6 Tips to Hold the Best Virtual Open House

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Virtual open houses and tours have become an expectation, rather than an exception, in real estate. Temporary world conditions aside, the shift towards digital-first real estate buying places virtual open houses at the top of the list of must-haves in real estate agents’ toolkits. 

The growing importance of virtual tours, and other video content, is driven by the needs of buyers and sellers alike. 73% of homeowners are more likely to list with a real estate agent if the agent offers a video of the property as part of their services. 

Buyers are also asking for more video content. For instance, nearly half of buyers find virtual tours “very useful” when exploring and evaluating real estate options. The growing expectations from both buyers and sellers raise the bar for agents not only to be able to deliver a virtual tour, but to perfect it. 

 

Know the Types of Real Estate Virtual Content

There is a range of virtual content at agents’ disposal. Many of these video types will have similar requirements in order to create them, but there are some differences worth being aware of:

  • Virtual open houses: These are live events that allow agents to respond to buyer engagement and interest while live streaming a tour of the house. The live stream can be of a preconstructed virtual tour or the agent touring the physical house with a camera. They have grown in popularity as the closest replacement for in-person open houses. 
  • Virtual tours: These are prerecorded videos, which allows the agent or homeowner to create a more polished video at the cost of direct interactions with buyers. 
  • Video content: there are smaller, more digestible videos to draw in earlier-stage buyers, such as “home highlights” or introductions to the property or neighborhood. 

Of these video formats, virtual open houses are the most important of real estate video strategies. However, a bad tour can turn buyers away from a home as much as a good one can sell buyers on a home. 

This post will give some foundational guidance to agents looking to build or improve their virtual touring capabilities. 

 

What is a Virtual Open House?

A virtual open house is a live streamed tour that attempts to recreate the same environment and experience as an in-person open house. The real estate agent leads the tour and engages with buyers “attending” the live stream via a chat function that the live streaming technology offers. 

Virtual open houses can achieve the same goals as an in-person tour. For instance, it can still allow agents to identify and develop relationships with prospective buyers, and it gives buyers access to the listing agent for on-the-spot answers to questions about the property, area, etc. 

There are obvious differences between virtual tours and in-person tours. Fielding questions and interacting with buyers virtually can be a more awkward and less intuitive process. On the plus side, virtual open houses and tours should be recorded, and therefore can be watched later by other buyers for maximum visibility. 

 

1) Pick the Right Real Estate Virtual Tour Software

Choosing the best real estate virtual tour software is the biggest choice that agents will likely make when building a virtual tour process. Virtual tour software allows agents to record or stream video of the property, edit the video, and host the tour along with other listing information. 

For some agents, particularly newer agents, this may be a new investment that is worth taking ample time to consider.. Some brokerages will offer their agents access to virtual tour software at a steep discount or for free as part of their agreement. Agents should ask their brokerage if there are any sponsored options that would fit their needs well.

The specific capabilities of each virtual open house product will vary. Beyond video recording and editing, the most important features to look out for include:

  • Live vs. recorded tours
  • Camera requirements (360𝆩 cameras vs. standard professional cameras vs. mobile cameras)
  • Open house scheduling and management
  • Event registration portal
  • Ability to upload the tour video to use for other promotions
  • External image uploading
  • Mobile accessibility
  • Chat functionality (which is necessary to engage with participating buyers)
  • Agent branding
  • Free versions or trials

There are also less quantifiable factors, such as ease of use and video quality. These factors may be more difficult to gauge prior to purchasing, but can dramatically impact agents’ and buyers’ experiences alike. 

As virtual tours have become more commonplace, a host of products have emerged to assist real estate agents. Here’s a sampling of the possible options to give agents an idea of what to be looking for and how to compare software products against each other:

  • Generic web conferencing software: Software like Zoom, Google Meet, or even Facebook Live can let agents stream a live tour virtually and record the session for use on other platforms. They will likely be the easiest for agents and buyers alike to use the day of the event. However, these products are not specialized for real estate use. They will most likely lack functions like event registration or document hosting. 

  • Virtual Open House: This service provides a range of photo gallery options, including drone footage. It emphasizes its integration with Zillow 3D for sellers who are using the 3rd party platform. While it offers the peripheral services like a property website, it is not designed to support live virtual tours. 

  • iStaging: iStaging is a subscription service for virtual reality (VR) tour creation and live tours. It also hosts floor plans, custom branding, and educational workshops to help agents improve their live virtual tour experience, and supports some lead generation efforts by giving buyers a mechanism to opt in to more information and follow up conversations. 

  • TourWizard: TourWizard provides an end-to-end virtual tour software. Using a subscription model for agents, it offers interactive live virtual tours and open house scheduling. It also grants agents native photo galleries and an online-first perspective, with lead generation capabilities, search engine optimization, and traffic tracking. These features will stand out for agents interested in closely managing their listings’ online presence and performance. 

  • My360: My360 offers virtual tours software designed to work with any 360° camera. It offers a mobile app for on-the-go agents and buyers. It serves as more of a point solution for virtual tours, which are usable on agents’ or sellers’ websites. It does not have a live open house capability. 

  • Roundme: Roundme supports recorded virtual tours. Its base pricing model is per-tour, but offers a Pro subscription account for unlimited access to the platform. It advertises more customizability in terms of resolution, image quality, and branding than other competitors. However, it does not support live open houses. 

  • EyeSpy360: This platform enables 360𝆩 virtual tours, with some extended capabilities. It stands out for its ease of use, as agents can simply upload images of the home and the software can generate the tour automatically. It can also host floor plans of homes, and it supports live tours of the virtual tours created on the platform. 

