This article is part of a larger series on Real Estate Lead Generation and Marketing.
Virtual tours, like video walk-throughs, 3D virtual tours, and interactive 360-degree virtual tours, allow prospective buyers to interact with a home and look at features in detail without being on-site. To create a virtual home tour, start by choosing your equipment and planning your shots before taking your photos. Additional details like leveling the tripod, staging each room, and using virtual tour software are also essential to creating a virtual tour.
Many real estate agents avoid creating virtual tours because of the assumed time, effort, and expenses. However, companies like Asteroom remove those obstacles by offering affordable and easy-to-use software, as well as a simple 3D tour kit for creating high-resolution virtual tours right from your smartphone. The kit provides tools to turn your smartphone into a 360-degree camera to create tours in 15 minutes. Start creating virtual tours with Asteroom today.
Here are eight steps on how to create a virtual tour for real estate in greater detail:
1. Choose the Right Equipment & Software
One of the reasons that some agents avoid virtual tours is because they are confused or intimidated by the necessary equipment. They often imagine needing complicated, high-end photography gear, and that it will take extensive practice before being able to use them well. In reality, the growth of virtual reality and 360-degree photography has increased the number and type of equipment options available.
In fact, some virtual tour cameras are extremely affordable and user-friendly, so you can make a virtual tour right out of the box. Of course, other cameras provide more extensive tools, features, and accessories, along with a higher price. Here are a few of the top virtual tour cameras on the market:
However, most photographers and videographers agree that the absolute best quality comes from using a DSLR rig. A “rig” basically means adding equipment accessories to your DSLR, allowing you to capture virtual tours. DSLR rigs generally cost more than all-in-one cameras, and usually leave you with a bigger learning curve.
When you’re figuring out how to create 360-degree virtual tour with a DSLR camera rig, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of equipment and accessory options. However, the basics will always include:
- DSLR camera: A few great DSLR options for creating virtual tours are the Sony a7R series, Sony a6000, and Nikon D3500.
- Fisheye lens: This lens allows you to get the widest angle. Before selecting one, research cropped, circular, and diagonal fisheye lenses.
- Tripod and/or monopod: A tripod sits on a surface and holds your camera steady, while a monopod has only one leg, and is used for shooting smooth 360-degree videos.
- Panoramic tripod head: In addition to a tripod that holds your camera steady, virtual tours and 360-degree photos will require a tripod head for panoramic photos. Evaluate whether you need a manual or automatic tripod head.
- Carry case: While this may seem like an optional piece of equipment, it’s necessary to keep your equipment safe, secure, and easy to transport around the property.
In addition, the necessary equipment and software for your properties or real estate business will depend on the type of virtual tours you create. Make sure you research virtual tour software and virtual tour equipment before ordering anything, because some software programs offer their own cameras, lenses, or accessories.
Read through reviews, compare prices and features, and search for examples of photos taken with each type of camera to help you decide on the best fit for your needs.
To start, check out the following four top virtual tour software programs:
Photographers and agents wanting the most convenient way to capture, edit, and share virtual tours
Real estate professionals wanting the most extensive tools to capture and edit virtual tours and 3D media
User-friendly video editor to add interactive elements, branding, and labels to virtual tours
Agents who want many feature and service options like virtual staging, screen share, and lead generation
$59 per active tour
Free or $69 per month
$5 to $95 per month
$19.99 per month + $15 per tour
For even more details and comparisons of real estate virtual tour software options, read about the six best Matterport competitors.
2. Plan Your Shots
As you learn how to create a virtual tour, you’ll notice that it requires more planning and preparation than still photos. Those who are successful in real estate start by making a list of every room in the house that should be included in the virtual tour walk-through. Before the shoot, walk through the home, find the center of each room, and make sure your camera will be able to capture and highlight the features of each room from that vantage point.
