Step Inside: How to Host a Virtual Open House & Boost Real Estate Sales

Learn all about virtual open houses and how to leverage them in your property marketing plan

According to OJO Labs Chief Real Estate Officer Chris Heller, 73% of homeowners prefer to partner with a real estate agent who uses video as part of their listing strategy. But videos are limited in that real estate agents can’t interact with prospective buyers in the moment to understand what’s driving their buying decisions. The COVID-19 pandemic pushed the real estate industry toward virtual open houses, which brought the limitations of video conferencing and 3D modeling technology further to light. But with advances in digital twin technology, you can make your virtual open house an immersive, interactive experience that gives homebuyers context on your property, drives interest, and gets your listing off the market faster. 

What is a virtual open house? 

A virtual open house is a live event or pre-recorded on-screen walkthrough of a property that gives prospective buyers more context on their space. Using video conferencing platforms or virtual tour technologies, real estate agents can connect with a broader audience of potential buyers and answer questions about the property remotely. 

4 biggest virtual open house benefits 

In a May 2022 survey conducted by LendingTree, 47% of surveyed home buyers from 2020-2022 said they bought their homes sight unseen, which is a testament to the power of virtual open houses and listings. Beyond moving the needle for buyers, virtual open houses offer other benefits for real estate agents.

1. Broader audience reach

By making the open house virtual, you expand the property to out-of-state and international buyers. Unlike traditional open houses limited by geographical constraints and scheduling conflicts, virtual tours offer accessibility to anyone with an internet connection. Prospective buyers can explore properties at their convenience, allowing for greater flexibility and inclusivity. 

Additionally, virtual tours cater to individuals with physical disabilities or those unable to attend in-person viewings, thereby expanding the pool of potential buyers and enhancing overall engagement in the real estate market.

2. Lower time, energy, and paper costs

A virtual open house eliminates in-person open house costs, including food, physical printouts, and energy expended from ensuring the property is open house ready. You get to designate when the open house occurs and run it from your office. Once prospective buyers are in, they can browse freely and ask questions while having access to the listing’s floor plan and your contact information with the click of a button.

3. Shorter sales cycle

As of May 2023, the Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED) database pulled data from Realtor.com that estimates a house in the United States stays on the market for an average of 43 days. According to our research, virtual walkthroughs reduce the sales process to 21 days.

4. More effective real estate marketing

The shorter sales cycle comes as a result of using virtual tours as a marketing tool since they have the power to significantly enhance the effectiveness of a realtor's sales efforts. Realtors get a chance to showcase properties in an immersive and engaging manner. 

Virtual tours provide several benefits for real estate. By offering virtual tours, real estate agents can provide potential buyers with a comprehensive and lifelike view of the property, highlighting its unique features and selling points. This interactive experience enhances the property's visibility and attractiveness in the market, ultimately increasing interest and generating more leads. 

Virtual tours also demonstrate the realtor's commitment to leveraging innovative technologies to meet the evolving needs of clients, establishing trust and credibility within the industry.

Common virtual open house formats to consider for the next sale  

While live streams and pre-recorded videos are the norm for virtual open houses, technological advancements present a third option: digital twins, which can give prospective buyers an immersive photorealistic virtual experience of the property. Let’s take a closer look at these three virtual open house formats. 

1. Host a live video event 

Video conferencing platforms like Zoom or social media sites like Instagram or Facebook Live allow Realtors to interact with potential buyers in real time. In terms of time commitment, and despite some platforms’ ability for cross-streaming and uploading (like Zoom to YouTube), expect to host quite a few livestreams to get as many eyes on the property as possible. To make the most of live video virtual open houses, explain how you will walk through the property and your preferences for interacting with potential buyers. Some buyers may prefer in-app chat messaging, which allows them to ask questions in the moment for you to answer immediately or at the end of the tour, while others may prefer to ask questions verbally and connect with you when the virtual event is over. 

