The killer question for estate agents in our remote working world.
If you’re reading this article, you’re likely in one of the three camps:
- One: you’ve heard about virtual tours getting more and more traction in the real estate world and you’re curious to learn more.
- Two: you’ve heard of virtual tours as a marketing gimmick but you’re starting to notice the new wave of appearances on real estate listings.
- Three: you’ve never heard of virtual tours – is that the virtual reality goggle thing?
Spoiler alert: it’s definitely not the goggle thing.
Whatever camp you’re in though, you’ve come to the right place. But if you want to learn specifically about what virtual tours are and get a deep dive on how they work, take a look at our article on the longevity of the virtual tour trend.
What we really want to unpick is the value behind virtual tours for estate agents. As the world moves deeper into remote and digital living – the appetite for remote property viewing grows. Are virtual tours a passing trend, or the no-brainer solution to increased revenue?
In the real estate market, virtual tours have taken slightly different forms, with various capture methods available. As a marketing executive or an agency owner looking to get greater exposure for your listings, virtual tours could be an excellent option if executed well. At the same time, more traditional marketing packages like photographs and written listing descriptions, or even simple homemade videos, continue to be prevalent.
What we can all be certain about is that everything is moving online and so are potential property buyers. The appeal of property listings now rests on how they can be showcased and explored online. Virtual tours are a great way of elevating any property's online profile and giving potential buyers a thorough look through the window from the comfort of their sofa.
How can a virtual tour help sell a property?
It’s the most important factor for real estate agents. Yes, looking jazzy can be good for a website and engaging to prospective buyers, but do they actually help sell property? Do they impact the bottom line of agencies?
If your estate agency is yet to try virtual tours, it’s likely you’ve passed them off as a marketing gimmick and perhaps an unnecessary cost when other marketing materials have been reliable in the past. But with constantly shifting lockdowns and greater reluctance from consumers to visit properties in person, virtual tours have gone from being a nice-to-have to an essential feature for driving sales and leads.
Virtual tours are impactful for a number of reasons. If captured in the right way with the right equipment, they are highly successful in converting a prospect.
Here are the core benefits of virtual tours and how they can drive revenue:
Enables Viewing Remotely:
Offering remote viewing is becoming an essential line of service in today's increasingly digital world. Remote viewings ensure your prospective buyers can view the entire property, not just a selection of rooms and angles dictated by a photographer. It’s vital that buyers get a sense that they can explore the full property with full control, much like they would in an in-person viewing. When remote viewing is combined with the thoroughness and quality of a virtual tour, customers feel confident to purchase listings without having to see the property in person. If your competitors are offering remote viewings and you aren’t, this can be a barrier to luring a prospective buyer, especially with caution around non-essential journeys continuing for the foreseeable future.
Saves Wasted Viewings:
Virtual tours also ensure your internal resource isn’t wasted on hosting hours of in-person viewings. Real estate agency teams spend much of their weekly schedule booking in and hosting in-person viewings that often lead nowhere. Travel is also a big time drain for agents, driving from viewing to viewing without any guarantee of a closed sale or even an interested lead.
A virtual tour ensures customers are receiving the same level of expertise and the same level of detail, without demanding the time of estate agents. This allows estate agents to focus on what drives revenue for the business, including following up on leads that have already completed a virtual tour and therefore warmed up to purchasing a property. If an agent is required to attend viewings, virtual tours encourage applicants to shortlist properties, which reduces agent trips to valuable journeys that are closer to sale.
Customers Have More Confidence:
With in-person viewings, there can be significant cost and time investment for potential customers. This can actually alter their impression of a new property. When in-person viewings were the norm, prospective buyers would sometimes need to travel across the country, or even across borders to scope out the property to their satisfaction. With virtual tours, prospective buyers can view property around their schedules and don’t need to invest money into travel to view a property. Enabling the buyer to view a property in a thorough and controllable fashion, as well as from the comfort of their home, gives them the trust and confidence to purchase. Consumers, across all industries, place a high value on being in control of their purchase decisions.
A fantastic benefit of virtual tours. This allows the prospective buyer to view the detail and depth of any property through every stage of the purchasing journey. With housing, unlike most purchases, prospective buyers usually visit a property only once or maybe twice. But for many people, this isn’t enough to nudge them over the line to purchase. With virtual tours, customers can revisit the property and every detail of every room, at any stage of the purchasing process.
Show the Family:
One of the barriers to driving revenue for real estate agencies is only getting buy in from one family member. Usually, one or two members of the family will come and view a property due to convenience and busy schedules. But for an individual to buy a property (which is usually a big life moment) they often need buy in or support from close loved ones, spouses or roommates. With virtual tours, the whole household can view a property at their convenience and play a part in the decision-making. This increases the chances of closing a deal earlier in the sales process.
The king of marketing is content. The best way to sell a house is to let it sell itself and virtual tours are a brilliant showcase of your best listings. If the virtual tours are top-drawer quality, any listing suddenly becomes a walking promotion online. Real estate agents invest thousands every year on promotional material and advertising campaigns. Virtual tours have the dual benefit of being a powerful tool to showcase a property whilst also being promotional and quantifiable advertising for your listings. All good marketing will drive revenue.
Cutting-Edge and Premium Tech:
To stand out in a techno-reluctant industry where processes can be slow, it’s important to stay up-to-date with the latest technology. Those real estate agencies which fail to evolve ultimately lose out to competition and lose out on revenue from prospective buyers. Virtual tours are cutting-edge tech but they definitely aren’t a passing phase. The current climate has driven their usage across the real estate sector, the agencies without virtual tours will soon be left behind. It’s simply become a must have. Remember when cars got electric windows? That was a vital innovation that we’ve never looked back on.
