The pandemic has meant that it would be irresponsible (if not illegal) to hold an in-person open house. All the same, prospective buyers do need to see properties before they can decide to purchase. Luckily, you can keep your real estate business thriving simply by setting up a virtual open house.
What Is a Virtual Open House?
There’s nothing new about a virtual open house in real estate. Although the concept has become more popular during the COVID-19 outbreak, it has actually existed for years. A virtual open house allows people to visit a property no matter where they are in the country — or even the world. At a minimum, you just need a video chat tool, but if you use more advanced technology, you can see even better results.
How to Run a Successful Virtual House Tour
The first step is to learn how to hold a virtual open house tour. You’ll be much more successful if you put in some preparation than if you simply make a video of different areas of the property.
1. Invite Interested Buyers
Use your list of leads to determine which buyers and real estate agents may be interested in your property. Send them an email ahead of time to let them know you’ll be doing a virtual open house. It’s best if you notify everyone at least a few days in advance to ensure they’ll be able to make time in their schedule for the tour.
2. Announce Virtual House Tours on Social Media
You can also post your virtual house tours as videos on your social media channels. This will help more people become aware that you’re offering this service. Live videos are especially useful, as they mean that, in addition to viewing the house, users can ask questions in real time. In fact, it’s just like they’re walking around the house with you.
3. Prepare a Presentation
As well as live video footage of the house, you may like to create presentations. These can feature static photos and additional information about the property. Presentations are extra effective when you add some calming background music.
You can include your presentation at the end of a live video (if it’s quite short), upload it to your website, or send it via email to potential buyers. If you send it in an email, make sure you invite viewers to ask questions and provide them with a phone number in case they’d prefer to chat than write a message.
4. Take 3D Footage
An alternative to a video presentation is a 3D virtual open house. This adds another level to the tour, helping viewers feel as if they are actually visiting the home. Shooting 3D videos is now very easy and the technology is available to anyone. If you have a high-quality smartphone, you may already have the capability to take 3D videos. However, if you want ultra-high definition, you should consider purchasing additional accessories.
To make your 3D virtual open house more effective, add some interactive elements. For instance, allow users to navigate around the house and click to find out more about different features.
5. Infuse Your Personality into Your Tours
Anyone can film footage of a home; not just anyone can create a memorable, engaging tour. A virtual open house is your chance to further your brand image and leave a lasting impression in the minds of potential buyers.
For live tours, this means being prepared for any questions home buyers may ask — when you demonstrate that you’re knowledgeable about a property, you improve your credibility. Even if buyers decide the property is not their dream home, they’ll stick around to see what else you have to offer.
6. Upload the Content to Your Website
Keep reaching more buyers by uploading all the virtual tours of homes still on the market to your website. This will provide you with fresh content, making it easy to keep your website updated without any extra effort on your part. Include social share buttons to enable users to share the videos and presentations with their contacts on social media or to email friends who may be interested in the property.
Best Tools for Running Virtual Open House Tours
The next step in learning how to do a virtual open house is to find the right tools. As there are multiple options, you’ll need to pick the best ones for you according to your budget and how you decide to present your virtual open house tours.
1. Live Video Conferencing Software
You may decide to offer your virtual open house tours through a video conference rather than using social media. This has the advantage of allowing you to invite just a select number of people, which makes the event feel more exclusive. This setup can also facilitate conversations and make it easier for you to answer buyers’ questions.
You have multiple options for video conferencing software, each of which has its share of benefits and disadvantages. Some top choices include:
- Zoom — Great for its simple interface, there’s a low risk of freezes and other problems like a lack of sound. However, you’ll need to pay if you’re holding a tour with more than three people for more than 40 minutes.
- Skype — Almost everyone is familiar with Skype, meaning potential buyers will most likely have an account to join your virtual open house. Nonetheless, Skype is falling out of favor for good reasons. Most significantly, it requires a fast internet connection for a high-quality video, which may not be possible at some properties.
- FaceTime — Like Zoom, FaceTime is easy to use and rarely suffers from issues. Its main disadvantage is that it’s only available for Apple devices, which will limit who is able to join your virtual open house.
2. Live Streaming Platform
If, instead, you decide to go with live streaming on social media, you have some different advantages. For instance, you can still let people know in advance about the virtual open house, but you can also gain other viewers in the moment. You have the option to live stream on the most popular social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
Of course, for live streaming to be effective, you will (again) need to have a decent internet connection at the property. You will also need to be extra comfortable in front of the camera, knowing that there are no limits as to who is watching. There may even be people watching who you’ve never interacted with before.
3. A Drone
Filming from a drone is a great way to show angles of the house that would never be possible from an in-person visit alone. You can also show an aerial view of the yard and additional buildings, like the garage. Plus, you can shoot footage from the neighborhood to show what’s nearby, such as how far the local school is from the house or what the drive to reach the property is like.
Of course, you will need to be careful if you use a drone to film the surrounding area. For one thing, you must avoid filming any private property. However, the biggest drawback is the need to obtain a remote pilot certificate. This is necessary for anyone who wants to use a drone to produce images for commercial use.
4. Virtual Tour Software
Taking pictures and simple videos is fine, but if you want a professional virtual open house, you need to either hire a videographer or use virtual tour software. The latter is far less expensive.
A couple of tools for creating virtual tours stand out as the best:
- EyeSpy360 — Designed just for real estate agents, EyeSpy360 allows you to create 360-degree tours. It requires minimal effort for great results: you just need to take pictures with a 360 VR camera and upload them to the tool. A top feature is the capability for multiple users to view a tour at the same time, allowing you to have a live chat with potential buyers.
- iStaging — With iStaging, you can take pictures to create floor plans. Plus, viewers can input furniture and other objects to see how they would look in the space. Another useful feature is the option to require viewers to provide you with their contact information before they watch the tour.
For both of these tools, you will need to purchase a 360 camera and pay for the software — there are different plans available at various prices. You’ll need to decide whether it’s worth the investment for an enhanced experience.
A virtual open house for real estate can easily be more successful than a traditional open house. You’re able to reach buyers no matter where they’re located, plus virtual tours tend to attract more qualified buyers — as opposed to people who just happen to be passing by the property. Once you’ve figured out how to create a virtual open house in a way that works for you and your target clients, you can continue running tours even when it becomes possible to hold in-person viewings once again.