What Is a Virtual Tour?
A virtual tour is a type of photography that allows people to ‘walk through’ a location remotely. Unlike a video tour or photos, it is possible to look up, down, and all around at anything of interest. This makes virtual tours very useful for gaining perspective of a property’s size and layout.
At Anikio, we are known for creating epic, interactive, and totally customizable virtual tours. Branding, custom hotspots, detailed callouts for products and features, embedded video, day/night mode, and live panoramas are just some of what help our clients get and hold viewers’ attention. We are also able to create more standard virtual tours for real estate agents, landlords, tourism committees, and business owners.
Can You Show An Example?
Sure! Have a look at our Virtual Tour Portfolio! But here’s our favourite so far:
In December, we were commissioned to shoot the Saskatoon Hospital Home Lottery $2.5M Showhome. Built by Decora Homes, this spacious but well-proportioned 4,500 sqft home is the most valuable showhome that SHHL has ever built. Unfortunately, with the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing, in-person viewings of the house were not an option. Decora and the SHHL were looking for ways to help bring the showhome into living rooms and partnered with Anikio for a unique virtual tour that, for the first time that we’re aware of in this province, would allow viewers to view the home in the day or night… to make the sun rise or set at the click of a button.
Not only that, but as a thank you to suppliers who rely on the exposure from these homes to offset some of their costs, both parties also wanted to feature parts of the house with popup windows that noted the supplier.
So we took those notes and added a few more cool features. A home this grand needed to be seen from the air. Not just in a still photo but in a 360 degree panorama like we do at ground level. And one of the incredible features is a 3rd floor rooftop patio with spectacular sunsets. We shot a live panorama showing day, sunset, and night on the patio as well as the front exterior photos. We added an intro video (all of which, minus the initial drone shot, was supplied by the lottery). At night, the TV in the basement actually plays the video intro… on the TV and in the virtual tour. We provided standalone, Facebook-ready 360s to tease it. Created a custom interface to fit the way that the tour was embedded in their page. And more. But enough talking, have a look.
Why Use a Virtual Tour?
Of course, virtual tours are more important than ever as we look for ways to move activities remote in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Landlords reducing the number of in-person showings, home shoppers winnowing down their viewings, these are not new but more exigent needs in today’s world.
But besides the health reasons, virtual tours give a better understanding that what-you-see-is-what-you-get. 360 views mean that camera angles, chosen to showcase the best features, don’t obscure anything. This gives a better sense of security and surety. Better still, a virtual tour can be completed any time, day or night, whether an in-person viewing is available at that moment or not. They help decide where to dine, where to shop, and where to call home.
Today, with our new Live Guided Tour feature, virtual tours are able to help students take a virtual field trip, realtors host an open house, and investors tour a construction site.
And virtual tours open the door more than ever to audiences beyond local. A farmer in Yorkton can tour the Saskatoon lottery home and decide to purchase a ticket without 6 hours on the road. A tenant in Toronto can walk through a downtown apartment she’s interested in well before she has travelled to Regina. Colleagues around the world can tour the company’s new facility in Saskatchewan at less than the cost of one plane ticket.
Finally, consider that getting attention is just half the battle in the marketing world. We also need to hold that attention. Virtual tours can significantly increase your mindshare and help you stand out against competitors.
How Long Does It Take to Make a Virtual Tour?
It depends on the size, layout, and type of property.
Standard Real Estate & Rentals: A property with multiple levels and hallways simply requires more photos and work than an open concept apartment. But generally, if the property is correctly prepared, we can shoot a virtual tour in 30 mins to one hour for a typical property. After that, the photos need to be edited and combined, and the tour created from our office afterwards. This takes several hours but typically, a virtual tour is available within 24 hours of filming.
Custom Real Estate & Rentals: This is much more contingent on what features we are including in the tour. The Home Lottery tour example above took about 10 hours to shoot, roughly one hour per thousand square feet (the home is 4500 sqft and was shot day and night) and over a week to create. We also shot traditional photos to accompany the feature callouts in that time. On the other hand, the initial set up for a Saskatoon realtor took some time but now that his virtual tour interface is standardized, it takes no longer than a standard virtual tour to film and create but offers a customized, personal look.
Business: Square footage (i.e. number of photos) is still a determining factor, but also working with and in/around people. An empty business can be filmed much more quickly than a busy one or even a closed business with employees preparing to open. Are we incorporating any video content or features that will need separate photography?
Is This The Same as a Matterport Tour?
We don’t use Matterport cameras or their proprietary hosting and software subscriptions, but our virtual tours are comparable to those created with Matterport. We do not use Matterport and instead offer a different platform with what we believe are more features, customization options, and wow-factor. Have a look at this comparison we created for landlords and property managers.
What Do They Cost?