Accelerated Rental Agreements:
Rental agreements are usually quicker and have lower barriers to entry than purchasing a property. Students, young people or even families looking to move quickly can access a virtual tour to get a sense of any property in any location, speeding up an already fast-paced decision-making process. This enables more rental agreements to be processed and boosts an uptick in rental revenues.
What Do Agents And Data Say About Virtual Tour Success Rates?
As with all investments in business, it’s important that business owners can see the value and understand the return. Virtual tours are quantifiable in their success rate. That can either mean assessing feedback from clients and agencies using the feature, or harder numerical performance figures showing how well virtual tours are being implemented.
At Giraffe360, we’ve been pioneering the use of high-quality and cutting-edge virtual tours for some time. Our clients have provided feedback that supports virtual tour implementation:
RentLondonFlat.com - Renting Apartments to Overseas Students with Virtual Tours
- For EuGin Song, the CEO of RentLondonFlat.com, the challenge has always been lining up his key customer demographics, who are Chinese students, with listings in London. The demand for student accommodation is high but competitive. Getting listings to market is a challenge, so sealing rental agreements quickly and efficiently is paramount to success.
- Before implementing virtual tours, RentLondonFlat would close a sale by relying on standard marketing packages or even convincing China-based students to come and visit a property in person. This had an impact on revenue and meant the logistics of producing marketing packages or booking in-person viewings had an impact on EuGin’s ability to scale.
- “There are 200K students moving from China to London every year, and in almost every case they do not have the opportunity to visit the UK to choose their property in advance, so we have to do the deal online.” – EuGin Song. Virtual tours facilitate the online process for overseas renters, buyers and investors.
CBRE - Improving the Sales Cycle with Virtual Tours
- For CBRE, recognised as the number one real estate service firm worldwide, maintaining an efficient sales cycle is vital to their success. The sheer volume of properties being listed and buyers moving means that CBRE rely heavily on virtual tours to deliver quick and high quality access to their listings.
- For CBRE, virtual tours prove most valuable during the decision-making process, which, in turn, speeds up the sales cycle. Commercial Division clients need to review large real estate, like office listings. With virtual tours, CBRE clients can preview office locations remotely and managers can showcase office tours to their colleagues and teams. This means more team members can be engaged within the shortlisting process, without having to travel to the location. The greater the engagement and transparency in the process, the bigger the buy in from the full client team.
- “In CBRE Slovakia we use virtual viewings when working with local as well as international clients or big teams, helping them to shortlist properties faster and revisit them during the decision making process. Clients save time, make a quicker decision, have a more realistic workplace vision and are truly aware of what they are going to lease or buy. And concurrently we considerably improve our sales process efficiency” - Juraj Vika, CBRE.
How does Performance Data Support Virtual Tours?
- Unlike in-person viewings, virtual tours are quantifiable and measurable thanks to their digital nature. Virtual tours can be measured and optimised, as dwell times and completion rates can be taken into account. A virtual tour ensures agents can see which rooms prospective buyers are dwelling on, how long they are spending with the virtual tour and at which stage they ‘bounce out’.
- Real estate agents have reported figures in the range of a 30%-70% drop in wasted viewings (that was pre-lockdown). In a world where in-person meetings now have limitations, virtual tours feel like the most obvious alternative to an in-person viewing. Qualitative results have also been clear: applicants view more properties online, visit only properties that they are really interested in, and arrive at a deal faster when virtual tours are employed as a marketing strategy.
- 45% of ‘visitors’ use the virtual click option more than 30 times. This ultimately translates to more time spent on your property and more engaged viewings.
- When the virtual tour option is available for a property, our data shows that 60% of all users that enter the description page of a listing go on to open the virtual tour. This showcases not only the importance of this feature, but the ease with which you will be able to identify your most engaged leads.
- On average, when viewing a 2 bedroom apartment in a virtual tour, people spend 2 minutes and 10 seconds. Property photography gets 3 seconds’ attention and video 48 seconds. For the latest version of the Giraffe360 virtual tour, we are testing an AI-driven sales bot, which starts communication as soon as user attention has been piqued, and generates a lead card at the end of the virtual visit to be sent directly to the agent.
- According to a study by the American National Association of Realtors, only 14% of realtors used virtual tours to promote their properties, whereas 45% of buyers told researchers that they found “virtual tours to be really useful”.
In Summary: Should You Invest in Virtual Tours?
Is it possible to sell a property through a virtual tour? The answer is yes.
From the qualitative feedback of agents using the feature and performance data gathered from measuring virtual tours, it’s clear they are a powerful tool that have been strengthened by the remote working climate.
There are many benefits to implementing virtual tours; from saving time for customers and internal team members; preventing wasted viewings; appearing as a cutting-edge real estate agency and even as a boost to content marketing.
Virtual tours ensure customers and prospective buyers can view any listing at an extremely high quality, from anywhere in the world. This has a direct impact on the revenue generated by an agency.
- Sales cycles are hastened and streamlined because in-person viewings aren’t required.
- Properties are listed to market at a higher pace due to the ease and efficiency of capturing a virtual tour, versus traditional marketing packages like freelance photography.
- In an increasing global marketplace, overseas prospective buyers can easily view any property in comfort and with confidence. All key decision-makers can also be involved at an earlier stage of the sales process.
Real estate agents are now reaping the rewards of virtual tours.
With the property market pivoting to online experiences, virtual tours have really become a must-have feature. At Giraffe360, we offer a range of tools and additional features that can maximise the virtual tour. We ensure real estate agents not only offer the feature but also have capabilities to weave in customer service and live commentary with prospective buyers. As consumers become more expectant of remote viewings, the sophistication of Giraffe360 virtual tours will set any agency apart from the competition.