Virtual home tours help people find their perfect home or vacation rental, whether they’re searching locally or across the country. Touring a home virtually allows you to get a better feel for the property than photos alone and is an excellent way to find your dream home.
People who are relocating or looking for a vacation home can easily browse available properties from the comfort of their own home instead of traveling and viewing them in person. While virtual home tours have existed for years, their popularity and use took off during the pandemic.
More real estate agents and interested buyers use virtual tours as a must-have tool in the real estate market. Buyers can quickly view new listings in popular neighborhoods without having to take time away from work or their families. It makes shopping for Mount Pleasant homes for sale easier and more efficient.
Learn what to expect from your virtual home tour and tips to make your virtual home buying process successful.
- Real Estate Agents Have Different Definitions of Virtual Tours
Some real estate agents have been using virtual tours in their work for years, while others more recently began using them for home sales. This means the type of tour available or the quality of the virtual tour can differ between properties.
A virtual tour may consist of 360° photos, a three-dimensional tour, a virtual stage or online walk-throughs. Virtual open houses and showings are sometimes also available.
360° tours and digital renderings
Tours that offer 360° photos use a camera that captures a full view of each room. You’ll be able to move the image up, down and fully around to see every angle of the room. You can also zoom in to look at details more closely. Many real estate agents piece these photos together so you can travel through the house and get a feel for the layout and flow of the space.
There’s also software available to take these 360° photos and develop a three-dimensional property rendering. It can resemble a dollhouse, with you viewing it from the outside looking in. These are called 3D or three-dimensional tours.
Some real estate agents use other software programs to stage their properties virtually. This allows them to virtually decorate spaces that would be empty. They can add digital furniture or decorative items to show how things fit in a room and give you a better idea of what the space would feel like.
It also allows them to add digital paint color or wallpaper to walls, so be aware that what you see may not be what you’re getting.
Online or virtual walk-throughs
Online walk-throughs provide a video tour of the home. In a walk-through, the agent may use a smartphone, tablet or camera to record a video as they guide the viewer from room to room and point out details or mention features.
Online walk-throughs are typically recorded in advance and are available on-demand. They’re often called virtual showings or a virtual open house when done via live stream.
Virtual showings and open houses
Virtual showings must be scheduled and are one-on-one virtual tours that mimic an in-person tour. You may start with the home’s exterior before moving inside and following the flow of the property’s floor plan. These showings may be done over Skype, FaceTime or other video chat platforms.
A virtual showing allows you to ask the realtor questions and get more information than other forms of virtual tours provide. They can tell you about the neighborhood or point out non-visual details of the home, such as creaky floors or strange odors.
Virtual open houses are less structured and allow interested buyers to join group video tours and chats through social media and other platforms online. You may not get your questions answered or be shown all the home details during an open house.
- Figure Out Your Needs and Wants First
Before you start looking at homes for sale, make a list of your must-have needs and the features or amenities you’d like your home to have. Your needs are the make-or-break items that allow you to filter the homes you’re looking for on a multiple listing service.
This could mean looking for a minimum number of bedrooms and bathrooms, depending on the size of your family. People who love to cook or bake may need a kitchen with more counter space and use this to dismiss homes with smaller kitchens quickly. Someone who collects cars may require a three- or four-bay garage to fit their lifestyle.
Your wants are any feature of the home you’d like to have but could live without. This includes wanting a pool, a new build, a fully renovated home or your preferred home style or neighborhood. Any potential new home must meet your needs, but the right home for you doesn’t have to contain all your wants.
You may need to look at home listings to get an idea of what you like and don’t like to create your list. Once you have these things in mind, you can determine if a property listed online is worth looking into further.
- Narrow Down Your Options
While creating a list of your wants and needs allows you to narrow the pool of homes you’re looking at, it still leaves you with many options. Use the virtual tours available to help further narrow down the homes you’re interested in.
You may love the photos of a home but hate its flow once you see a virtual tour. Or you may notice details in a 360-degree tour, such as popcorn ceilings that you couldn’t see before.
The more homes you can rule in or out through virtual tours, the less you’ll have to decide between. If you are stuck between two or three houses, consider having your real estate agent do a video walkthrough of your top options.
While some people are comfortable buying homes through virtual tours alone, you may want to visit each of your final contenders in person before making an offer on a home.
- See if There’s a Floorplan Available
If you’re attending a one-on-one video walkthrough or a virtual open house, see if you can access the floorplan of the home before your tour begins. It can be hard to determine the layout of spaces when you’re not touring it in person. You may not have a good understanding of how rooms are connected or where they are in relation to other spaces inside the home and outside.
