By RICOH360 Tours Team

Win the listing! That’s the first step for any real estate agent who builds a successful business. While a listing presentation can simply be a conversation with a homeowner, the best prepared and highest performing agents include the latest marketing tools to demonstrate their expertise, build confidence and win the listing. With a listing, you are essentially creating an image of you and your business to other potential clients. You are selling your unique brand. How you come across to your seller and, more importantly, to your buyers is critical. How do you make the best impression without spending a lot of money or time? Let’s look at some of the facts.

The majority of home buyers start their search online and, in terms of those surveyed, the value of website that feature virtual tours rank more useful than videos by over a 2 to 1 margin, consistent with Zillow results. Buyers want to get a sense of how a home really looks and feels, something beyond what they can experience with a conventional photograph. In another survey conducted by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) it states that homes marketed with virtual tours typically sell for more, and sell faster than homes marketed with conventional photographs.

If virtual tours sound like the way to go, they are. But hiring professionals to produce interactive virtual tours costs a significant chunk of change. For example, for a 3,000 square foot home you can expect to spend anywhere from $150 to $500—and double that if you plan to add videos to the listing. There is also the turn-around time factor, having to schedule, coordinate and wait for the results.

Another more budget-friendly, less time-consuming option is to do it yourself. By going the DIY route, you put yourself in the driver’s seat. Being in control means you save on the expense of hiring an expert and gives you the opportunity to broaden your skill set. Furthermore, knowing that virtual property tours are one of the most impactful areas in a real estate transaction, you’re armed with the knowledge that you’re making a significant investment in your future success.

There are several options when it comes to DIY. Some solutions produce video game-like virtual tour experiences but this generally comes with a hefty price tag. You can expect to spend several days learning how to use the equipment, and once at the property, expect to be there for several hours capturing and finishing the content.

You can also use your smartphone with an accessory. Unfortunately, professional quality 360° tours don’t come from using a smartphone accessory. You really need a high quality 360° camera for this. A good starting point is the Ricoh Theta V together with the Ricoh TM-1 monopod–a very affordable and simple-to-use option along with Ricoh’s end-to-end virtual tour platform– RICOH360 Tours. Besides being easy to use, RICOH360 Tours can capture and create a virtual tour of a 3,000 square foot home in less than 30 minutes. That’s an end-to-end virtual tour almost instantly.

So how do you go about making your 360°, interactive virtual tours unique? Read our tips below to make your tour stand out.

  1. Call your homeowners a day or two before the shoot to have them tidy up. Ask them to make the beds, including pressing bed linens and bed skirts. Have them store away phone and tablet charging cables, and remove clutter from surfaces. In addition, remind them to remove family photos and anything personal. Remember, a 360° image captures everything!
  2. If the home has interesting outside spaces, such as a sun deck or patio, try to shoot early morning or late evening when lighting is at its ‘golden hour’ and looks best. Golden hour is shortly after sunrise or before sunset. Again, as it is 360° imagery, pay attention not only to the patio itself but the room connecting to it, and make sure no one is standing inside the room and can accidentally be caught in the photo.
  3. Switch on all the lighting to make sure the home has a lived-in appearance. Turn on table lamps and floor lamps for that special layered lighting look. The RICOH360 Tours smartphone app is fully automated, so 99.9% of the time it will capture a professional quality image, regardless of the lighting conditions.
  4. Open the doors to each room to better create the “tour paths” for the best walk-through experience throughout the tour. Open doors also create a larger feel and reflect the flow of the property. Make sure to open doors that open onto outside living spaces so it will pull people through the home and into the surrounding yard, patios and hardscapes—helping to bond the property with future buyers.
  5. When the stage has been set, place the Ricoh Theta camera together with the TM-1 monopod in the center of your room, connect with the RICOH360 Tours mobile app on your smartphone, step outside and press the shutter button just once. The app will instruct the camera to quickly take three exposures. The Ricoh Theta camera will process each one slightly differently than normal to capture greater detail from bright and dark areas, and-voilà, you’re done!
  6. In the background, each 360° image will be synced automatically from your phone to the cloud and assembled instantly into a virtual tour. The software will auto generate both branded and unbranded URLs for pasting into the VR field of your MLS, or if needed, you can copy and paste the embed code into your existing website just as you would a YouTube video to keep customers on your page. You can track your referrals too, giving you instant visibility into when a tour was visited, where they came from and how many times they visited.

Buying a home is a big decision. In most cases there are several people involved in researching homes for sale and other legwork needed to make a sound decision. Sometimes it’s not possible for the buyers to be in the same location as where they want to live. For example, a buyer may want to look for homes in another state or someone’s partner or spouse may currently live in another state as they house hunt. The 360° imagery and interactive virtual tour accelerates the decision process for these types of buyers.

By qualifying the prospective buyer through this more immersive experience, when they do come to view the home, they are more likely to move forward and make a decision faster than if they hadn’t been so immersed in the home’s features. The seller also benefits by potentially getting a higher selling price and less time on the market.

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