2. Record a video walkthrough

Recording a video walkthrough and then uploading it to the listing’s landing page is a way to continue enticing potential buyers from a livestream or capture the attention of new buyers who can then see the property on their time. The advantage of a recorded video walkthrough is that it accommodates busy home sellers with a “one and done” recording so that they can focus on maintaining the staged space for any potential in-person listings. Recordings also provide an opportunity to really hone in on crafting a story around the listing and emphasize its attributes to buyers. You will also capture interest from buyers who may be in a different timezone and can’t make your livestream open house events. As this format is asynchronous, you need to ensure that you reply quickly to any questions or comments people send you, whether that’s through the listing’s webpage, your email, or any social media posts about the property. 

3. Conduct a virtual open house with a digital twin

Digital twins offer both an asynchronous and synchronous experience. You can track how many views your digital twin receives while using it as your foundation for a live virtual open house. 

This is because a digital twin provides an immersive, interactive, and dimensionally-accurate digital replica of a physical space. This offers a lot of flexibility as digital twins enable buyers to have a self-directed “live” experience of the space, which is the closest possible alternative to seeing a property in person. As buyers click around the space and preview the property from multiple angles, they can visualize what it would look like with their items and styling preferences. Further to this, the visual assets from your digital twin can be used in promotional materials as preview videos. Digital twins allow you to dive deeper into the spatial data insights of your listing by using Mattertags to tag and comment on home elements, such as small hooks or light fixtures in the bathroom, as well as offering a floor plan view for buyers to understand how much house they would be buying (such as equal-sized bedrooms or if one area may be suitable for an at-home office or gym). Matterport Digital Twins offer ample editing tools, such as blurring to protect the home sellers’ identities in family photos and trimming to ensure the space is as defined and clear as possible.

How to set up a virtual open house using 3D technology and digital twins

Setting up a virtual open house for real estate using 3D digital twin technology allows you to focus on bringing out the most immersive, interactive elements of the property. While you may have other software available, we’ll focus on how to plan and host a virtual open tour using the Matterport app, which is compatible with various industry software. 

Prepare the site for capture

Preparing the site for capturing a virtual tour requires careful attention to detail to ensure a seamless and immersive experience for potential buyers. Some of the key steps involve:

  • thoroughly cleaning and decluttering the property, removing any personal items or distractions that could detract from its appeal 

  • optimizing the lighting to enhance the visual aesthetics of the space, making sure to utilize natural light whenever possible, and supplementing with additional lighting fixtures as needed 

  • arranging furniture and decor to showcase the property's layout and functionality effectively, allowing viewers to envision themselves living in the space 

  • testing the camera equipment to ensure it is properly positioned to capture each area of the property from various angles, maximizing the viewer's perspective during the virtual tour. 

Taking these preparatory steps will help create a captivating virtual open house that effectively showcases the property's potential to potential buyers.

Get creative with virtual staging

This is the step where your virtual open house ideas really shine. Staging a property allows you to bring out the property’s best features and gives potential buyers an opportunity to visualize themselves within the space (you can get a few tricks from our guide on how to stage a kitchen for an open house). You can virtually stage bare or furnished spaces within your digital twin by selecting one of our virtual staging partners to collaborate with based on what aesthetic you envision for the space. Learn more about the process from our webinar around virtually staging commercial real estate spaces, and where you can apply their advice in your listing.

Capture a digital twin of the property

To take your virtual open house from a 360-degree experience to a true 3D virtual tour, you first need to capture a digital twin of the property. You have a few options available to you:

Use Matterport’s Capture Services

Matterport Capture Services assists in amplifying the virtual open house and digital twin experiences for commercial and residential agents. Capture Service professionals are available to book in over 700 cities and will capture your property for you. The digital twin will automatically upload to your Matterport cloud account within 24-48 hours. This option is most suited for professionals with big portfolios. 

Use the Pro2/Pro3 Cameras

For people who would like to own the process, Matterport offers a wide range of 360 cameras. For bigger properties, the Pro2 and Pro3 cameras deliver high-quality scans with the press of a button. The Pro2 is ideal for scanning homes and apartments with stunning 134-megapixel scans and 3D accuracy. The Pro3 builds on the success of the Pro2 with LiDAR scanning that adapts to natural lighting so you can capture the same high-quality scans indoors to outdoors.

