In the current situation surrounding the coronavirus crisis, there is often uncertainty on how to handle property viewings. In principle, property viewings are permitted, as long as they comply with the guidelines set out by the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH). A good way to show prospective buyers and tenants your property without physical contact is through remote viewings or 360° tours.
Why are remote viewings and virtual tours a good idea?
A recent survey of homegate.ch users clearly showed that demand for remote viewings is high in the current situation. Many users would feel uncomfortable doing an in-person viewing and would like the option of a virtual tour. Remote viewings have their advantages even without the limitations created by coronavirus. They allow prospective buyers and tenants to get a first impression of a property without having to take a great deal of time over it.
There are several advantages:
- Time factor: Real estate agents and property managers spend a significant part of their day on viewings. According to surveys and studies, this often takes up more than half of their working time. Thanks to virtual tours, they can spend more time on other important tasks instead (such as targeted contacts and marketing, better and more effective documentation, etc.).
- No unnecessary travel: In practice, real estate agents and prospective buyers and tenants can sometimes spend two hours travelling to and from a viewing. Tough luck, then, when it becomes instantly clear that the property is not the right one. A virtual, visual tour makes much better pre-selection possible. At the same time, it also prevents too many people from viewing a property purely out of curiosity.
- Professional appearance: Industry specialists and professional salespeople discover time and time again that sales and rental documentation make a bad first impression. Or there’s a failure to use new, digital tools and professional images. A truly impressive virtual tour allows you to stand out from the competition.
- Meeting needs: In the era of digital communication and the internet, providers that master the latest technical tools are at an advantage. Users give greater consideration to strong images, powerful visuals and virtual tours. These generate more clicks and attract more attention online than conventional ‘analogue’ approaches.
Showcase the property: Of course, it all depends on whether it’s a simple apartment, a room in a shared house or a high-end property. However, a thoroughly convincing presentation offers a sales advantage. Real estate agents and sales people in the premium price segment draw on this approach to great success (flawless showcase or virtual tour of the property inside and out, professional images, drone recordings, stylish furnishings, etc.).
Remote viewings via smartphone
A virtual video viewing using your smartphone is a simple approach that does not require any technical expertise. We recommend providers such as WhatsApp, FaceTime, Skype or Google Hangouts. The advantage of this approach is that it involves direct communication with the prospective buyer or tenant and allows any questions to be answered immediately.
Skype: Skype is popular and runs on practically any platform (smartphone, tablet, laptop, etc.). It offers impressive video and sound quality. Skype enables video conferences with up to 50 participants.
Facebook Messenger: Facebook is also popular in Switzerland. It also allows up to 50 people to take part in a video viewing.
FaceTime: Apple’s video conferencing app for all smartphones and tablets. However, FaceTime is available only to those with the right type of device and software. The limit is 32 people.
Google Hangouts: This software is available for a variety of different platforms and devices. It enables video meetings with up to 100 participants in the Basic version (the Business version enables even more).
WhatsApp: This is currently the world’s most popular messaging service. The chats are popular and this free software also enables video conferencing (maximum four participants).
Microsoft Teams: This Microsoft service offers many different options for telephone and video conferencing. To use it, you need Office 365 or Skype. Video conferences are available for up to 50 participants.
Tips on conducting a tour
It isn’t just the technology that counts. It’s how you use it, too. A video call offers many advantages and gives the prospective buyer or tenant a good insight into the property. However, you should think about your strategy beforehand: should the call have a personal touch? How will be questions be handled and answered? Or is the aim to give as many prospective buyers and tenants a glimpse of the property as possible? How can you follow up on the contacts?
The video call gives you the opportunity to communicate directly. If there aren’t too many people on the call, you can really give the tour a personal touch. You can also show certain rooms, views, the garden, etc. in more detail if desired. You should also communicate how and when any further questions or concerns can be discussed.
First impressions: Before you open the doors (virtually, on video), your property should, of course, be clean and tidy! Nothing is worse than a bad first impression. Whether it’s a video or a video conference, the same principles apply. Hold the viewing in good natural light! Tidy away personal items where possible. Think about the details, such as switching on the lights (for example, bedside lamps), letting in natural light, and opening all blinds and shutters.
Tip: record your own video! All new smartphones and iPhones record high quality video. For those who cannot or do not want to take part in a video conference, a high quality video is an outstanding marketing tool. Of course, in this case, you should also shoot your video when the property is bright and tidy. You can’t retouch or enhance anything on a homemade video.
The following principles apply to videos and video calls: Show as much of the property as you can, including the bathroom, kitchen and all living spaces, the outdoor space and the view. Where possible, also include the loft and the basement. Videos make the best impression when they’re truly inviting and give an authentic insight. Background music and commentary with important information add the perfect finishing touches.
Viewing and video length: The virtual tour should focus on prospective buyers and tenants’ queries and requirements. However, there is an upper limit to attention span: a video should not last longer than four to eight minutes. This depends on the size of the property, the number of rooms and whether a balcony or garden tour is included.
Creating a virtual 360° tour
Another option is to upload a virtual 360° tour. This can be created using your smartphone and supplied to prospective buyers and tenants. In this case, there is no direct communication with the prospective buyer or tenant. However, the advantage of this type of tour is that people can view it whenever they like. The advantages are as follows:
- Virtual tours are now used for a wide variety of purposes (viewing workplaces, homes, buildings, etc.). Many people are used to dealing with them. It’s not dissimilar to Google Street View.
- The user has the advantage of being able to control the tour themselves. A virtual viewing can be done at any time and as often as desired.
- More advanced versions of the virtual tour combine it with additional information, such as details on specific rooms, written or audio commentary, and even embedded videos.
- Virtual tours are now widespread and can be uploaded on a wide range of platforms (online advertising, websites, Facebook, newsletters and links, etc.).
- In principle, it’s your choice: you can use your smartphone relatively easily without requiring prior expertise. A wide range of apps are available.
- If you’re a business user, you might consider buying a 360° camera (such as from Theta, from about CHF 400).
- A wide range of providers in Switzerland and abroad are able to create professional virtual tours. They use either a digital scanner or a high quality digital camera to do this.
The imagination knows (almost) no bounds: depending on the technology and effort, almost anything is possible. For instance, this includes adding furniture, digital editing and embedding additional media and videos. In summary: what makes sense will depend on the budget, the marketing strategy and the target audience.
Virtual tour provider comparison
We took a look at a few providers of virtual tours and put together a list with some details.
|CASATOUR, by CASASOFT||