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A Buyer’s Perspective on Virtual Tours

September 11 2012

There was a new home that met our criteria on the MLS last night. Our agent sent us a link to the property details page on the MLS consumer-facing website. On this property's details page was the URL (not an active link) for a virtual tour, which I checked out. And boy, was I disappointed! I simply sat for two minutes and watched the very same photos that had been in the MLS cycle through. Afterwards, I angrily closed the tab in my browser and said to my husband, "I want my two minutes back."

Benefits of Virtual Tours

When I came into the office this morning, I was complaining about my experience again. "What was the point of the virtual tour at all?" I asked.

Victor Lund, always the voice of reason, played the Devil's advocate for me. He explained that I was taking a very myopic view and that there are some benefits to virtual tours I haven't taken into consideration.

1. They make sellers happy. If you're an agent, your seller clients want to know that you're putting maximum effort into marketing their listing. This means doing more than just adding the property to the MLS and whatever third party property search portals you may syndicate to. A virtual tour will feel special to them. A single property website is another great way to do this.

2. They provide SEO value.

3. They display photos in a better format than the MLS slideshow. As you can see in the screenshot below, the photos in our MLS (even when expanded) are relatively small. They were larger and stood out better in the virtual tour format.

ew virtual tours

A Better Way

This virtual tour probably made the seller happy, may have provided some SEO value, and did offer a slightly better viewing experience than the MLS slideshow. But it didn't make me happy and it didn't make me any more interested in the house. Would anyvirtual tour have left me with that "what a waste" attitude? Nope. There are several ways that the listing agent could have made this worth my time.

  • Add more images. This is such an easy thing to do and I would have been completely satisfied if I had just been able to see some different photographs. Show me a different angle of the kitchen/bathroom/bedroom/whatever – ANYTHING I didn't see on the MLS.
  • Add music, but avoid obnoxious audio. This particular virtual tour had some outrageously loud and obnoxious music on it. Adding music is a nice touch, as long as it is mellow and inoffensive.
  • Create video. This isn't available from all virtual tour providers. However, if it is available from your virtual tour vendor or you have a luxury listing (so that an additional expense makes sense), I highly recommend it. For an extreme example, you can check out this gorgeous virtual tour video from PacUnion.com.
  • Provide additional information, i.e. neighborhood info, lifestyle information, etc.

You're probably picking up on a general theme here: provide value with something that isn't available with MLS data.

Next Steps