“Most agents think virtual tours are an automated slideshow of pictures. Why would anyone want to see that? These are the exact same photos the person just saw!”
This comment by a home shopper on Reddit sums up how people—especially Millennials—feel about today’s version of the “virtual tour.” Most online tours, even on major sites like Redfin and Zillow, are nothing more than a series of photos of the property assembled into a basic slideshow tool.
True, high-quality photography is the core of your marketing program, and that should not change. But with the plethora of low-cost, simple-to-master tech tools and apps available today, it’s time to look beyond the slideshow-based virtual tour and wow your clients with something special.
Here are seven creative, inexpensive, and easy-to-execute ideas for making your virtual tours stand out:
1. Produce live broadcasts of open house events. When hosting an open house, use Facebook Live (or Twitter’s Periscope) to broadcast the event in real time to your followers. It will help generate interest in the open house, and the archived video will serve as a 24/7 open house for the property. Facebook engineers love when users stream content using Live, so they place these videos at the top of newsfeeds to maximize engagement. The free tool allows you to track how many people are watching live and reply to comments in real time. Here are some helpful tips for getting started with Facebook Live.
2. Call out key features of the home. So many details get lost in photos, photo-based tours, and even video tours. Maybe the home features a clever drop zone area off of the foyer, or a deep pantry in the kitchen, or built-in wine storage in the basement. These authentic features often make the difference in someone picking up the phone to schedule a showing or moving on to the next property in their online search. Using simple photo/video editing tools, you can insert text and graphics into photos and videos to call out these special features.
3. Capture the essence of the neighborhood. Home shoppers buy into a neighborhood as much as they buy into a house. Yet very few virtual tours and photo slideshows do a great job of selling the neighborhood. If you specialize in marketing homes in a select number of neighborhoods, consider building a content library of photos and video that showcase the unique features of each community—the local pool, block parties, outdoor movie nights, parks and playgrounds, recreation facilities, clubhouses, manicured landscaping, bike paths. You’ll want to capture high-quality action shots that portray the essence of the community culture. No need to hire a photographer; your smartphone should suffice.
4. Become an HGTV star. When shooting video, consider putting yourself on camera as the host of the virtual tour. It will give you the platform to discuss the special details and features of the property, and talk about the neighborhood and surrounding community. Plus, it will strengthen your brand as the market’s go-to real estate agent. For some tips on how to storyboard your real estate videos, see here, here, and here.
5. Incorporate interactive floor plans. What better way to give people a sense of the spaces and how the home is laid out than with a floor plan. Using apps like MagicPlan and Stanley Floor Plan, you can create detailed two-dimensional floor plans of homes using your smartphone in less than 30 minutes. Then, using services like MapsAlive, ThingLink, and TourVista, you can make the floor plans interactive, with photos, video clips, notes, and other call outs. 3D floor plans with interior features like furniture and flooring are also available, but at a premium. Providers include FloorPlanner and Real Tour Visions.
6. Focus on the upgrades and improvements. Buyers want to know if the home was well taken care of by the seller and previous owners. Consider incorporating photos and videos of recent upgrades, with before/after comparisons if possible. Maybe the seller installed hardwood flooring or remodeled the kitchen or finished the basement or installed a premium-grade furnace. By telling the story of these major improvements, you’re expressing the care and love the seller has for the home.
7. Create a detailed, interactive map of the surrounding community. Tell the story of the community using custom maps and map “mashups” that incorporate key landmarks, photos/videos of popular events and community features, reviews of local hotspots, the location of schools and grocery stores, etc. Here’s a list of free map-making tools to get you started.
Next week, we’ll continue our “10 Simple Steps” series with tips and advice for punching up your blog and article writing.