The term “virtual tour” was introduced to the real estate industry a couple decades ago, but only because photography vendors were able to convince listing agents to hire them and competed to offer the coolest technology.
Early vendors wowed us with 360-degree still photos of each room, although that is now out of style.
The latest “shiny object” is a 5- or 6-year-old product by Matterport. I remember getting a demo of it at a trade show in San Francisco. They call their product an interactive virtual reality (VR) tour of still photos in which you can use your mouse or finger to rotate each photo manually left to right or up and down. Gray circles indicate new photo points. You click or touch them and you are taken to that place where you can, again, rotate horizontally or vertically. Thus, you can, at your own pace, navigate around the entire listing choosing which room you want to enter and leave.
The “coolest” feature of Matterport is the “dollhouse” view, shown here. You remember dollhouses, where one side was open so you could look inside each room? That’s what Matterport’s dollhouse view is like except that it’s on your screen and you can rotate it on any axis.
Still, it’s only a collection of still photos with no narration. Personally I find it kind of dizzying and nowhere near as useful as being walked through the home by a listing agent with a video camera who explains the obvious and not-so-obvious features of the home. I wouldn’t call anything less a “virtual” tour.
I have been selling real estate now for 18 years and seen maybe a dozen different variations of the “virtual tour” concept, but almost all of them are nothing more than still photos presented in different, often interactive ways. None have the advantage of a simple video walk-through of a home by the listing agent. That’s what we do at Golden Real Estate, and have been doing since 2007. Click on any of our listings at www.GRElistings.com to see what a good narrated video tour looks like.
What amazes me is how few agents do what we do. In the article below, I mention that 114 homes listed last week went under contract by week’s end, at a time when in-person showings and open houses were not allowed. Assuming they followed the 2-week-old rule against in-person showings, buyers of those listings had only the photos and “virtual tours” on the MLS to go by in making their decision to submit an offer.
One might assume that those 109 listings had great virtual tours, but almost none of them did. Surprisingly, only 65 of the 114 had any “virtual tour” on the MLS, but more surprisingly only two of them had a narrated video tour. Five of them had video walk-throughs with music. One had no sound track at all, and one really cracked me up. The agent held his smartphone horizontally, but his footsteps and breathing were all you could hear. Imagine if an agent walked you through his listing in person and never said a word about anything — that’s what it was like!
The two narrated tours were quite good in the detail which the agents shared, but they both shot with their phones in vertical mode and one was quite shaky since it was handheld. Too bad she wasn’t using the Osmo camera that we use, which has a gimbal, making the picture totally steady.
About half of th0se 65 listings with virtual tours had Matterport tours, which I found very disappointing. Others were just slide-shows with music, and many were just a collection of still photos or brochures.