Floor plans are drawn to scale and show all the elements inside a home from above. The floor plan provides the dimensions of each room and may list information about the ceiling heights. A printable version of the floor plan is even better because it allows you to refer back to it during your tour. You can even use it to take notes or jot down questions during your virtual walkthrough.
- Take Notes During Your Tour
While virtually touring homes you’re interested in is fun, you also need to take it seriously by taking notes while attending the event. Taking notes during your tour allows you to remember important details later on that you’ll use to compare multiple properties.
Keep paper and a pen or pencil on hand so you can write down details you won’t find in the listing. This includes the ages of appliances, how old the roof is, where electrical outlets are located and more.
Taking notes also lets you remember non-visual details and impressions your realtor shares during your tour. You won’t want to forget if an area of the home’s floor sags or is uneven. You may also want to note your general impressions of the house after the tour and whether it will need home repairs or updates soon.
- Remember What a Virtual Tour Can’t Capture
Virtual tours are a great way to get visual impressions of the home, but they fail to capture all the details. You’ll miss out on experiencing the home and neighborhood’s personality. You also won’t sense the non-visual aspects of the house, including smells or noises.
You may not realize the historic downtown Charleston rental you’re looking at is next to a busy restaurant or bar, which could keep you up at night, or that your perfect family home is located in a poorly rated school district.
Once you have a list of top contenders, research the properties to find out the information a virtual tour doesn’t provide. Look up the address on an online map to see what the neighborhood looks like and if it has stores, restaurants, and other nearby amenities. This also lets you see if the property is on a noisy, busy street or in a more family-friendly location.
Research information about the school district the home is in and the neighborhood’s history. This will give you more information about the socioeconomic level of the community, what types of crime occur, if any, and the property value history of the home.
You can also ask your real estate agent to be your ears and nose during a one-on-one virtual walk-through of the home. Ask them to point out any odors from pets or smokers. They may hear if there are loud neighbors or traffic noise problems as well.
- Don’t Forget to Tour the Outside
If you’re only looking at a 360-degree tour of the home’s interior, you may miss important details about the outside of the property. Even one-on-one walkthroughs with a realtor may not cover the home’s exterior in-depth. You’ll want to know the condition of the home’s exterior and what the landscaping is like and get a good feel for the size of the yard.
Make sure your virtual tour includes all outdoor areas such as porches, decks, patios, sheds and any outbuilding on the property. You’ll want to check out the condition of the home’s siding or brick, the roof, all sidewalks and the driveway. Exterior elements can be expensive to fix or replace, so you’ll want to be aware of any issues before deciding to make an offer on a home.
If the home has extensive landscaping or a large yard, it may be more than you can keep up with on your own. Landscaping costs should factor into your budget for a new home. Like pools or hot tubs, other amenities require regular upkeep and maintenance. If you’re looking to put in a pool, make sure there’s enough room on the property to do so.
- Make a List of Questions
Develop a list of questions to ask your realtor before your virtual tour for each property. You may want specific details or answers to questions after viewing pictures of the home. Creating your list ahead of time allows you to brainstorm and think of what information you’re missing. You can also ask questions that come up during your virtual tour or write questions down to ask at the end.
Your real estate agent’s job is to provide you with the information you need, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s common to ask for information about room size, the age of the home and appliances and questions about the neighborhood. If you’re looking at Kiawah Island real estate, ask about flood zones or hurricane risks based on your location.
Your real estate agent is experienced and can provide a lot of valuable insight. They may be able to answer your questions immediately, while others require more time and research. Don’t buy a home without getting your questions answered first.
Your Virtual Tour Is Just the First Step
Virtual tours are a way to keep real estate agents and buyers safe during the ongoing pandemic. It cuts down foot traffic in homes and in-person contact between individuals, which is good for the health of the homeowners and everyone involved in the real estate transaction.
Virtual tours are also a great way to narrow down the list of homes you’re interested in. You save time during the initial phase of home buying.
Some people may feel confident enough to put an offer in on a home after a virtual tour, while others see the virtual tour as the first step in the process. It’s normal to want to see the property in person before making an offer.
Buyers need to follow additional steps after their virtual tour. It’s important to have a home inspection done to detect any potential problems with the home. You may also want to complete a pest inspection to ensure the property doesn’t have an issue with termites or other insects.
Start Touring Homes in Charleston
If you’re looking for homes in the Charleston area, consider working with Dunes Properties. Our real estate agents know and love Charleston and the Lowcountry. We’ve been helping local residents and newcomers find the primary residence, vacation home or rental property of their dreams since 1989. Contact us today to find out how we can best serve you.