Gone are the days of an ad in the newspaper finding you great tenants. Perhaps you’ve heard: Virtual tours are unbeatable for getting your rental unit noticed, and for finding you a stellar renter.
The first tenet of marketing is to go where your customers are, and these days everyone is starting their property search online. Between social media and streaming TV, video is king, and nothing will show off your real estate to a prospective tenant faster than a well-made virtual tour.
The Purpose of a Virtual Tour
Beyond just the accessibility of a video walkthrough, a solid virtual tour can save you and your renter a lot of time. The description in a rental listing is paramount, and so are excellent real estate photos, but when it comes to quickly portraying what life in your rental unit would really look like, the video tour is indispensable.
When shot well, a virtual tour:
- Shows the entirety of the rental unit, as well as how the rooms and amenities all connect to each other.
- Gives an accurate feel for the size of the space, as well as the lighting and general feng shui.
- Saves the property owner time by eliminating less-serious renters, or those who decide they aren’t interested after viewing.
The below video is an excellent example of an effective real estate walkthrough video:
Hire a Videographer vs. DIY
The question of whether or not you should hire someone to shoot your virtual tour should be a pretty easy one for you to answer. Are you at least moderately tech-savvy? Does the idea of filming a video fill you with dread, or does it excite you? Have you ever uploaded a video to YouTube and enjoyed the process?
Just as some landlords prefer to do all the maintenance on their rental property by themselves, many property owners prefer to shoot their own walkthrough videos. After all, who knows the property and all of its best angles better than you?
Nowadays, smartphone cameras are fully capable of filming great video, and you could absolutely shoot an effective video tour yourself using only the phone in your pocket. To take your smartphone videography to the next level, we recommend using a gimbal. These little motorized mounts can make your video buttery smooth, making the viewer feel like they’re floating through your rental unit.
If you want to take it up a notch, you could buy a DSLR camera and an interchangeable lens. Just like with real estate photography, you want to use a wide-angle lens (around 15mm on a full-frame sensor) to show off the entirety of your space. There are also gimbals you can buy for your DSLR to smooth out the resulting footage. This option will give you the highest quality video, but will also require a bit more technical know-how on your part.
Another option is to buy a GoPro action camera. They’re generally cheaper than a full-featured DSLR, have stabilization built in, and deliver excellent video quality. Note: If you shoot your walkthrough video with a GoPro, make sure to turn off the fisheye effect. It can do some not-so-flattering things to your rental unit by distorting the edges of the frame.
Hire a Professional Videographer
If none of the above made any sense to you, or if it all sounded like a lot of work, don’t worry! There’s a whole niche of video professionals who specialize in real estate videography, and I’m sure that any of them would love to create a virtual tour just for you.
There are companies like HouseLens that can connect you with a local videographer, or you could turn to your trusty friend, Google. Just search for “real estate videographer” and add the name of your town or city, and see what comes up. Any videographer worth their pay will be readily accessible online.
How to Shoot Your Video Tour
Let’s assume that you’re motivated by the challenge and want to live out your filmmaking aspirations, and you’ve decided to shoot your own walkthrough. It’s important to think of your video as a collection of short clips, since that’s how you’ll be shooting it. Afterwards, you’ll edit all those clips together into one beautiful, seamless tour.
Many of the same principles apply to video tours as they do to real estate photography. You want to declutter every room, turn on all the lights, and clean up. Viewers may not be able to pick up the lingering cat smell from your video, but they will absolutely see that dirty litter box left in the corner. You generally won’t show off closets or the inside of the garage, so those are great places to stash clutter during your shoot.
Beyond making your property look presentable and bright (don’t ever shoot a walkthrough at night), here are 5 suggestions to shoot an excellent DIY video tour:
- Map out your path beforehand. Start with your most high impact areas, which are typically the master bedroom, master bathroom, and the kitchen. If your rental unit has an incredible backyard or an impressive living room, plan to hit those early on. Your tour should progress from one room to the next in a logical fashion, similar to how someone would walk through it in person.
- Capture short, purposeful video clips. In addition to the above suggestion about using a gimbal, you’ll want to smoothly walk from one side of each room to the other. Then you’ll turn around and film yourself walking right back out of that room. Once you’ve captured every room this way, you’ll edit them together to create one seamless walkthrough. Editing can be done in any video editor such as iMovie, Adobe Premiere Pro, or Final Cut Pro.
- If you have stairs, don’t worry about actually walking up or down them – there’s basically no elegant way to do that in a video tour. Instead, just point the camera up or down to show that they’re there, and then start your next video clip on the other side of them. The viewer will understand.
- Don’t forget the exterior! While the whole point here is to show off the living spaces, many rental units have some excellent outdoor areas. If you have a single-family home, the driveway, garage, and yards should definitely make an appearance in your video tour.
- For a truly professional product, cut out the audio and replace it with a simple instrumental music track. Non-offensive elevator music is the goal here, and it can really elevate your end product. After all, no one wants to hear your footsteps stomping through the whole rental.
Drones are simpler and more affordable than ever before, and many models make it simple to get into the air and capture an impressive bird’s eye view. Incorporating drone footage into your video tour can be really impactful, especially at the beginning or end as an establishing shot, but it’s important to ask yourself: Will your rental property benefit from an eye in the sky?
Luxury properties, and especially rental units with expansive outdoor areas or beautiful surroundings, can look truly incredible through the lens of a flying drone. If your rental is in an apartment complex that doesn’t happen to be near a ski slope, though, a drone may be more trouble than it’s worth.
There are 360-degree cameras designed with a lens on the front and back, with software that automatically stitches the views together. What you’re left with is a 360-degree view of a space, and the viewer can zoom in and move around in that image as if they were standing in the room. It’s a neat effect, but one that could overcomplicate the virtual experience. If you have an open floor plan and high ceilings, this could be a great option.
Matterport cameras are large, expensive, and a bit intimidating. The resulting walkthrough, however, is extremely impressive, and can provide an unparalleled walkthrough experience. If you have an expansive interior, a Matterport tour could be a great way to show it off and let your prospective renters experience the space in a fashion similar to Google Street View, where they can tab along and virtually walk the space without ever leaving their home.
Where to Use Your Virtual Tour
Now that you have a gorgeous video tour that shows off your rental unit in all of its grandeur, where do you put it? Thankfully, these days there’s no shortage of places to post your video content, and just about anywhere can be the place that a great tenant finds you.
Here are a few places you can use your video tour:
- YouTube. It’s the king of video content and the second-biggest search engine in the world. Videos hosted on YouTube can rack up organic views, but YouTube’s platform also makes it easy to embed your video anywhere you want. Another option is Vimeo, which will give you much of the same flexibility in sharing.
- TurboTenant. When you market your rental listing with TurboTenant, you can include a link to your video tour on YouTube or Vimeo. All of the listing information you include on TurboTenant, as well as your photos, will be syndicated out to dozens of listing websites to find you the best possible tenant.
- Your website. If your property management business has a website, why not enhance the virtual experience and include your video walkthroughs? You can embed the YouTube video of each property right on your site to show off your whole portfolio.
- Social media. Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok in particular have emphasized video content in recent years, and any of them (or all of them) would be a great place for you to post your brand new walkthrough video. Remember to include hashtags featuring the neighborhood, city, and #forrent to make it easier for renters to find you.