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Opinion: Virtual reality home tours here to stay

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In the last few years, there have been drastic changes made to the way business is conducted. When a pandemic is added into the mix, things evolve even quicker.

The real estate industry is right in the heart of it. Realtors help clients make one of the largest purchases of their lives. It is a very personal relationship-based business, but with the rise of technology, social media and virtual reality, Realtors have had to make adjustments to keep up with the times.

A lot of first-time homebuyers have grown up in an era of virtual interaction, mobile convenience and immediate answers to every question. We have to meet them where they are at or get left in the dust.

The fact is most prospective buyers first look at homes online a lot of times before they ever talk with an agent. It’s our job as real estate agents to engage with them and capture their interest from the moment they click on the listing.

We have found this is fundamentally done through high-quality, professional listing photos. As we all know, a picture is worth a thousand words. If that is the case, how much is a video worth?

There is definitely a trend to offering 3D virtual tours, video walkthroughs or drone footage on homes in this area. This is especially effective for clients moving to southwest Missouri from other parts of the country. Sometimes, it’s hard to get an exact feel for layout and flow with photos alone. There are a lot of homes around Springfield that have acreage. A flyover, drone video can give a potential buyer an idea of how the home sits on the land, how wooded the property is and more.

Companies like Matterport offer a 3D-walkthrough tour that allows you to virtually walk through the home and experience the property with the highest accuracy, second only to being there in person. According to the company, 95% of people are more likely to call about properties with 3D virtual tours.

This is an added expense for the Realtor, but it makes a client’s home stand out among the rest. Virtual walkthroughs are mostly used in larger homes with higher price points, but as this technology is more widely accepted, we could see it as a standard feature.

I believe VR will continue to become a bigger part of real estate. Some day, we may sit in our office with VR goggles on and view properties without turning a key.

Another way virtual tours come into play is through doing live videos on social media. Realtors that have used this tool have seen great engagement on the property. You can simply start a live video at the home during an open house, all of your followers on social media get notified that you are live, and you can take people through the home in real time, answering questions as you go.

A typical open house can bring 25-50 people in a two-hour time frame. During a live video, our company has seen 500-800 people watch the video. People already are on their devices. Realtors understand that it’s crucial to make the home viewing process convenient and second nature to clients. Videos have very high engagement through social media, so agents can cross-post an engaging walkthrough on all of their platforms and cast a wide net for potential homebuyer impressions.

With all that said, utilizing technology has been vital during these social distancing times, and I believe real estate agents are seeing the possibility of making this a staple with each listing. Change is difficult and some might find it easier to continue doing the same things over and over, especially in a market that is very forgiving. Homes are selling fast due to low inventory. At some point, that will not be the case and listings will be compared based on the way they are presented online. It’s very important, as a real estate professional, to always innovate and find ways to better serve clients. We cannot replace the personal relationship aspect of real estate, but we can pair certain technology tools to complement those efforts. As Realtors, our goal is to use resources such as VR to enhance the clients experience with buying or selling their home.

It is not a question of whether VR technology will be relied upon, it’s a matter of when.

Aaron Owens is the co-owner of Alpha Realty. He can be reached at aaron@alpharealtymo.com.

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