Virtual tours have become a hot topic in the real estate world. It’s a common misconception that online tours are only for buyers and sellers, not for renters and landlords. It’s time to forget that notion. Virtual tours can be a huge advantage in your property marketing, giving you an edge over your local competition. Here are the steps to create a virtual tour for your rental property.
What is a Virtual Tour?
Virtual tours are also commonly known as 3D tours or 3D walkthroughs. With virtual tours, the online renter is able to control which part of the rental they see and from which angle. A similar design is used for Street View on Google maps, but this is for the inside of a rental property. Virtual real estate tours are different from traditional property videos that provide a single showing of the property. This way, renters can focus on what matters most to them.
It’s important to understand the difference between 3D tours and 360 tours. 3D tours use static images, which are the picture we take everyday with our phones and cameras. 360 tours use cameras that can capture 360 images. Either can work for a virtual tour, it just depends on the software and equipment that you choose to use.
Keep in mind that virtual tours cannot replace the high-quality photos typically taken for rental listings. These individual photos are necessary for listings and other marketing purposes. Virtual tours should be considered a creative addition to your property listings.
Benefits of Creating Virtual Tours of your Rentals
You might be satisfied with your current advertising scheme and not see the need to try out virtual tours. What you may not realize, however, is that virtual tours provide landlords with considerable benefits. Here are a few advantages of creating interactive tours:
Maximize exposure in your market. You can think of virtual tours as another marketing material. Sharing your virtual tours anywhere you choose to market your listings can attract even more renters.
Attract out-of-town renters. It can be difficult for renters moving to a new city to make it to property showings. Virtual tours provide an easy and accessible way for renters moving long distances to view your rentals.
Minimize showings. Due to the pandemic, minimizing showings has become a necessity. Providing renters with an immersive way to view your rental property, while maintaining social-distancing, can greatly improve your marketing efforts.
Add creativity to your listings. With so many listings constantly being marketed, adding some creativity to yours can set you apart from the crowd. Virtual tours might just be the thing that locks down applicants, poaching them from your competitors.
Software Options for Creating Virtual Tours
One of the most important decisions when creating virtual tours is choosing your software platform. Below we give a brief overview of 7 of the leading software platforms for creating virtual tours. Be sure the software will meet your needs before deciding on one to use.
Kuula. Kuula provides software and features that are easy to use for creating sophisticated virtual tours on a limited budget. Cloud hosting is free for the first 100 public uploads, and they offer support along the way to help users create tours.
LiveTour. LiveTour is a virtual staging company that enables you to easily create panoramic virtual tours. The free account offers 3 free virtual tours, and the paid version starts at $29 per month for 15 virtual tours.
iStaging. iStaging allows users to create virtual tours with images taken on their smartphones with a $50 lens attachment. iStaging can be used to create live tours, make floor plans, or produce virtual reality (VR) tours for mobile phones. Their plans start at $5 a month.
EYESPY360. EYESPY360 allows users to create 360-degree virtual tours with virtual staging services. They offer a free trial that includes one tour, a $15 pay-per-tour option, and a monthly plan. EYESPY360 provides specialty features that enhance the renter’s experience.
Matterport. Matterport offers 3D tour software and cameras at a professional level. The cameras they sell cost thousands of dollars, but users can access their software to create virtual tours with other cameras, including smartphones.
Asteroom. Asteroom provides a platform for users to create seamless virtual tours using their smartphones and their Pano Kit. The kit includes a lens attachment and a motorized mount. High quality tours can be created for less than $100.
3DVista. 3DVista offers virtual tour creation and a mobile app. The platform allows users to create clickable floor plans, which is useful for renters. Prices range from $99 to $199 per month, depending on your chosen features.
Create a Virtual Tour in 8 Steps
Now that you have some background knowledge on virtual tours, let’s go over how to make them in 8 simple steps.
#1 Choose your Equipment and Software
The first step in creating virtual tours is deciding on which software and equipment you will use. The precise equipment you need will depend on the software you choose, but primarily you’ll need a 360 degree camera or lens attachment and a tripod. It’s recommended that you use a stable tripod with a panoramic mount for seamless tours.
You can choose to either buy or rent your equipment. If you plan to consistently make virtual tours for your listings, it may be more economical to buy the equipment you need rather than rent it. Regardless, be sure to do thorough research before choosing your equipment. You should compare prices, features, resolution depth (higher is better), stabilizer options, battery life, and more.
#2 Plan your Shots
It’s best to go in with a plan before you begin taking your shots. You should make a list of every room you want to feature. Renters like to see every room in the rental, including bathrooms and closets, so making a list will help ensure you don’t leave anything out.
You should then mark with a piece of tape where you will place the tripod in each room. The center of the room is usually best, but you may need to readjust so you’re able to capture all of the room’s important features.
#3 Stage Each Room
You want to present each room in its best light — literally. Make sure there is enough light in each room that the pictures are detailed and of a high-quality. If there’s not enough natural light, bring in lamps and additional lighting.
You should take anything out of the room that might be in the way of the camera so that viewers have full access to the room. Additionally, remove anything from the room that might be distracting to renters, which can include equipment or mirrors that reflect the camera. It’s good to leave some minimalist furniture and decor so that renters can see what the room will look like filled.
#4 Level your Tripod
Leveling your tripod ensures that all of the photos will come out correctly. With an unlevel tripod, the lines won’t match up and the tour won’t be seamless.
Many tripods come with a built-in bubble level. If yours doesn’t, bring one with you or download a leveling app on your phone. Simply adjust the legs of the tripod until it’s perfectly level.
#5 Do Test Shots
Before you take all of your photos, you should do a test shot in each room. Check for lighting and anything that might be distracting. If the room shows up too dark, bring in additional lighting. If the camera’s reflected in a window or glass feature in the room, move it until it can’t be seen.
#6 Take the Photos you Need
Once you’ve tested your shots and everything is good to go, it’s time to take all of the photos that you’ll need for the virtual tour. Go into each room, review any notes you have, place the tripod on your marked spot, and take your photos.
Before moving on to another room, check your photos on the camera’s screen and make sure they turned out correctly. Don’t be afraid to do multiple retakes if necessary. It’s better to have too many pictures than not enough.
#7 Create the Virtual Tour
Once you have all of your images, create your virtual tour by stitching images together using the software you chose in the first step.
First you must upload on the software all of the photos you wish to use. You will be prompted to add your static photos and/or your panoramic images, depending on which you took. The software will stitch static photos together for 3D virtual tours and assemble the panoramic images for 360-degree tours. Here, the software does the hard work for you.
Add Extra Features
Most software platforms enable you to add extra features to enhance the renter’s experience. Each platform will offer different features, but some include audio description, interactive links, music, and/or text. These additional features are what makes virtual tours useful, so don’t be afraid to over do it.
#8 Share the Virtual Tour
Once you’ve completed the tour, your software will provide a shareable link to the virtual tour. You will also be given a code that enables you to embed the tour on websites and social media accounts.
Be sure to include a link to the virtual tour in all of your listings. You should also embed the tour in your rental website. The more you share the tour, the better chance it has to reach interested renters.
Implement Virtual Tours into your Marketing Plan
Hopefully you now have a better understanding of how to create virtual tours of your rental properties. Traditionally, 3D and 360-degree tours were thought of as expensive marketing tools reserved for those in the business of buying and selling homes. As you now know, this is simply not the case. Virtual tours have the potential to benefit your rental business in considerable ways.