Why virtual tours are sticking around
Viewing commercial real estate remotely has become a lasting sales tactic
Virtual property tours became a necessity during the pandemic’s lockdowns and travel restrictions.
But they’ve stuck around, even as the world reopened over the past year and physical inspections resumed.
More than half of companies hunting for commercial space, or investors looking to buy, now expect to see a virtual tour before they commit to a physical inspection, according to virtual-tour creator Inspace. Sixty percent of its clients now expect their first viewing to be a virtual one.
“The pandemic made people realize the value of technology for connecting people to property and how to seriously improve the user experience in a very competitive market,” says Will Hamilton, head of office leasing for JLL in New South Wales, Australia.
Virtual tours are just another option for tenants or real estate buyers making decisions. For landlords and sellers, they help filter a property’s visitors and attract a wider range of potential tenants or buyers.
But part of their staying power has been a big improvement in quality. The rapid adoption of virtual tours during COVID-19 forced providers to make them better, and quickly.
“The standards and sophistication of virtual tours have improved greatly over the past two to three years and they have become a key piece of proptech. I don’t see that changing,” Hamilton says.
Meanwhile, a greater reliance on virtual touring during the pandemic has “accelerated demand for more personal and transparent marketing and tenant management,” says JLL’s Transform with Technology report.
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Websites using virtual tours are viewed five to 10 times longer than those without, allowing greater opportunities for a sale or lease, according to American media agency Panomatics.
“Access is 24/7 and they provide a reference point and memory jogger when looking at multiple sites,” Hamilton says. “The convenience factor is high, enabling a potential tenant or buyer across town or across the world to start with a long list of properties and whittle them down to a number they’ll actually visit.”
Virtual tours can be used for small or large spaces, and for one floor or a whole building. But their benefits are not limited to selling or leasing. They can also help designers.
Sunlight and shadows moving across a floor are accessible in some tours, helping with creating fit-outs from afar, including the positioning of furniture. Tours can also locate buildings in the context of their neighborhoods, showing exterior amenities like parks and green spaces, co-located businesses, and access to transport.
Virtual tours, embedded in websites or on social media feeds are being used across a raft of industries and property sectors besides offices. These include travel and hospitality, restaurants, retail stores, medical and aesthetic practices, cultural spaces, aged care and retirement villages, wellness centers, event venues and special use sites like auditoriums and sporting venue.
The technology is advanced enough to be easily customized to target certain demographics.
Types of virtual tours vary, as do their cost and complexity. The most common types of virtual tours are drone videos, live-streams, pre-recorded tours, 360-degree virtual tours (usually photography), augmented and virtual reality, and story-driven marketing videos.
New versions will offer more interactive experiences and give the viewer more control, Hamilton says.
“There’s a sliding scale of what you can spend and you’ll be doing something different for a new central, urban development compared to a small building in a more fringe location,” he says. “There are choices, and the beauty is the technology can be applied to any sort of project.”
Contattaci Will HamiltonHead of office leasing - NSW, Australia, JLL
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