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Do virtual tours and viewings work?

Yes and no! Read on…

It’s early days, but for sellers keen to explore virtual viewings, I’d advise caution!

While lockdown and movement restrictions mean that buyers are prevented from physically viewing homes for sale, evidence suggests that many buyers are spending more time on property websites and portals to pass the time and bookmark properties of interest for when restrictions are lifted.

Estate Agents eager to find ways around the problem are increasingly offering sellers the opportunity to have their home filmed in order to create virtual viewings.

But does this really work and is it in the seller’s best interests.

Why have Estate Agents not embraced virtual tours to date?

Traditionally many agents have stayed away from the property video providers or the 3D Matterport walk around products but these are exceptional times and surely creativity is to be rewarded.

So why has the take up of virtual tours not been a staple of the Estate Agent’s toolbox before?

The reason is simple, the main objective of marketing online property is to whet the appetite of the prospective buyer in order to secure a physical viewing appointment.

It would take a very brave – foolhardy, even – buyer to commit to buying a property on the basis of a virtual visit alone.

And would a seller be confident in a buyer on this basis alone even if they did?

The role of online marketing

So the online marketing of a home is designed to provide an appealing introduction to a property. It’s not to provide so much insight that a buyer can make a purchasing decision without ever physically visiting.

Too much information and a buyer could be put off by something they see which might otherwise be overlooked or outweighed following their visit.

We all know that a buying decision is not always made on the basis of a perfect match. Even when a home appears to meet every possible criterion it is only the physical viewing that confirms whether it feels right and whether a buyer can make it a home.

Over the years I have watched, with a wry smile, as buyers view a property that has been low on their list and then fall instantly in love with it.

Can virtual tours help?

So why not feed a buyer’s appetite with a virtual tour?

The answer is that some properties, but not all, may benefit from the extra help, especially where the photography has not truly demonstrated the overall appeal. Perhaps an instance where the exterior imagery does not show a property’s true attributes or the ‘Tardis’ effect when the inside is so much larger than the outside would suggest.

I was talking to our professional photographer the other day about this subject and he explained that filming virtual tours is a very skilled task, the camera wants to seek out the highlights such as a pretty fireplace, an attractive window or a smart kitchen but part of the tour inevitably shows the lowlights too, a narrow passage, an awkward landing or a scruffy lobby.

Skype or Zoom!

A virtual viewing can take on other forms and doesn’t always need to be a dedicated film. Some of our clients have accepted requests for a personal walk around using video conferencing apps such as Skype or Zoom. This is where we introduce the buyer to the seller and then by using the app the seller walks around their property as if they were conducting a physical viewing.

The advantage here is that the seller can answer any questions verbally as they arise as well as providing the buyer with a real-time view of their home.

The disadvantage is whether the buyer is seeing the property in appropriate light and quality. If you have recently used these methods of visual communication then you will know that as soon as the camera is placed in front of a window the subject is obscured and likewise if a room is too dark then the imagery is poor. The whole thing can easily become a viewing disaster and the buyer could be left less than impressed.

My advice

Talk to an agent you trust.

Ask whether a virtual tour is appropriate for use in the marketing of your property. Ask if there are clear benefits to be gained.

Will anything be achieved that cannot be shown with professional photographs taken in sunny weather conditions and using the best internal lighting.

Are you currently highlighting the main selling features and whetting buyer’s appetites whilst holding back something to encourage a physical viewing.

And challenge your agent too.

What are the risks? Is this just a tactic to win or retain your business?

One thing is for sure, buyers cannot physically view homes at the moment under Government guidelines and they are unlikely to make a buying decision until they can. The moving process has all but ground to a halt for the time being and with even the most proactive estate agent working on your behalf, little can be achieved in real terms until restrictions are lifted for moving home.

Ultimately you may be better served by remaining patient, and putting your moving plans on ice for the time being.

An honest estate agent will tell you this if this is the best strategy for your property. Whilst you will find video tours on a few selected properties we are marketing many other sellers have decided to sit tight having consulted with us.

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