For virtual tours attached to Anikio rental listings, our latest pricing can be viewed on the pricing page. But as you might guess, custom tours vary widely in pricing based on the time required to create them. We like to meet with clients to understand their goals and talk through some of the tools available in our custom virtual tours to help them achieve those goals, and generate an estimate from there. We can work within a budget to provide the best impact per dollar and make sure the right choices are taken to get a great quality tour that achieves your goals within your budget.
Are Virtual Tours Worth It?
Yes. Of course, you’d expect us to say that. Why are they worth it? Let’s look at a few examples.
Let’s say you have a property that is about a 15 minute drive from your home or office. To do a showing, you drive to your unit and arrive 10 minutes early to make sure everything’s in order. The tenant arrives right on time, you have a 20 minute chat and showing, and then leaves. You lock the place up again, shut off lights, close blinds, etc (5 minutes) and drive back home or to the office (15 minutes). You don’t hear from that particular tenant again (but at least they showed up!); it turns out that the place doesn’t really fit their furniture. You’re now out 65 minutes that you would have saved if the tenant did a virtual tour and never contacted you in the first place. Plus gas and wear and tear on your vehicle.
It doesn’t take too many unnecessary showings for the virtual tour to pay for itself. And after you’ve found a tenant and then they move out in a year or two, you can use this virtual tour again, saving even more time and money.
Here’s one other consideration: What if the virtual tour helped put you as a front runner for a great tenant. Maybe it saves you one month of vacancy (how much is that worth?) Maybe the tenant stays for several years and saves you multiple turnovers. What is that worth?
Restaurants are one of the businesses that have been studied most with respect to virtual tours for business. Google found that restaurants that included a Google Street View virtual tour (which Anikio can create for you) had a 30% higher click-through to reservations than businesses without. Let’s say that a virtual tour cost this restaurant $400. If that restaurant had an average cover of $40, the virtual tour would only need to result in 10 more seats filled in its lifetime to pay for itself. On the other hand, if an average day brought in $4000, and $1000 of those were from online reservations, an extra 30% would pay back the virtual tour in 2 days.
Realtors always have to balance the amount they invest in getting a property sold with the risk that it might not sell at all (and thus they might not recoup their investment). On top of that, they need to balance their commission with how much they spend on marketing to ensure that there’s enough when all is said and done to make the home sale worth their effort. We all hopefully know by now that professional photos are a must in this day and age. Virtual tours, though, are often reserved for the upper-end of the homes. But like the property manager, virtual tours can save realtors time in unnecessary showings. But that’s the smaller part of the story here.
The biggest impact is in the mindshare gain from having someone consider your listing vs. other listings for that much more time. Every moment they’re spending looking at your listing is another moment they’re considering its suitability, remembering details about it, picturing themselves in it. The more time your listing stands out from all those other units. In fact, while virtual tours are considered a standard feature of homes over $400,000 in value, the fact that many don’t opt for a virtual tour below that threshold means that virtual tours are actually more effective a differentiator on the smaller properties. If that $200 virtual tour is the difference between selling a small $200,000 condo and collecting a $4800 commission (minus other expenses) or it sitting on the market an extra month or worse, not selling, is that worthwhile?
Custom Home Builder
Virtual Tours for Home Builders can provide a lot of value! Let’s look at a few scenarios:
1) Client Interested In Your Floorplan(s).
A virtual tour of a completed floorplan prior to sale allows new clients the chance to walk through and look around, getting a feel for the size, flow, and layout, helping close the deal. It can also lead to more educated change requests earlier in the design phase instead of after the framing is already made, saving everyone money and time. On the other hand, if a floor plan isn’t built (or we can’t access a willing former client’s home to create a virtual tour), we can also generate a rendered virtual tour, even allowing clients to view different finishing options and combinations!
2) Early-Mid Construction
The sooner a home can sell, the sooner debt (or at least some of it) can be off the books. A pre-rendered or existing completed virtual tour of the plan can be an amazing sales tool! But probably the most interesting option at this stage of construction is to complete a virtual tour just prior to insulating and drywall, so that wires, pipes, and other in-wall infrastructure can easily be located, deficiencies identified and corrected. A mid-construction tour can also be an amazing tool to add value for your clients should they wish to renovate in the future. Or, we can create a before-after virtual tour showing the home in construction and completion all at once.
Realtors already use virtual tours to help generate and hold interest in their listings. If your realtor isn’t doing everything they can to market your brand new product and earn that high commission, it’s time for a new realtor! We recommend that builders own virtual tours for their properties so that a walk-through can live on in the builder’s portfolio as a pre-construction sales tool, this is something that you should be able to negotiate with your realtor. For builders that take the private sale approach, we certainly believe that the online portfolio and sales tool are individually enough reason to have one created. Combining those two reasons, it’s a very compelling case. We can host the virtual tour at a reasonable rate (compared to, say, Matterport) or we can compile a create a virtual tour that will run on many websites without a need for any ongoing hosting fees beyond what you already pay to have a website!