Work with a trusted agent
Virtual tours are informative, but working with an experienced real estate agent familiar with a particular market will help present the full picture.
For example, Santos, a Chicago native who has worked in real estate for 15 years, has become the go-to agent for Kevin Jackson and his husband David Purpura. Santos helped them purchase two homes in Chicago and they are now looking to purchase an investment property.
Santos generally uses virtual tours, balanced with her knowledge of the market, to help the couple eliminate options. With the Santos as their guide, the couple have come at the process with a critical eye, knowing a virtual tour can only show so much.
“It’s not reality; it’s virtual reality,” Jackson says. “They can be deceiving. You know the wide-angle lenses they're using to manipulate the space ... the room isn't as large [sometimes]. But the virtual staging helps to see past people's stuff, but it's photoshopping and glamour shots. As long as you know what you’re dealing with, you can look at it from a relative perspective.”
That’s where having a trusted broker who can visit a property for you becomes helpful, especially if you live out of town — or in another country. Andre Teixeira, a Miami, FL-based real estate agent with London Foster Realty, works with many South American clients.
Teixeira, a skilled videographer, will often shoot his own virtual tours for his clients, where he can also capture specific things the client desires to show areas an otherwise professional 3-D tour leaves out.
He admits, however, that virtual tours generally work better than if it’s your first home purchase. “In the end, people want to see what they’re buying,” Teixeira says. “A young couple buying their first home, they want to see the property and walk around before they make their decision.”
“Virtual tours and staging bring the home to life for someone who may not have otherwise had the opportunity to tour the home in person,” says Sabrina Evans, Compass’ Houston, TX, regional marketing director. “Virtual tours allow buyers to experience the home on their own time.”
This is important, because when you've exhausted your search and it ends in your new home, you know you saw all the right places with the right tools.