Traditionally when a potential home buyer wanted to view a property, they had to contact a real estate agent. The potential buyer and real estate agent then had to arrange for a time to meet at the property while also ensuring that they had access to the property at the desired time. Once the logistics were sorted out, potential buyers and the estate agent would do a walk-through of the property.
Sometimes potential buyers would return to the property multiple times as they remember details that they hadn’t remembered to look for during the initial visit. Immersive 3D tours give potential buyers the opportunity to view a property and establish whether the property meets their needs and desires before making that initial appointment with a real estate agent.
It also enables potential buyers to view a property remotely. This is especially useful for persons who reside far from the property that they are interested in.
What is a Virtual Tour?
A virtual tour is an immersive experience that gives viewers a 360-degree view of a space. It is usually a collection of 3D images and videos, 360-degree videos, panoramic photos, and audio narrations. These are combined to create a virtual simulation of a property or space. Virtual tours, or 3D home tours, are a popular tool used in the real estate business. It is also used by universities, wedding or other event venues, outdoor attractions, and cultural institutions.
What is Virtual Tour Software?
Virtual tour software is a specialized software that creates a digital twin of your property. A digital twin is a digital replica of the real-world space that you want to showcase.
In order to create a digital twin of a space, you will first need to create a 360-degree panorama scan of the area. There are special cameras like 360-degree cameras designed specifically to capture panorama images that will be stitched together into a virtual tour. In most cases, you will need a tripod on which to mount the camera. Once the camera is mounted and the capture button pressed, the camera will turn 360 degrees, either taking a panoramic image or taking multiple images of the site.
Some VR tour software is compatible with mobile devices like your smartphone. When capturing a space with your smartphone, you will hold your smartphone close to your body while slowly rotating 360 degrees to capture the entire space in one go. The action is similar to taking a panoramic image with your phone – only now you complete a full circle.
Once the images are captured, you can upload the media to a virtual tour software program. This program then stitches the media together to create an immersive, virtual reality tour of the property.
Some virtual tour creator software uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate many steps throughout the virtual tour generating process.
Matterport, for example, uses something called Cortex AI. This is a deep learning neural network. Cortex has been ‘trained’ on scans of millions of real-world spaces. Through this, Cortex has learned how to take the visual and spatial data from your uploads and convert them into an accurate and high-quality digital twin.
The Features of Virtual Tour Software
All virtual tour apps have one thing in common: to generate a virtual reality tour of a space or property. Each virtual tour software or app has its own unique features that make for a better user experience. Each feature is designed to enhance the creator’s experience, and whether it is a ‘nice to have’ or an ‘absolute must’ will depend on you or your real estate business’ needs.
The drag-and-drop feature allows you to organize your virtual tour and create a path for viewers to follow. Amongst other things, you can select the starting point and where the tour stops. It makes creating and editing your digital replica quick and easy.
Some virtual tour software incorporates still image editing features in their offering. This allows you to make adjustments and edit your images after you uploaded them to the system. In some cases, the virtual tour automatically conducts white balance and camera-specific color corrections, removes noise from media, and sharpens the images while adjusting the saturation. This ensures that all the rooms of a given property look uniform – producing a professional-looking end result.
Editing your still images in the same program as the one that generates your virtual tour allows you to keep all media related to a specific project together in one place.
Adding narration to your virtual tour enhances the overall user experience. You can use narration to provide more information about the property or to draw viewers’ attention to specific features in a space. Some virtual tour software allows you to record your narration in the program instead of recording it on separate software and uploading it. As an added feature, some virtual tour software offers narration services provided by voice-over artists.
Matterport, for example, offers tags to create interactive elements throughout the 360-degree virtual tour. That means viewers can click on a specific object or area in a space and read a more detailed description of it. You can also use hotspots to include additional information, link to video clips and audio files, and link to websites or images.
The virtual tour auto-adjusts according to the device that it is viewed on. According to the National Association of Realtors Research Group, 71% of people who bought homes in 2019 found their home with a mobile application. They also found that 42% of buyers found virtual tours of a property to be very useful when they looked at the property’s website or real estate listing.
Viewer Traffic Metrics
In order to establish whether any marketing tool is working optimally and bringing you a return on your investment, you need to be able to track specific metrics. With a virtual tour, you need to be able to see how many people have viewed the tour each day, week, and month. Some virtual tour software lets you break down the data collected to see which devices were used to view your virtual tours.
Tracking the traffic and views that your virtual tour receives helps you to harness remarketing strategies to target your marketing efforts to interested persons. These targeted marketing efforts can be made via various channels, including paid advertising and social media advertising. You could also link a lead gathering tool to your virtual tour. This allows you to collect contact information for potential buyers. You can then use this information to target specific marketing campaigns aimed at these individuals.
Different View Styles
Virtual tour software programs usually allow you to generate different view styles. This includes panoramic shots, 360-degree views, Google street style views, and aerial views. You could also create moving videos, floor plans, and dollhouse renditions.