If the center doesn’t work, find a place where your camera will pick up the most detail and mark the spot with a piece of tape. Don’t forget that every space matters to a potential buyer, so it’s important to include rooms like bathrooms, walk-in closets, and mudrooms in your virtual tour. Creating a shot list ahead of time can help make sure you don’t forget or leave anything out.
Download our free virtual tour shot checklist to get started:
3. Stage Each Room
Once you know where the camera will sit, make sure the room looks as perfect as possible. At a minimum, remove anything that stands in the way of the lens to give the camera a clear view of the entire room, and remove anything that might be distracting or look like clutter. Be sure the room has enough light so the features are easy to see. The clearer the view, the better the final result.
For the best results for all your efforts, you should seriously consider home staging as an integral part of your real estate photography and marketing strategy. Staging a home has an enormous impact on the buyer’s perspective, especially in virtual home tours where they are likely to zoom in to photos and actively search around each room. Depending on the home, you may hire a local staging company or use a virtual staging service.
4. Level the Tripod
As you create a virtual home tour, your tripod must be level to ensure all images are uniform. This step will only take a matter of seconds, but it’s essential for any image, video, 360-degree, or panoramic photo you might take. Don’t try to create panoramic or 360-degree images without a level place to put your camera, or the lines and angles in your shots will be crooked and off-putting.
If your tripod does not come with a built-in bubble level, simply download a leveling tool on your smartphone, like Bubble Level for iPhone or iHandy Level. Level the tripod by adjusting the legs until the bubble is centered between the lines.
5. Take Test Shots
At the beginning of your shoot, test each shot on your image list—highlighting the right features. As you learn how to make a virtual tour for real estate, you’ll notice more details in the first shot that should be adjusted, like lighting, the camera angle, or oddly placed decor.
If you notice something distracting in the shot, move the camera or stage the items in the room accordingly. Keep an eye on any mirrors, glass, or windows, making sure you and your camera do not appear as a reflection in the pictures. If you do, pick a different place to stand and operate the camera remotely.
6. Take All Photos on Your Image Shot List
With a thorough shot list and the correct camera settings, you’ll be ready to move through each room on the property to take pictures. Find the spot you planned in each room, set up your tripod, and take pictures. Check each image on the camera screen before moving the tripod, retake shots as needed, and confirm you have all the images you need before moving on to the next room. It’s better to have too many photos than too few.
7. Create Your Virtual Tour
Once you have all of your images, it’s time to create the virtual tour of the house with the virtual walk-through software you chose. Regardless of what equipment and tools you need, the process of making a virtual tour will follow these three steps:
Upload Images to the Software Program
Start by uploading your images into your software program. If it’s your first time creating a virtual tour, the software may teach you how to make a virtual tour through step-by-step prompts. Go through the steps of adding static or panoramic images, and the software will stitch static images together for 3D virtual tours and assemble the panoramic photos for 360-degree tours.
Add Extra Features
Most software programs include additional features to improve your tour and enhance the viewer’s experience. These can include audio descriptions, interactive links (also called hotspots), music, or text.
Depending on your software choice, click on settings or the edit button to get a choice of extra features to add to your virtual tour. Viewers will be able to back up, zoom, or change directions automatically with their mouse when the virtual tour is complete. This is what it looks like to add hotspots on the iStaging.com virtual tour creator:
Outsource if Necessary
Virtual tour software providers have made the process very simple, but that doesn’t mean every agent has the knack or the time to complete all the necessary pieces of post-production. Many new real estate agents attempt to do everything themselves, but there are many cases when outsourcing is the most efficient way to create the best tour for the property.
On Fiverr, you can search for a freelancer to create a virtual walk-through or 3D tour and browse through hundreds of profiles, examples, and reviews. Before beginning your project, you can even contact freelancers to ask questions and agree on a price. See who’s available on Fiverr today.
8. Share Your Virtual Tour
Once you’ve finished creating your virtual tour, use your software to share your tour through a link or HTML code to embed the tour on websites, email, or social media. Take every opportunity to share your virtual walk-through in order to generate real estate leads and find potential buyers for the home. In fact, it’s best to develop a system for sharing and promoting your tour, and add that to your marketing or open house checklist.
