Although virtual real estate tours have been around for 20 years, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought virtual sales tools to the forefront. More than ever, real estate agents have to accommodate potential buyers who may prefer not to visit a property in person. By adding a 360-degree virtual tour to your online listings, you give visitors and interested buyers an opportunity to see the property without risking their health.
What Is a Virtual Tour?
A virtual tour is a series of 360-degree panoramic pictures with which a buyer can interact. They can rotate the image, zoom in and out, and move from room to room as if they were actually there.
The Benefits of Virtual Tours
Virtual tours allow potential buyers and buyers who are early in the process to check if they are interested in the property without taking time away from you. They give visitors a feel for the property and allow them to decide if they want to move forward with the buying process.
Virtual tours have more impact than a few still photos and a list of features. Potential buyers can see and experience the home visually, instead of having to imagine it. They can more easily envision themselves living there.
Virtual tours are relatively fast to put together, and you only need to do it once.
How Virtual Tours Work: The Panoramic Photo
The basic component of a virtual tour is the panoramic photo. You can do this by taking a series of pictures around the room from the same point, and then stitching them together using specialized software. We have our picks for the top photo stitching software below.
Once you've created a 360-degree photo for every room in the house, all you need to do is upload them to the listing and label them. That way, prospective homebuyers can "walk" through each room of the house.
Panoramic Photography Tools
Before you start shooting, you'll need the right tools. A camera, a tripod, and stitching software are the basic items you'll need to make your virtual property tours.
Cameras. Although specialized panoramic cameras are available, they are very expensive ($10K!). A typical DSLR camera or a high-quality point-and-shoot will do the work just as well. Here are some suggestions for beginner DSLR cameras:
Canon EOS Rebel T100 ($390)
Canon EOS 2000D Rebel T7 ($498)
Canon EOS4000D ($479)
Pentak K-70 ($647)
Nikon D3500 ($589)
DSLR cameras hit the sweet spot between image quality and affordability, but if you are in a pinch, even your phone's camera can be used to take panoramic pictures. The results, however, may not be as professional.
Tripods. To get the best panoramic photo results, you should take each picture from the exact same point in the room. This allows for smoother stitching. A tripod makes this much easier. Here are some affordable tripod options:
Photo-stitching software. After you've taken the pictures, you will need to stitch the photos together into a smooth 360-degree view.
Autostitch (Free demo)
PTGui 10 ($115)
Panoweaver 10 ($149)
Panorama Photography Tips
Choose the best angle. When photographing a room, make sure you choose the best viewing angle. Consider lighting, furniture, and any interesting architectural features you want to highlight.
Use a tripod. A good tripod is the secret to great panoramic photos. It allows you to take photos from the same point and makes stitching much easier.
Use manual mode. To take the best pictures, spend a little time learning about the options on your camera. Adjust the exposure, focus, and white balance to shoot the best photos possible. Check the level option to make sure your shots are straight.
Shoot. Each room should take about 8-10 shots. Go from left to right or right to left to ensure smooth stitching afterward.
As people get more used to virtual tours as an important part of the home buying process, high-quality panoramic pictures will become an important tool. It's more important than ever to be comfortable with virtual tour technologies.
Want to learn even more marketing tricks? Consider taking one of our online continuing education classes when it's time to renew your real estate license.