Long battery life to avoid kinks in the process
  • Tripod connectivity
  • Simple to use

Alongside the camera, you’ll also need to choose the virtual tour software that works best for your business needs.

2. Plan, Plan, Plan

It’s absolutely crucial that you consider which rooms you want to include in the virtual tour, whilst more is usually better, there might be a valid reason why you would (or wouldn’t) want to include a garage or walk-in closet space.

Once you’ve identified the rooms you’ll be shooting, do a quick walkthrough to identify the placement for the camera. Most times, the ideal placement will be the center of the room, but the aim of this walkthrough is to check that you can see all the key features of the room from wherever you’ll be placing the camera.

3. Take Time Staging Every Room

The virtual tour is a tool that aims to generate revenue for your agency, and so, similar to the process for taking standard marketing photos of a property, each room needs care and attention to ensure it looks as close to perfect as possible.

Some tips to remember for this stage are:

  • Move anything that could block the camera’s view
  • Remove anything that might make the room seem messy or smaller than it is
  • Remove anything that could end up distracting the user from the property itself
  • Open curtains to create a sense of natural light

4. Take All the Photos You’d Planned

Once you’ve got each room set you can follow the plan you created earlier. Move from room to room placing the camera in the spot you’d previously identified. Do one final check to ensure you’re still happy with the shot before taking the picture.

Position the camera and capture everything needed for your virtual tour.

5. Create Your Virtual Tour

This is when everything really comes together. Using the virtual tour software that you identified in step 1, upload the images from the camera and begin stitching everything together. The details of the process will vary depending on the specific software.

It’s at the point that the process can become really difficult and time-consuming, which is one of the reasons many agencies opt for the automated virtual tour creation or use a service provider.

Detailed Comparison Of Options

Whilst the above covers the general process, there are many ways a business can create a virtual tour of a property. This can be done either by booking a professional, doing it yourself or through automated equipment. We’ve drawn from our experience in the industry and put together a guide of different ways to create virtual tours and the pros and cons of each method.

A Quick Guide To Each Method

Method Pros Cons
Hire a Virtual Tour Service + High Quality
+ Flexible Booking
- Expensive
- Less Control
- Limited during lockdown
Do it Yourself + Cheaper price - Quality Varies Depending On Tools
- Requires Expertise
- Time Consuming
Automated Virtual Tours +High Quality
+No Training Needed
- Bigger Initial Investment / Ongoing Cost Than DIY
- Available Features Depend On Solution

If you’re looking to try virtual tours, we have three suggestions that you can consider:

1. Hire a Virtual Tour Service

The Pros and Cons of this method
Virtual tour specialists are becoming widely available and the technology has advanced over the last decade. These are individual photographers or small organisations that you can place a call with and book to visit your property and capture the tour.

The cost of a virtual tour in a 2 bedroom apartment, can be as low as £150 across Europe but spool up to £250 for a better service. If you are looking for a tailored and premium quality virtual tour it will cost up to £1000. If you’re based in the US, any photography related service will be on average 3-5X more expensive than in Europe, with starting prices from £400 upwards.

The equipment that these services have to hand will vary, depending on the cost and the area you are booking in. The technology that’s readily available to these photographers is actually available off the shelf, so in theory you could run the process yourself (we’ll touch on those options shortly).

In Summary
This method of virtual tour capturing is for those estate agents who are looking to stay hands-off with the process. These specialists will visit the listing of your choice, capture and develop a tour and then send you the result. The downside to this method is not only the sheer expense, but also the time it will take. On average it will take 2 days to arrange a capture with a service provider and additional 2 days to get the result back.

2. Do It Yourself

The Pros and Cons of this method
Cameras and virtual tour softwares are needed here. Capture devices range in quality depending on your budget and the resolution of the virtual tour you want to achieve. A smartphone is a capture device that we all have in our pockets. Some of the recent smartphones have good camera technology so will be capable of a do it yourself virtual tour.

