Updated February 8th, 2020

Real estate and rental marketplace Zillow recently launched its 3D Home™ app, which it promotes as a virtual tour that will “elevate your listings.” With so many marketing tools out there (and more coming), it can be hard to determine what works and what doesn’t work to attract buyers. Like many real estate marketers, you want to know the products you use will truly deliver on their promises and provide the best value for your clients. Is a free or cheap option the best path to professional, effective promotion? To answer that question, let’s explore what a virtual tour is and how it can be a simple way to create a professional strategy that sells listings, sells your properties fast, how Zillow’s app and Matterport compare, and what you should look for in your 3D Tours for Real Estate marketing software.

What Does “Virtual Tour” Mean?

A virtual tour, also called a panoramic tour, is a wide-ranging view or video simulation of an existing place that potential clients can see online. The tours are often like virtual slideshows users view at the click of a button, but are often a rehash of property photos presented in a different and unique way. Creating video tours is also more of a “do-it-yourself” effort. These simple free or low-cost tours lack uniqueness and the depth of experience buyers tend to crave.

Going one step further, 3D virtual tours add the ability to see a panoramic view in 360 degrees (all around, at all angles), but they’re more than just traditional photos stitched together; they’re a form of virtual reality that blends photography seamlessly for a lifelike representation of a place users walk-through with a computer or a VR headset. Unlike virtual tours, the images are created at a higher resolution for crisp details that let users interact and engage with a property space. The user chooses where they want to go and what they want to see. They get to view the overall layout through floor plans, read any additional information available, listen to audio narration, and more. Buyers surpass photographs and step into a location that feels real while they control the experience. And their ability to control the tour further impresses on them the idea that they can own the property.

Are 360° Tours Virtual Tours?

Images stitched together to form a 360-degree view classify as virtual tours in the sense that you see a wide, panoramic view of a place. Though they’re more impressive than still pictures, users can’t interact with them. They may look at all angles, but they’re really just seeing different sides of the same picture and can’t explore further. These tours lack a third dimension that makes walls, floors, and ceilings stand out for greater depth and details. For instance, users may look all around a living room, but they can’t enter it and feel like they are in the room. 

Zillow touts 3D Home™ as a free, easy, and immersive iPhone app that integrates with its listings and Trulia’s listings. It lets users capture their own 360-degree panoramas and the app creates the tours for them. Simple enough, yet the results just scratch the surface.

Matterport 3D Showcase, on the other hand, takes visitors on a deep dive through a property. They move from room to room with ease; Dollhouse and Floor plan views take them up and down floors; they can look above and below for an enhanced perspective. In Floor plan View, users may explore a traditional “top-down” tour and switch between floors. Dollhouse View expands on this — visitors see an overhead view of each floor in three dimensions and can visualize how they fit together. Inside View allows the user to travel up or down floors, elevator-style.

The room dimensions are accurate within one percent in 4K at 134 megapixels, which can help buyers plan how they’ll use a space. Floor plans and High Dynamic Range (HDR) photos add to the details that give buyers more information about a home to help them make the right decision. The images show life-like details with vibrant colors and greater depth and contrast. 

Real estate marketers also have the flexibility to make the tours themselves or hire a professional, freeing their time for other tasks. Essentially, to create the tours, cameras scan the space and a computer processes the images. A home with only one or two camera scans may finish in 30 minutes, while one with 200+ scans may take 24 to 48 hours. Homes with difficult geometry also take more time to process. Most tours process within eight hours; 24-hour processing is unusual.

With Matterport, you may also offer viewers more information in the form of Mattertags, links within the tour that note unique features; you can direct visitors to download user manuals or listen to audio to increase their level of interactivity and impress them further.

What Should You Consider When You Choose a Virtual Tour Package?

The quality of your images and the number of details you show buyers in them is an important aspect in deciding which virtual tour is right for you and your clients.

Another important aspect to consider is how the tour will let you reach the widest audience possible. Can you share it quickly and easily on all platforms? The answer is yes! Posting your virtual tour through links or the actual video tour is possible with 3D marketing strategies that sell listings with a choice of a myriad of social media platforms including:

Alongside your property description, room details, community information, Google Maps location, contact info, and logo, you want your property images to “pop” with a virtual tour that generates excitement and interest.

Technology changes constantly, and it can be tough to stay on top while you seek to beat competitors in a field that becomes more crowded daily. Whether you try static virtual tours or the versatility of 3D, you want to present your properties in a way that leaves a memorable impression. The more details buyers glean from your tours, the more data they have to meet their needs and expectations. The secret ingredient of success behind virtual tours lies in the technology that produces powerful visuals that catch interest and “wow” buyers. When you market with these tours, you truly stand out from other agents while you deliver a superior experience. 

Take the time to evaluate the right tour for you. It will pay dividends, especially if you invest in a quality product that reaches buyers quickly.