Virtual Tour Should Be More Than Just Walking and Looking Around
The housing industry has been on fire and we have been very busy with creating virtual tours. As a result, we have developed many new features, which is perfect timing for this installment. (If you missed my blog post about the importance of UI/UX, then make sure you read Part 3! Also look for Part 1 and Part 2.)
Virtual tours for new homes have blossomed since COVID, and they are here to stay. Home buyers are expecting to see these tours on every builder’s webpage. (And it is no longer realistic to expect home buyers to buy the biggest purchase of their life with just a single exterior rendering and floor plans.)
Seeing the inside of the home is not new to the home shopping experience. Builders and realtors have used slideshows and videos for years. But now, with virtual tours, home buyers can have a more immersive experience while looking and walking around the house. Here are 12 cutting edge features that will engage your home buyers to spend more time on your house plans and learn more about your features.
1. Show/Hide Furniture: This is a very popular virtual tour option. With this add-on, you can show home buyers something they have never seen before: rooms with and without furniture with just a simple click. The advantage is obvious. Furniture shows scale, orientation, and furniture placement. But a view without furniture shows how large each room really is. Example Tour
2. Room Options: As builders, you offer upgrades because home buyers expect more. They typically see these options on a floor plan, but are not able to see what the design is or how the options fit. With Room Options, buyers can click on an upgrade and see what it looks like right in the room. Example Tour
3. Interior Finishes or Color Schemes: The ability to select different interior finishes and see them from different angles is a much sought-after buyer’s experience. From working with many builders, we know this is also very important to help buyers understand options and upgrades. These finishes can be set up as packages or a la carte selections. Example Tour
4.Videos: Although a virtual tour is interactive and immersive, videos are still very important. We are watching more videos than ever on streaming service like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu. But even more frequently, videos in social media like Facebook and Instagram are presented to us to grab our attention. For many young people, it is habitual to just scroll and watch one video after another. For the home buying experience, videos allow buyers to get a preview of your homes. And these videos serve as movie trailers or teasers where they help buyers select a virtual tour to enter and explore. Example
5. Exterior Walkaround: Most people think virtual tours are limited to the inside, perhaps from the popularity of Matterport. But when buyers are shopping for new construction, they want to see more than just the front view of the house. With Exterior Walkaround, you can see all side of the house and enter from any door, including the garage and rear entrance. The house can sit on a generic lot by itself or a specific lot surrounded by homes. Example Tour
6. Streetscape Views: When you have several virtual houses available for tours, why not put several of them on the same street. A buyer can shop all the different plans within one tour without leaving and going to another webpage. The project above shows specific lots with preselected plans and color schemes for that location. This is like the “old days” when you have a row of model homes. Example Tour
7. Aerial Views: In addition to the street view of your homes, you can also show buyers how several buildings look from a bird’s eye view. This is great for showing multiple products adjacent to each other (i.e., single family homes next to townhomes) and amenities (i.e. trails, dog park, etc.). Example Tour
8. Product Information: One of the most important parts of virtual tours is educating your buyers about what makes your homes so special. Highlighting your tour with product information hotspots will help inform buyers of all the standard and optional features. You can point out the latest electronic gadgets like Nest and Ring; or show optional tray ceilings and crown molding; or all the different finishes in your catalog. Example Tour
9. Video on TV: You already have videos playing on TVs at your sales center and model homes to reinforce your brand. So, put them in your virtual tours too! Buyers can watch videos and learn about the community’s amenities, design center features, and other buyers’ testimony. Anything is possible! Example Tour
10. Live Pano: Clients often ask how they can make their virtual tours better and stand out from their competitors to give buyers a more immersive experience. One feature is something we call Live Pano. The scene can go from day to dusk to night to dawn. The above example shows this transition but is sped up. To get the full experience, see for yourself here.
11. Audio Tour: Virtual tours, by nature, are very visually focused. We can, of course, add music to the experience. To take it to another level, we can add an audio tour guide offering a welcome message, a narration of each room, or special highlights. This voice over can be expediently added with the latest text-to-speech technology. This makes editing fast and simple. Example Tour
12. Google Streetview: What happens when your project involves an in-fill lot surrounded by existing buildings or is adjacent to a significant location? This feature is particularly important for homes or buildings in a city as you want to portray your project with some degree of realism for context. We can use Google Streetview imagery to show the surrounding context of the tour. This will put your building right into the location and blend it with the existing buildings. This is important for remote buyers who may not be familiar with the location. Example Tour
SNEAK PEAK: Live Guided Tour
This feature will be available soon, and it will be like having Zoom built right into the virtual tour. More info here!
Okay, you still with me?
I know that was a lot to take in but virtual tours are evolving. If you are spending money and time having vendors creating tours for you, then you should ask them about such features. It will help your home buyers fall in love with your homes (and your boss will love your marketing effort.) So say goodbye to the “Walkie-Lookie” Tours!
That’s it for Part 4. You can test out each of the features mentioned above here. In Part 5, we will talk about taking these features and create a virtual tour experience that is fun, engaging, educational, and memorable. See you soon!