Residential space captured with the Pro2.

ESRI office space in Dubai captured with the Pro3. Image provided by GeoSpatialMinds (VAR).

Use a 360° Camera

360° cameras are incredible at capturing small or medium spaces. When you pair a 360° camera with the Matterport app or platform, you can easily convert 2D images to an immersive digital twin and 3D virtual open house experience.

Ubi Techpark Fitted Office with a 360° camera view. Image provided by Ryan Wong.

Use your phone’s camera and the Matterport mobile app

Smartphones have some of the best cameras on the market. The Matterport app is compatible with all iPhone and Android devices, so once you download the app, you can walk through and scan the property to create your digital twin.

Matterport Axis™, a motorized smartphone stand, provides a stable foundation that spins your smartphone around the space to capture it with more precision. And with a few clicks, you can also adjust the scan to ensure you capture each room from floor to ceiling. 

Matterport for Mobile saves you time with easy labeling, measuring, uploading, and sharing capabilities so that you can present the listing with immense clarity and personalization in no time.

Include contextual information about the property with Mattertags

Tags inform potential buyers about aspects of the property, including descriptions of property elements, PDF documents, and other forms or links to similar properties or articles about the city and neighborhood.

Gresham office furniture listing featuring Mattertags. Image provided by 246 Photography Ltd.

Adding a tag is a straightforward process, with a click-and-drag element to place the tag wherever you like within the digital twin. The tags are customizable, so you can change tag colors and stem lengths, as well as link out to manufacturer information about appliances throughout the property. 

Host your virtual open house

The stage is set—it’s time to host your virtual open house. Your digital twin will always be available for you to share with prospects 24/7, but you can help the space come alive and use your digital twin by hosting live virtual tours and open houses through AgentRelay, a customer engagement and sales enablement platform for Matterport virtual tours. AgentRelay offers an “open house mode” where you manage individual parties with their information anonymized. Prospective buyers will also be able to access follow-up forms to schedule future viewings or ask further questions.  If you anticipate multilingual buyers, implement MPskin, a tool that translates tags, descriptions, and recorded tour videos for potential buyers and saves you hours in post-production edits by simply activating the languages you want for your digital twin with one click in the Matterport app. 

Utilize Google Street View

Schedule calls and private virtual viewings with interested parties so you can understand what they’re looking for and answer broader questions about the property and neighborhood. Embedding Google Street View allows you to give some weight to your listing and follow-up conversations, as you can explore the neighborhood and search for freeway accessibility and nearby amenities (like schools or restaurants) that will encourage potential buyers to move forward with you until the eventual “offer accepted” and “property sold.”

Follow up

After hosting a virtual open house, there are several important steps to take in order to capitalize on the event and drive toward a successful sale.

Follow up with buyers

Following the virtual open house, promptly reach out to interested parties to schedule follow-up calls and private virtual viewings. This personalized approach allows you to gain deeper insights into their preferences and answer any questions they may have about the property or neighborhood. By demonstrating attentiveness and professionalism, you can nurture leads and move closer to securing an offer.

Request feedback 

After engaging with potential buyers, solicit feedback about their virtual open house experience. Ask about their impressions of the property, what features stood out to them, and if there are any areas for improvement. This feedback not only helps refine your future virtual open house strategies but also demonstrates your commitment to providing exceptional service.

Unlock your property’s virtual open house potential with Matterport

When you combine the personalization of in-person viewings with the accessibility of the Internet, you have the potential to create impactful listings and experiences for potential buyers looking for their first or next home.  Digital twins offer the immersive, interactive experience real estate agents and stakeholders are looking for in virtual open houses. By including the digital twin on the listing’s landing page and hosting virtual open houses, you connect with your potential buyers wherever they are in their home-buying journey—and increase the potential for them to say “yes” to this listing. Homes listed with a Matterport 3D tour sold 31% faster than those without one. Sign up for our Digital Pro plan today, and you’ll gain access to a Matterport professional who can walk you through building a digital twin and preparing a digital package that will have you ready to promote the listing and virtual open house within 72 hours. 

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