I've bought and sold a lot of properties over the years.
Whenever it comes time to sell a property, I'm always intrigued to see what kinds of advertising tactics are able to get a property noticed and what sorts of things buyers actually respond to. Sometimes a property will sell very quickly (in a matter of hours) and other times it will take longer (a few months). While it's difficult to say exactly what factors of a listing are doing the actual “selling”, I've found that properties almost always sell faster if I can present the listing in a way that is both informative and attractive.
It may come as a surprise to some, but I almost never use real estate agents to sell my properties. On a few rare occasions, I've asked various agents to list a property for me (just to see what happens), but with literally 100% of the properties I've sold over the past five years – not a single sale was generated by an agent. I always end up being the guy who ultimately finds the buyer.
I'm honestly not sure why. Maybe it's because I work harder at it (because I just care more), maybe it's because I use different tools than most agents do, or maybe it's because I'm posting my listings in different places than agents are… I don't really know. Whatever the reason – one of the things that I've found to be particularly helpful in getting listings to stand out from the crowd is to offer a virtual tour of the property.
Now, a “Virtual Tour” usually means one of two things:
Video: One method is to record a video of the property as you're walking through it, kind of like this:
As you can see, it's not always pretty, but it is very informative. In fact, it's one of the best ways I know of to understand the condition of a property without actually seeing it in person. Videos can be extremely helpful for investors who live out of state (or out of the United States altogether).
Recording a video is something that either you can do, your real estate agent can do, or you can hire someone to do the walk-through of the property for you. In the past, I've actually hired people on Craigslist to do this for me and it generally works out very well. For someone to record a video walk-through, I will usually pay $50 – $100 for them to meet the owner or agent at the property, get a good video clip as they walk through it, and send the video to me when they're finished. Pretty simple. If you're working from a remote location, this could be your best option for evaluating a property and/or creating a virtual tour for your potential buyers on the back end.
Panoramic Photos: Another way create a virtual tour (which is cheaper, faster, and more user-friendly than video) is to take some panoramic pictures of the property from several different angles. Until recently, getting a good panoramic shot of anything was problematic. However, in recent years there have been some VERY cool innovations in the smartphone app industry which has made this process much easier.
Using nothing more than your smartphone, you can get pictures just like these:
As you can see – these aren't just any point-and-shoot photos. These are professional looking, panoramic shots that are VERY informative and even attractive! Believe me, I'm the furthest thing from a “professional photographer”, but I took all of these pictures with just a few clicks – and it's one of the easiest things I've ever done. These apps are fully automated to take the pictures, stitch them together and provide you with a seamless panoramic shot in a matter of seconds.
The app that I used to create all the pictures above is called Dermandar and it can be downloaded for FREE to your iPhone in a matter of seconds. Similar apps are also available on the Droid. Some of the more popular ones are Photaf and 360 Panorama.
The beautiful thing about these apps is that they can all take full, 360-degree angle shots, so if the setting is right, you can literally show your potential buyers 100% of the horizontal surroundings with just a few clicks of a button. And not to mention – you don't have to buy anything – you can get a panorama app for FREE and use the existing hardware that is already built into your phone.
When people are browsing through property listings on Craigslist, Realtor.com, Trulia or Zillow – they usually aren't expecting to see a full-blown virtual tour like these panoramic pictures can provide. Especially with something like real estate, “perceived value” is HUGE when you're trying to sell a property. If you're able to make a property look really good, you will find a buyer faster and they'll usually be willing to pay you more (sometimes, a lot more). If you're looking for a way to stand out from the thousands of other listings in your market and really make your ad POP – this is a great way to do it.
These days, taking panoramic photos is a standard order of business whenever I am at a property. If I have time to do a video walkthrough, I'll do that too. Even if you're hiring someone to take photos for you remotely, tell them about these apps on the iPhone and Droid – it's worth mentioning! Most business people already have an iPhone or Droid readily available, it's just a matter of putting it to good use for the good of your real estate listings.