  • Cupix: Cupix provides the tools for agents to craft more advanced 3D tours. It stands out for its more advanced editing features, as well as supporting 3D image and video tours alike. It is designed for agents and brokerages to easily manage multiple projects across listings and agents. 

  • Paradym: Paradym provides agents with an on-demand virtual tour platform. It differentiates by providing a broader range of support for virtual tours. For instance, it integrates with agents’ other marketing tools and social media platforms. It also highlights more robust automation for marketing activities around virtual tours. 

 

2) Advertise Ahead of Time

Once agents select which software they’ll use for the virtual open house, taking time to advertise the tour before the event itself is still important. More experienced agents should be more familiar with this process since advertising for a virtual event is similar to advertising for a physical event. 

The first step to advertising the virtual open house is to set up the registration portal in the virtual tour software if one is available. This is the main difference between advertising for virtual and in-person events. Utilize any custom branding the platform offers to make the registration page stand out. 

Once the portal is set up, route all registrants and participants into that landing page to fill out their contact information. This lead form will not only centralize all of the events’ attendees but also allow agents to feed these buyers back into their CRM as leads. 

The second step is to leverage the existing buyer database within an agent’s CRM. This step is much more effective if agents do the continual work to curate and expand their list of likely or active buyers. Agents can target this group with email campaigns informing them of the event, sending reminders, etc. 

Finally, advertise on social media and third-party real estate platforms like Zillow. There are free options, such as posting on local real estate groups or pages, as well as promoting the event on the agents’ own pages. In some cases, agents may find it worthwhile to pay for ads on social platforms or other areas, but this would be a heavy investment to make for an event like this. 

example of virtual open house email blast | AgentAdvice.com

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3) Day of Prep

The day-of prep for a virtual open house, or prior day’s prep, is also similar to what the preparation would look like for an in-person open house. For instance, agents should know their main talking points for the tour, be prepared for likely questions or concerns from buyers based on the property, and know the layout of the property. 

There are some unique aspects of virtual tours and open houses that should be prepared and checked ahead of time — at least a day in advance. If at all possible, perform a test run of all the technology that will be used the day of the tour. Make sure that the recording or streaming software records properly, the connectivity is good, and the video quality is up to par. 

If the event is being filmed from inside the house, rather than over a preconstructed virtual tour, agents should also get familiar with the camera equipment they’re using. If agents are not used to live streaming or are running the operation, getting a trial run to identify points of friction can make the actual event much smoother. For instance, keeping an eye on a chat function while navigating a house may not be an intuitive skill and could take some getting used to. 

 

4) Conduct the Tour

Conducting the actual open house or tour virtually will feel very different, but the underlying process is largely the same as an in-person tour. The differences agents experience will vary depending on whether the virtual open house is streamed or recorded from the house or voiced over from a prebuilt tour. 

If the agent is hosting a virtual tour that has already been built in a virtual tour tool, keep a close eye on the chat interface to respond to the attendees. As always, agents should be responsive to questions and comments on the home itself. Additionally, the agent has to quickly respond to requests to navigate to unique angles or views of various rooms in the home since the agent likely controls the view for the attendees. 

If the agent is shooting a live tour, use natural light if possible, but make sure that other indoor lights are used in any areas where natural light isn’t enough. It will be worth testing out the lighting when testing the camera as well to see how the lighting looks on video. 

If agents are using a less professional camera, like a mobile device, hold the camera horizontally to give attendees a wider field of view. Also, be aware of reflections and mirrors– nothing breaks the illusion of buyers being in the home like seeing the camera and crew behind it. 

After conducting a live virtual tour, be sure to run another tour that is more polished or perfected. Upload this second one to any websites or portals that can host video content on real estate listings. This second run allows agents to incorporate questions or comments from the live event and iron out any issues that organically emerged the first time. This second run becomes a long-term resource for buyers to self-serve the tour at their convenience. 

example of virtual open house mls | AgentAdvice.comSource


5) Don’t Forget Post-Tour Activities

An agent’s job is not done after the last attendee signs off. Like an in-person open house, all of the buyers that attended the event should be documented in the agent’s CRM as leads for the agent’s own practice. 

They should also make note of event attendees who seemed particularly interested or engaged, as they may be the most likely to make an offer. Agents should email all attendees to thank them for attending and to provide follow up information, links to supplementary resources about the property, etc. 

It would be a waste to only use the footage created before and during the event for the event itself. Agents can use this footage in other avenues, such as promotional and marketing content for their own business as well as advertising for the listing at hand. This material will be agents’ best advocate for their skills in virtual tours, and can in turn help drive more homeowners to list with them. 

 

6) Trial and Error

For many real estate agents, virtual tours are a new process. Some are still in the process of buying the tools and technology necessary to make them successful. Adopting these capabilities sooner rather than later will make agents’ skillsets much more marketable and futureproof. 

Virtual open houses and tours, like any in-person event, each come with their own challenges and complexities. While there are many resources to help agents along the way, the best insight they can get is from running these events themselves and learning by doing. This process of trial and error will help agents figure out how to perfect the flow of their tours, and which tour software works best for their needs.

Brokerages also have a role to play in supporting agents’ virtual tour activities. The software tools that are required are often cheaper when bought by brokerages at scale, and can sometimes even be built in house by the largest brokerages. 

Brokerages’ support for digital activities like virtual tours should be a factor agents consider when evaluating which brokerage to join. Doing so can help agents make sure they’re not the last ones to the virtual party.