Added features could include the ability to capture leads or print flyers. While the added features of a specific virtual tour creation software product might not be the main selling point, they do add a little extra to your experience. They might come in handy and even a vital part of your creation process – even if you didn’t know you needed it before you purchased the software.
Matterport’s Cortex, for example, automatically measures each space along with the objects in the space. It also lets users create 2D images from 3D HD media, custom videos, and walk-throughs. On top of that, Cortex blurs the faces of any persons in the space for identity protection and automatically recognizes objects and labels rooms.
What to Look For in Virtual Tour Software
Besides the features, there are other factors that you need to consider when looking for virtual tour software. These range from the price of the software to accessories that you will need. You also need to consider how easy it is to use the app and what the finished product will look like.
Compatibility with Capturing Devices.
The VR technology behind virtual tour software has grown exponentially in recent years. Developers are continuously striving to make the process easier, quicker, and more cost-effective. Most virtual tour software can be used to capture devices like Lidar cameras, 360 cameras, and even smartphones. And no – you don’t need to be a professional photographer to generate professional-looking virtual tours.
The cost of the virtual tour software is a vital point to consider. While it might be tempting to go for the cheapest option out there, you need to look at what you get for what you pay.
Virtual tour software can cost you anything between no dollars to a few hundred dollars. Yes, some companies provide free versions of their virtual tour generating software. These options often come with a more limited set of features. The number of features generally increases with paid plans, as do the number of tours you can create. Free plans usually only let you have a few active tours. In contrast, many pro plans offer you hosting for unlimited virtual tours.
Ease of Use
Virtual tours should benefit your real estate business—and offering virtual tours definitely do. This benefit should not come at a struggle, though. Virtual tour software that is not user friendly and difficult to use could mean that it is used less often—and that means money wasted. The more comfortable (and quicker) it is to create a virtual tour, the more it will be used: you can even create a virtual tour for each of your properties.
The Quality of the Finished Projects
Suppose you will integrate virtual tours into your marketing efforts – and spend the time and money on generating them. In that case, you want to make sure that the end product looks professional and provides the best user experience. The goal of a 3D tour is to enhance your buyer’s experience – not leave them frustrated.
The quality of the final product will depend on various factors. The accuracy of the rendition is extremely important. You want to showcase the space exactly (or near precisely) as it is in real life. A more accurate rendition will also provide flawless views of the property with no weird angles or spaces being out of alignment with each other. Matterport generates a digital twin that reflects the exact measurements of the space.
Besides accuracy, the final product should be crisp and clear, free from blurry areas and reflections that could distract viewers.
Branding and Customization
Most 3D virtual tour software offers theme templates. Many also give you the opportunity to customize the themes to fit in with your business’ branding. While this may seem like a small add-on, it is vital for creating cohesively branded products.
Sharing and Third-Party Integration
Usually, virtual tour software will provide you with a share-able link once the tour has been created. You can then add this link to your real estate website, send it in an email blast, or share it on social media. Some software integrates directly with third-party sites, like Youtube and other social media sites, – allowing you to share your virtual tour to these sites easily.
There are two hosting options for your virtual tours: Self-hosting and third-party hosting. With self-hosting, the finished product will be located on your servers. That means that you need to first have a server and then maintain and upgrade it from time to time. In this case, you will also need to have specialized skills and technical knowledge to ensure that your servers are up and running without glitches. Any downtime of a server means your virtual tours will not be available for viewing.
If you make use of third-party hosting, the hosting company is responsible for maintaining the servers. They are also responsible for upgrades to the servers while ensuring that there is no (or very little) downtime.
How Real Estate Agents Can Benefit From the Software
Virtual tour software lets real estate agents create professional-looking virtual tours without the need for advanced technical knowledge and skills. Most virtual tour generating programs are designed to make the user experience fluid and effortless. The goal is to make the software accessible to and usable by anyone – with very little technical knowledge and experience. That means you can create a 3D model of a space without needing to employ professionals.
Using 360 virtual tour software puts the creative process in the hands of real estate professionals. Who better to capture and showcase a property than the person who is familiar with it and knows which features they would like to highlight?
When you manage and carry out each step of the process, you can make changes and adjustments as you go. This saves you from going back-and-forth to get changes implemented after the 3D virtual tour has been produced.
Virtual tours is a powerful tool in the real estate industry. They offer potential buyers an opportunity to view a space before contacting any real estate agencies. Virtual tour software is not only a virtual tour solution. The added features like tracking can help real estate professionals harness retargeted marketing efforts, generate interactive floor plans and 2D images. It helps real estate agents save time and money while having full control over the virtual tour creation process.
Virtual tour software solutions make it easy for real estate agents to capture, upload, and generate an immersive 3D tour of a space. They come with various features and are continuously being upgraded to offer a more integrative and fluid creation experience. The best part of virtual tour creation software is that it is easily accessible and allows anyone to create and publish a professional-looking virtual reality tour—perfect to market their next property.