There are other capture devices available if you wanted to experiment beyond the quality of your smartphone. The Ricoh Theta 360 is a pocketable virtual tour camera that delivers the right functionality, but the quality is much lower than a high-end smartphone or DSLR. For higher resolution and better stability, you’ll need to look towards a high-end DSLR that can be mounted on a rig. These rigs allow freedom of movement but also an extremely smooth capturing experience.

Essentially, the quality of your virtual tour is dependent on the quality of the lens that is used to capture it. The low-end DIY options are viable for estate agents looking to test the virtual tour function. Using rigs and DSLRs will be too complicated and time consuming for an estate agency to use without expert advice and guidance. However, once you’ve mastered the skills, the benefits of this approach is the endless customisation that comes with it; within reason, you can do anything you can imagine.

For smartphones there’s an app called EyeSpy360 that is compatible with the capture technology in your handset, it enables you to build the virtual tour in your device. This app is available on the App Store or on Google Play so it’s compatible with all smartphones that have modern enough operating systems.

For more advanced software and to use the technology that professional services use, KRPano is an off the shelf option but it requires some familiarity with tech to use. Therefore, it can take time and effort to master but most people can if they’re willing to commit.

In Summary
Whilst this method is rich in technology and capture options, it can be a clunky route. These DIY methods can be extremely time consuming for people who are trained to sell property and may not have previous expertise of capturing, building and exporting virtual tours. After you’ve spent money on the equipment and invested time in perfecting the technique, you might have been better placed hiring somebody to deliver the service for you.

3. Automated Virtual Tours

The Pros and Cons of this method
This is by far the most efficient method of capturing virtual tours for real estate agents. With the automated route, the software does all the heavy lifting - the camera unit is a two in one. In this instance, the space technology and camera hardware are paired in perfect harmony. Even with the smartphone options and accompanying apps, the camera technology and software are separate but with automated options the software is dedicated to the capture process. When it comes to automated technologies, there are more or less two routes to go down.

The first, is the innovative service we provide at Giraffe360 and the second is a more complex to use product from Matterport. With Matterport, the camera is still predominantly used by the photographer; whilst Giraffe360 has taken away the hassle and made virtual tours accessible to anyone at the estate agency.

These services provide a much simpler plug-and-play solution. You simply need to place the camera in a room, push a button and the virtual tour is captured and exported for you. With automated technology like the Giraffe360 service, there’s no need for any interaction with file formatting or file transfers needed to create a virtual tour. The cameras here are designed to scan the room then automatically share a high-resolution result in the formats you desire. It’s as simple as taking the camera setup to the property and letting the automated technology do the rest.

Once captured on a Giraffe360 camera, the virtual tours are automatically stored on cloud servers and can be published easily to a range of platforms. They can either be directly added to a listing or onto a Facebook page or post.

As the industry looks to cater to customers viewing property remotely, virtual tours are increasingly becoming the most effective solution. Virtual tours were once a media tool that was a nice to have, now they are a business essential.

Advances in camera technology now allow virtual tours to become a huge part of the buying decision-making process.

In Summary
We’ve covered the three ways you can explore virtual tours. The do it yourself options are useful to test and iterate to see the benefits of virtual tours but the quality is all dependent on the standard of camera and software. They can be incredibly time consuming and expensive, and of course the quality of the output is wholly dictated by your proficiency with the tools. The flipside to that is once you get the hang of it the world’s your oyster. The virtual tour professional service is ultimately the most expensive option because you pay a premium rate for every listing but you will receive a professional output without investing much time and effort yourself. Similarly, automated virtual tours can be more expensive than the DIY route if you’re not creating them regularly, but quickly become the most cost-effective (and time-efficient!) method for creating at least 3 a month.

If you are relying on selling property with high-end visuals and an immersive experience then we hope we’ve helped you understand your options and come to a decision on the best one for you.