If you’ve been in the market for a new home or rental property, you’ve probably scoured the internet for options and, in many cases, you probably encountered a virtual tour.
Virtual tours are the new norm in most every sales-based business. If a customer can’t preview your product from the comfort of their sofa, they likely won’t be interested. It’s one thing to take a virtual tour of a resort or hotel that you’ll be spending a week at, but a completely different story when it comes to finding a place to call home.
So, can you really trust a virtual tour? And what kind of information should you be looking for?
Is it a true virtual tour?
Many real estate agents may tout the fact that you can “tour” a property from the comfort of your home, but if the tour isn’t very dynamic—meaning it doesn’t allow you to preview rooms from different angles, look into closets, etc.—then it won’t be very beneficial. The whole point of these virtual tours is so that you can have eyes into every area of the property. You should be able to look up, down, left, right, into closets, in the backyard (if there is one), and around the sides of the house to examine siding and foundation. You should be able to walk away feeling like you’ve just viewed the house in person.
You can save yourself time
Pictures aren’t always worth 1,000 words. Just because a property has fantastic looking photos in the listing doesn’t necessarily mean it will be as impressive in person. A virtual tour can help save you a lot of wasted time in walkthroughs—giving you the ability to preview a place before you stop in for an in-person tour. Use virtual tours as a way to eliminate properties that aren’t a good fit and to narrow down your choices to the ones with the most promise.
Find out what you like (and what you don’t)
If you’re just starting out in the homebuying process, you may not even be sure what types of features you like in a house or what you’re really looking for. Virtual tours can present you with a myriad of different types of houses in your target area so you can figure out what elements you hate in a house and what you can’t live without. That way, when it comes time to work with a real estate agent, you can explain what you want clearly and effectively.
There’s no replacement for your eyes
Though technology has come a long way, and most virtual tours present a 3-D picture of your (potentially) future home, but most are still not a replacement for the kind of sensory experience you get when you visit a property in person. A virtual tour won’t give you a picture of the neighborhood, or who your closest neighbors are. You won’t be able to feel creaks in the floorboards or see the carving in the tree out back.
Virtual tours are a beneficial tool in real estate that aren’t going away any time soon, but should be used with caution. They can serve as a precursor, but should never serve as a replacement for the traditional in-person tour in your home search.