What You Need to Know About Using Virtual House Tours to Sell Your Home

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then how many words can a video convey? Video has become the most widespread medium to digest information, so it makes sense that video found its way into real estate marketing.

Although high-quality photos have become the norm to sell residential real estate in many mainstream metropolitan markets, a great listing video can excite and galvanize potential buyers. But not every property lends itself to a professionally-produced video. Just like great photos can encourage buyers and bad ones can sink a listing's sales prospects the moment they hit the web, the quality of a listing video matters.

[Read: 10 Mistakes to Avoid When Selling Your Home]

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when thinking about real estate videos:


-- Determine if it makes sense to create a listing video.

-- Decide if you're shooting a video or a virtual tour -- they're not the same thing.

-- Plan out the shoot beforehand.

-- Recognize that a highly produced video doesn't guarantee a quick sale.

-- Know that creativity and gimmicks have their place.

Determine If It Makes Sense to Create a Listing Video

"Not every property benefits from a video," says Mikey Pozarik, a New York-based videographer who has produced over 500 videos for listings and agents in New York, the Hamptons, Miami and Los Angeles. "If the video is downright bad, it may add doubt to buyers' perception about the quality of the property," and take away from the positive impact of great photos and a compelling description, Pozarik says.

The video's quality should be held to the same standard as crisp, professional photos. This will likely require a professional videographer who understands lighting, composition and angles to best emphasize the property's selling points. However, this can be pricey and you may get what you pay for. Furthermore, the medium doesn't lend itself as well to some properties versus others.

Decide If You're Shooting a Video or Virtual Tour -- They're Not the Same Thing

Especially since 2020, we've all become increasingly accustomed to doing everything remotely, including the initial showing of residential properties via a video walk-through, referred to as a virtual tour. Creating such a tour for a listing is quite commonplace as part of a larger marketing package. These are useful for buyers and should not be costly to produce.

A slow and well-lit walk-through of the property and its floor plan by the agent should do the trick, or outside vendors can help to inexpensively create a virtual tour using a tripod and a smartphone app. Virtual tours are great for buyers who aren't able to visit the property in person, but they will not generate interest that a well-produced, high-quality listing video can.

A great video with high production value isn't necessarily a room-by-room tour of the property, but serves to complement the professional photos, floor plan and description.

"(It's) an invitation to get buyers to visit," Pozarik says. "There's no need to show off every aspect of the home, only the best parts." A great video also can create a buzz and excitement that may set a listing apart from others that stick with more traditional marketing tools.

[Read: The Guide to Understanding Your Home Value.]

Plan Out the Shoot Beforehand

Just as the property needs to be prepped before a photo shoot, the same goes for the days leading up to the video shoot. Of course, this means decluttering and cleaning up.

"Before the shoot, all clutter needs to leave," Pozarik says. "Windows should be cleaned and beds made. We want it as minimalist as possible. We want the audience to envision their lives in the space. Travel souvenirs and other personal items don't help sell the home, even though these might be very meaningful to the seller."

The same way a property must be staged prior to listing, the decluttering and depersonalizing prep work before a video shoot is critical, and might actually be the most painstaking preparatory feat for both the agent and homeowner.

Videos cannot be edited in post-production like photos can. Experienced real estate photographers can remove wires, edit reflections in glass and cracks in the ceiling, and even change an overcast sky to blue after the shoot. It's not the same with video.

In a recent video shoot for a New York City apartment, footage included demonstrating a soft-close drawer in the kitchen, only to later learn that the camera had caught what looked like a ketchup or soy sauce stain on the side of the drawer that wasn't caught prior to the shoot. Unfortunately, this sequence had to be left on the cutting room floor.

"The way it looks in the room is the way it will look as a final product," Pozarik says. "Paint mistakes, wires, messy bedding, a cluttered kitchen counter ... this comes up every time we shoot. You can't get rid of it later. Many inexperienced agents who are trying to supervise a video shoot don't know this and don't prepare for this. You can't remove a reflection in the mirror or glass the way you can in a photo."

And don't forget a script. Is there an opening on-camera presentation? A voice-over? The script doesn't have to read like a Hollywood screenplay, but there should at least be a written schedule of rooms to shoot, selling points not to miss and a few out-of-the-box ideas to brainstorm. Agents should write out and rehearse their voice-over beforehand.

Recognize That a Highly Produced Video Doesn't Guarantee a Quick Sale

Just like great photos and savvy social media can create buzz and web traffic, so too can a captivating video. But none of these alone will sell a home, especially if the listing is overpriced. In general, marketing's purpose is to generate interest, get eyes on the listing and entice web traffic to translate into foot traffic.

Once potential buyers are visiting the property, the home has to sell itself with the help of a skilled broker. If the home is overpriced or has a major shortcoming, it's likely that no splashy video or strategically placed Instagram post will be the silver bullet.

[READ: Why You Should (and Shouldn't) Sell Your Home in 2021.]

Know That creativity and Gimmicks Have Their Place

Many listings now have slickly produced sales videos with upbeat music, well-composed shots and word-smithed chyrons or voiceovers. These are traditionally elegant and safe, and complement other marketing initiatives in reaching a wide audience. But every now and then a gutsy, creative real estate agent (and trusting client) can use video to really break through to a sometimes cynical buyer pool.

"Believe it or not, some videos are so bad that they can get a lot of attention on social media and create a somewhat viral moment," Pozarik says. "I'm not sure this is really in the best interest of selling the home, versus just getting attention, but the publicity often drums up inquiries."

The goal of shooting a video is important -- it can be a great publicity tool for the property and should showcase the home at its best, even if there might be an intriguing or offbeat storyline to draw in the viewer.

Creative muscles can be flexed a bit in a video in a way that might seem awkward or off-putting in photos or even in a description. That said, the video should be appropriate to the property, and what works for an Upper Eastside co-op might not work for a Hollywood bungalow.