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Any house hunter on the prowl in the past year and a half has likely attended a virtual open house or two (okay — maybe dozens). With social distancing measures in place, virtual open houses have become the norm, and now serve as a convenient way for people to view a number of properties from the comfort of their home. 

There are a variety of benefits that come along with virtual open houses for both buyers and sellers, even when held in conjunction with normal open houses. If you’re on the seller side of the equation, we’re sharing some insight into how to host a virtual open house.

What is a virtual open house?

An open house is an open house hosted online instead of in-person. While a virtual open house can’t fully replicate the experience of touring a home in real life, thanks to video technology, virtual open houses are pretty advanced these days. While photos are a great start, video can really help you explore a home from a distance.

In some cases, a virtual open house may involve a pre-recorded or live video tour of a home or a 3D tour that allows you to “walk” through a home online. These 3D tours really help you check out every nook and cranny of a house, and it’s harder for the seller to hide the less desirable parts of their home — like when they selectively post photos of their home’s best selling points.  

When would someone attend a virtual open house?

Now that strict social distancing restrictions are less common throughout the United States, why would anyone still need to attend a virtual open house instead of a traditional one? There are many benefits that come with virtual open houses, so let's look at a few reasons why people like to attend them. 

  • When they don’t live in the area. Plenty of people need to house hunt remotely before they move to an area. Even if the buyer intends to visit homes in-person before they make an offer, virtual open houses help them do their research in preparation for their visit. You want your house to be at the top of their list when they’re in town. 
  • When they love to browse online. The majority of home buyers start their search online these days, even if they have a real estate agent that takes them to in-person open houses or showings. Virtual open houses can catch the attention of these digital searchers and is a way for your home to stand out amongst a sea of online listings. If your home isn’t selling, this may be one way to attract more buyers. 
  • When they’re serious about making an offer. If a potential buyer liked your home enough after the virtual open house to go to the in-person open house, you know they’re more serious than the average buyer. On the flip side, potential buyers who viewed your house in-person will enjoy a second look digitally before they make an offer. Your virtual open house could give them the reassurance they need to take the leap. 
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How do you create a virtual open house?

The type of technology you’ll use to host a virtual open house depends on the chosen digital format for your open house. There are two main options you can consider—a live virtual open house and a pre-recorded virtual open house. Each option requires different hosting platforms, but you can use either a camera or smartphone to record both types of open houses. 

If you haven’t chosen a real estate agent to work with, consider working with one who already has experience with virtual open houses so they can help you through the process. 

Live virtual open house

Your real estate agent can host a live virtual tour of your home via social media or video chat platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Google Hangouts, or Zoom. When you go live, you get the opportunity to engage with potential buyers similar to a traditional open house. The potential buyers can ask questions and your agent can adapt the tour as they get feedback throughout the session. 

If your agent isn’t experienced hosting this type of live virtual house, they may find the experience awkward, so you’ll need to inquire if this is a service they offer. 

Pre-recorded video open house

If going live presents too much of a challenge, you can film a pre-recorded video and upload it to social media, a video hosting platform like YouTube, or a listing website. A pre-recorded video gives more control over how the virtual house turns out, but doesn’t allow for as much engagement with buyers. 

It’s important to point the viewer in the direction of your real estate agent’s contact information so they know where to go if they have any questions about your home. Add their preferred method of contact to the social post or website you’re hosting the video on. Despite the lack of engagement, pre-recorded video open houses are still a great option as buyers can check them out whenever they get the chance, which is easier on everyone’s schedules. 

If you’re interested in a pre-recorded 3D tour, speak to your agent about hiring someone to assist with that technology, as it’s more advanced than the average person with a smartphone can handle. Prices for this service starts as low as $99, so it’s worth looking into what it would cost to outsource this task. If you do want to tackle this assignment yourself, you can see if your phone offers the option to create 360-degree images. 

How to host a compelling virtual open house

Need some virtual open house ideas to help your open house shine? The last thing you want to do is just hit the record button and wing it. Here are a few tips that will help you and your real estate agent plan a smooth and effective virtual open house.

  • Spread the word. Your real estate agent needs to market your virtual open house, especially if you plan to do a live virtual house where you need people to show up online at a specific date and time. Ask your real estate agent about what their plans are to advertise the virtual open house and make sure they’re ready to drum up visitors. 
  • Practice makes perfect. If you plan to assist your real estate agent while they host the live open house (someone has to hold the camera after all), do a practice run to work out any awkward moments and technical errors. This trial should help your real estate agent practice what they want to say so that they sound more natural once you go live. While they should have a loose script prepared so they know their main talking points, you don’t want them to sound cold or robotic. Do your practice run at the same time of day as your scheduled virtual open house so you can pay attention to what the lighting is like and if you need to make any adjustments. 
  • Stage your home. Whether you go live or film and upload a stagnant video, you should stage your home like you would for an in-person open house to make sure your home looks as attractive to potential buyers as possible.
  • Take your time. A good video tour should last about 10 to 20 minutes, depending on how large your home is, so don’t rush through a recording or a live virtual open house. Give people time to really see the home and really get familiar with it. It’s important for the host to speak slowly so that viewers can easily understand them. 
  • Make sure your agent dresses professionally. Chances are, your real estate agent will handle a virtual open house as professionally as they would an in-person one, but you should confirm the expected dress code. Professional and neutral outfits will look best on camera, so have them skip flashy colors and prints for any videos you film. 

At the end of the day, a virtual house can’t perfectly replace an in-person open house, but it is a helpful tool that can lead you to the right buyer.

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