Virtual Tours Are Part of Most Sales

By Dave Fratello | June 23rd, 2021

If there was one big change that came about last year in real estate marketing, it was the increased adoption of virtual tours and 3D walkthroughs.

After all, during a raging pandemic, sellers only wanted the most motivated buyers to show up at the front door. Virtual tours can help cull the herd of potential looky-loos by giving buyers a chance to experience the house at home first.

A range of 3D and video tour options is available to show off a house, though here at Edge and MBC we much prefer a 3D-style virtual tour that allows a potential buyer to truly "walk through" a house. (Here's an example of a 3D tour for one of our recent listings; our Hermosa listing features 3D on its website.)

These tours often come with floorplans, and one vendor offers a "dollhouse" view like in this image, allowing a quick sense of the plan.

Videos, by contrast, tend to be brief, showy and sometimes loud, never conveying a real sense of the floorplan. And those video "slideshows" of the listing photos? Ugh. We can click through the pics faster ourselves, without your lame smooth jazz!

Whatever the benefits of virtual tours, they were quite rare before the COVID-19 shutdown. We examined 1 year's worth of sold Manhattan Beach listings closing from March 15, 2019 to March 15, 2020, and found 73% had no form of virtual tour at all.

That switch flipped in March 2020, after the stay-at-home orders.

From March 15, 2020 to March 15, 2021, 55% of homes sold in Manhattan Beach did feature a virtual tour of some kind.

And those numbers seem consistent:

* 55% of all homes sold so far in calendar year 2021 had a virtual tour

* 54% of all active listings now have a virtual tour

Now, if the data are pretty consistent recently, you may wonder why were we just worrying over the weekend that, "Virtual and 3D tours are ... becoming scarce."

There is a bit of slippage, as shown some other slices of data:

* Just 39% of pending escrows have a virtual tour

* 37% of June listings already in escrow have a virtual tour

* 33% of June listings that are still active have a virtual tour

It was even drearier at the time of our weekend post: only 2 of 10 new listings had any kind of virtual tour, both of them brief videos with music. (Ho-hum.) That felt like a trend by which virtual tours, no longer strictly "necessary," were being dropped out of marketing.

If real estate marketers really start dialing back on 3D and virtual tours, it's a net negative for all.

Buyers are now accustomed to finding the tours online and using them to help decide whether to visit. It's not wise to take away a tool like that. What, we're going to improve the marketplace, then make it worse again?

With good virtual tours, sellers and agents can save time prepping for showings that are going nowhere if they know that buyers have access to a virtual tour before they set an appointment. (Indeed, more than once we've had sellers make it a condition of a showing that buyers tell us they've seen the 3D tour first.)

We like to see things done right. So we'll hold out hope that this dropoff in virtual tours is a blip in the data, not a big reversal in practices. At Edge, we certainly won't be dropping 3D tours as part of our marketing suite.

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Nerdy notes: Our data here comes from the MLS, reflecting data on MLS-listed properties and MLS-reported sales. We counted as a "virtual tour" any link supplied by the listing agent in the "virtual tour" field of the MLS, regardless of the type of virtual tour provided (website, slideshow, video, 3D, etc.). Impressively, for March '20-March '21, 49% of listings with a virtual tour used a single system (Matterport). That figure is 58% for current, active listings with a virtual tour.

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