Virtual Tours Sell Houses

How to Stage a Virtual Tour

entrance to a gated community
Elizabeth Weintraub

Why would you want to include a virtual tour in your home marketing efforts? Better asked, why wouldn't you? Nowadays, buyers don't even look at online listings if they don't include a virtual tour. Did you know that?

How Do Virtual Tours Work?

Virtual tours take you inside the home and give you a 180 to 360-degree view. Some are interactive, meaning you click the mouse and it takes you to the ceiling, the floor, the walls, leaving no inch of the room unviewed.

Others are flat-screen views put together to give you a moving image that you watch but do not control. Some are digital and 3D, like you are in there in person.

You can order virtual tours a number of ways:

  • Shoot your own photographs and hire a professional to simply upload and assemble them for you.
  • Hire a professional to shoot the photos, upload and assemble artwork into a tour. It's so affordable today that most people pay for a virtual tour.
  • Buy your own software and compose / create it yourself.

How Many Spins Should You Order?

  • Two-Spin Minimum. Every virtual tour should consist of a minimum of two spins. Even a small 800-square-foot condo can be shot on a two-spin tour: the living room and the clubhouse / pool area, for example.
  • Collages of 36 photos or more. Super intense virtual tours are generally reserved for the homes valued at more than a million dollars and may involve an aerial tour shot from a drone. Buyers want to see the guest houses, the wine cellars, the indoor pool and spa facilities, the libraries, media rooms, gyms, studios, the 18-car garages and helicopter ports.
  • Most professional virtual tour companies will handle everything for you, from beginning to finish, and will supply their own server to host the virtual tour. All you have to do is post the link in the appropriate places. These virtual tours are generally one long continuous show.

Stage the Virtual Tour

  • Determine focus and viewpoints. You can take your own digital photographs and upload them to your computer. This way you can study each room for its appeal and photogenic quality. Print out the photos you like and show the virtual tour photographer the angles that you want.
  • Begin the tour focused on the most interesting element in the space and end with that element. Think about what the viewer will see first to determine your starting point for the tour. You don't want to begin filming a doorway, for example, because most doorways are boring.
  • Move excess furniture out of the room you are shooting. You want the space clean, open, clutter-free and to appear much larger than it is.
  • Consider the level of the camera. If you raised the camera a foot or so, would it eliminate glare from windows or avoid showing the unpainted fence outside?
  • Choose the best spot in the room to set up the camera. While you might capture a wider range of view from a location closer to a hall or door, think about the entire circle of view and how interested your viewer will be staring at a close-up of a nearby wall. Remember: one click of the mouse, and your image is lost.

Added Features for Virtual Tours

  • The Descriptive Text: Most virtual tours provide ample space for marketing comments. Use adjectives sparingly, concentrate instead on usage of sharp nouns and action verbs.
  • Scrolling Text: Every picture tells a story, don't it? Describe that moving video with text that rolls across the screen. Don't rely on the viewer to know enough to scroll down the page to your verbiage. Add a line of verbiage directly to the video.
  • Supplying Audio: Some virtual tours give you the option of adding your voice to the tour. Be enthusiastic, speak clearly, and remember to smile, like you were talking to a friend, because a smile resonates in the voice. Allow a mute button.

Uploading the Virtual Tour Link

  • Link the virtual tour to your agent's MLS number.
  • Upload the tour to local websites and your agent's personal Web site.
  • Consider buying a separate Web address to host the virtual tour. Domain names are very cheap, and independent property websites are popular.
  • Many tour operators will also upload the link to Realtor.com, a website which gives visitors the option of viewing only those listings with virtual tours.
  • Put your virtual tour on YouTube.
  • Showcase your virtual tour in Facebook.

At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, CalBRE #00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.