Virtual tours for your rental listings: Helpful or all hype?

Jenny Abercrombie
Jenny Abercrombie | 5 min. read

Published on November 26, 2019

You may have heard: Virtual tours are the new kid on the block—on many blocks, in fact—and they’re creating a buzz in the property management industry. Here at Tenant Turner, 33% of customers have at least one video or virtual tour in their active listings, and that’s on the rise.

Featured Resource
Chart of Accounts

Want clearer, cleaner books? What about a more useful view into your properties or just easier accounting in general?

Get the Guide

What Are Virtual Showings?

Much like self-access showings, resident leads can literally view your properties while you sleep. Better yet, they can do it from their couch through 360-degree, immersive photography—think of Google Maps’ street-view feature. But with the investment in equipment and new technology, are these self-guided virtual tours worth it? We’ve weighed the options below.

Matterport Example

An example of a video tour, courtesy of Matterport (click to play)

Benefits of Virtual Tours

The main goals of virtual tours are to increase leads and decrease unnecessary showings: 

  1. Optimize your listings. Virtual tours help to generate more tenant leads by making your listing more appealing. Stats from record 3 times more time spent on a page when a page has a video or virtual tour. Matterport reports that these listings also see a 49% increase in the number of leads. Zillow research reports that 41% of Millennials find video or virtual tours very important in helping them decide on their next home. Tenant leads gravitate to listings with tours, they spend more time viewing details about those rentals, and they are more likely to inquire.
  2. Catch leads when they’re hot. Virtual tours are on-demand, so leads don’t have to wait to see the rental. Pair that with a leasing software like Tenant Turner that will take lead calls 24/7, and you can gain a competitive edge by offering always-on availability. 
  3. Expand your lead pool. Virtual tours make showings more accessible to tenant leads with limited mobility. When access isn’t an issue, you’ll get more eyes on the property and bring more leads into the funnel. 
  4. Decrease unnecessary showings. Video and virtual tours give tenant leads as much information as possible before a showing is scheduled, allowing tenant leads to self-select out of seeing a property. When you pair this with software that pre-qualifies your tenant leads, you’re only showing rentals to leads who are truly engaged and who already like what they see. 

Virtual Tour Technology Options

Let’s explore some of the options in virtual tour technology: 

  • Tools like zInspector, traditionally used for property inspections, can stitch together 360-degree images to create a virtual tour. Property managers can capture images of the home for the inspection, then use that footage for marketing photos and virtual tours. It’s a cost-effective way to do more with your inspection time and resources, especially if you’re already using those tools.  
  • The Zillow 3D Home app was launched earlier this year. It’s completely free, but the price tag does come with some limitations: It’s only available on Apple iOS devices and doesn’t offer some of the features that you’ll find in paid services.
  • Matterport is the primary option in the multifamily rental industry. Matterport Tour is a high-definition photography tour that includes up to 20 locations within a rental, which are combined into one realistic, interactive 3D and VR photography tour. Tenant leads can click through the house in any direction to see seamless, detailed images of the rooms, as if they were walking through. You can also create accurate floor plans and 3D models with a dollhouse view.

As a best practice for using any of these tools, you’ll want to set the stage just like you would for taking photos: declutter, set appropriate lighting, turn off anything moving like TVs and fans, and open doors to make for easy pathways.

Drawbacks to Consider With Virtual Tours

  1. Consider cost. Higher-end software like Matterport requires the use of a camera that can cost between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars. If you’re going to buy a camera, you’ll have to budget for accessories like a tripod, rotating mount, and camera bag as well. If you’d rather not buy your own equipment, you can use outside services like HomeJab or Planomatic, who can take the videos for you. Prices for these services vary, but you could be looking at anywhere from $150 to $300 per listing. 
  2. Tours may go unseen. The truth is, most listing sites don’t highlight virtual tours yet. highlights virtual tours better than most, and Zillow will highlight any homes with a virtual tour created in their Zillow 3D Home app. That’s why, in order to make your efforts worth it, you’ll want to make sure that your showing scheduler supports your virtual tours and highlights them appropriately. Tenant Turner adds your virtual tour link on the front page of the rental information, and can include it as a link on your website if you’re using the listings widget. If you’re not partnering with the right technology, your tours could easily be missed. 
  3. Quality photos are still king (and queen). Whether you’re using virtual tours or not, the best practice is to have 11 to 15 high-quality photos on your listing. Zillow stats show that listings with at least 11 photos received twice as many views as listings with 5 photos. That small improvement alone may create enough of an impact for some without going through the cost and effort to create virtual tours. 

So, Are Virtual Tours Worth It?

In a nutshell, it depends what your goals are. For those looking to significantly reduce unnecessary showings, virtual tours can make a strong addition to your suite of leasing tools. They are best used in partnership with a scheduling software that helps you get the tours front and center. Used together, a virtual tour can help weed out rentals that are not a good fit for a particular lead, and software (like Tenant Turner) weeds out leads who are not a good fit for a rental. If your goals are more focused on bringing people on-site for a personal touch, or if your budget can’t accommodate equipment to produce a high-quality virtual tour at this time, then focusing on high-resolution photos in your rental listings may still be the best move for you. 

Read more on Marketing
Jenny Abercrombie

Jenny is a creative writer and an avowed world traveler, with 16 countries stamped in her passport. By day, her job is to create the best experience possible for property managers using Tenant Turner. She lives in Richmond, Virginia with her fiancé and tortoiseshell cat, Kiki.

Be a more productive
property manager