Pro tip: Many virtual tour software programs offer branded tours, which means your name, brokerage, and contact information are displayed on the tour. It’s best to create a branded and unbranded version for different purposes. For example, branded versions should be used on social media, your email list, and your website. Unbranded versions can be used for multiple listing services (MLS) since they generally will not allow agents to add any branded content to listings.
Types of Virtual Tours
“Virtual tour” is an umbrella term used to describe a few different types of interactive property photos or videos. These include video walk-throughs, 3D virtual tours, and interactive 360-degree virtual tours. On the other hand, a slideshow of listing photos set to music is not a virtual tour since it does not recreate the experience of being inside or walking through a property.
A video tour or walk-through is exactly what it sounds like: a guided walk-through of a property.
Videos are the least interactive of the virtual tour options, but they are the easiest to create using anything, from smartphones to the most sophisticated digital video equipment. In fact, video tours can be created in 10 to 15 minutes by walking around the home with your smartphone, like this example from California realtor Scott Taylor:
Listing videos are nothing new, but they’ve only increased in popularity and are more powerful than ever when marketing and selling a property. You can (and should) even add your own unique personality to your videos, like Ryan Serhant does from the first second of his video tours:
Although it’s ideal to highlight the features and selling points of the home, many real estate agents opt to create simple video tours by editing clips of the property and adding music to the background. These videos are quick and easy to create and edit, and add an incredibly useful and engaging feature to your listings. Watch this video from The Avenue Central Coast Realty:
Video tours are one of the easiest ways to add an engaging and unique element to your property listings, but that’s only the beginning. In fact, videos on social media generate 1,200% more engagement than text and image content combined. Hence, make sure you take advantage of the marketing power of video. Start by checking out some of the top real estate video examples and learning why they work so well.
3D Virtual Tour
3D virtual tours are not videos, but are interactive experiences that allow users to look at 3D images and experience what it is like to move through the property. They are created by taking multiple photos of each space with a panoramic camera lens, then using virtual tour software to stitch the images together. The result is not a typical video, but an interactive experience that allows users to view spaces from different angles, turn around, and back up in each room to see details.
Here’s one example of how a 3D home tour from Matterport looks:
Because this type of virtual tour is created from static images and not from video, the flow from room to room can feel jumpy, like looking at something in Google Street View. However, they provide a huge value to potential buyers because they can virtually “walk” through the property at their own speed and look at spaces in detail. In fact, surveys have shown that 63% of Gen Xers, 83% of Millennials, and 94% of Gen Z buyers prefer real estate listings with these immersive features.
Another affordable way to easily create a 3D home tour is with Zillow 3D Home Tours. It’s a free app that works with 360-degree cameras and smartphones to capture panoramas and generate an interactive home tour. The tour can then be shared on the MLS, the Zillow listing, social media, and your website. Try the app today.
Check out this sample Zillow 3D home tour video from BlueLaVaMedia:
Interactive 360-degree Virtual Tour
360-degree tours offer an immersive, true-to-life experience of walking through a home, similar to wearing a virtual reality (VR) headset. Of course, creating a 360-degree virtual tour requires more specialized equipment and software than the other types of virtual tours, but the result will help you and your listings stand out from the competition.
360-degree virtual tours, like 3D tours, require you to set your camera in the center of the room. Then, you must activate your 360-degree camera, and it will rotate to take a high-resolution, 360-degree photo of its surroundings. Each photo is then uploaded to special software, where text, links, and other interactive multimedia content can be added to the photos, creating a highly dynamic experience for the viewer.
Here’s an example of a 360-degree virtual reality tour from House of Designers:
Virtual tours provide potential buyers with a unique, fun, and engaging tool to view a property online. There are a few different types of virtual tours that can help your real estate listings generate significantly more interest and increase the sale price. With the right equipment, software, and strategy, learning how to make a virtual tour can be relatively simple and can make a big impact on your business.