Agent Approved Tips to Shop for Your Home Virtually

The real estate market in the Adirondacks is at an all-time high—the hidden gem of New York is being discovered and it truly does not seem like we are in the midst of a pandemic. Many city dwellers are moving to “the sticks” and that is all becoming possible because of one word: FaceTime! That’s right, the art of the virtual tour is becoming more and more prevalent. Conjunctively people across the country continue to hunker down at home, obeying stay-at-home orders which are especially strict in New York state, and many aspects of daily life have gone virtual. From Zoom meetings with colleagues to playdates and remote learning for children, we’re finding ways to connect while being physically apart.

The pandemic has affected every industry, and the real estate business has been no exception. When house hunting, prospective buyers naturally want to inspect every square inch of a home. At a time when open houses are all but off the table—and even one-on-one tours with an agent seem risky—what’s a homebuyer to do?

Just like everything else these days, home tours are going virtual and we have FaceTime and smartphones to thank! According to our owner, Nick Politi, “More people than ever are buying homes sight-unseen, and at top dollar pricing.” Many of our agents are seeing buyers from all over the state and country, who, due to shelter-in-place orders, weren’t able to make the cross-country trip to see it in person, rely only on what they could see in photos and a virtual tour before deciding to sign on the dotted line. Here are some of the benefits and tips from our agents.

See More Homes in Less Time

If you’re a multitasking millennial or someone who likes to see a lot before buying, virtual tours are the perfect fit for you. According to Home Buyer and Seller national reports, “Millennials still made up the largest share of home buyers at 38%.” And if we know anything about millennials it’s they like to have their cake and eat it too, and virtual tours allow them to see all the homes without leaving their own! Wondering how a virtual tour can possibly compare with an in-person walk-through of a property? You should know there are specific advantages to scoping out houses from your phone.

“A buyer can see two dozen homes in an afternoon, where that likely wouldn’t be possible in person when you factor in travel time,” says owner Nick Politi. “Plus, buyers can easily go back to “see” the home again as often as they’d like.” It’s the perfect way to get out of the city and not wait for someone to have the keys to get you there!

Good Light + Video Quality

Make it a lunch date or morning coffee type of tour, as you need good lighting to really capture the essence of your potential new home. High production value is key. At Merrill Thomas, we have an in-house marketing team to make sure we offer our clients the best service and smartphone tours we can. Of course, a live tour is preferable to a recorded one, however, to make your virtual tour the most “live” it can be, try to use an upgraded phone with higher quality like an iPhone 11, which has great photo and video quality. Consider, too, using supplemental lighting designed specifically for mobile photography and filmmaking.

3D Tours and More

At Merrill Thomas, we also have top-notch tools to help both buyers and sellers have all-access virtual experiences. Our 3D cameras are used to help our home sellers share their properties, so our buyers can really “see” our properties and their details. “We offer our Matterport 3D Camera as a tool, and happen to be the only local agency that has this technology,” says Hannah Torrance business and marketing manager.


  • Embedded 3D tours generate higher interest and engagement by potential buyers
  • Properties with 3D tours tend to sell for a 4-9% higher value
  • Days on the market typically decrease by up to 31%
  • Buyers are 95% more likely to call about homes with virtual 3D tours

Did Someone Say, “Selfie Stick”?

Yes, yes, we did. A live FaceTime or WhatsApp video tour with narration can be extremely effective in helping a buyer see all the nooks and crannies of a home and a selfie stick can help you with all those hard to reach places, we will go there for you! Not just that, but be sure your internet has a strong connection, and be mindful of time changing and the sun going down especially in these winter months, when it gets darker in the Adirondacks earlier.

Make it a Live Performance

A live virtual tour also gives buyers the opportunity to ask questions on the spot and go back to certain areas for a closer look. Don’t hesitate to give the agent directions, such as asking them to zoom in on a spot, open a closet door, or take a step back. And make sure you’re getting a good look at the exterior home from all angles. Buyers will want to get a grasp of the home’s curb appeal, the parking situation, and the surrounding neighborhood as much as possible.

Know Your Audience

Although virtual tours can be a great substitute when an in-person viewing is not possible, there are a host of unique challenges. No matter how high-quality a video is, certain aspects of a home are difficult to convey without seeing them for yourself in person (like those breathtaking mountain sunsets)!

Unfortunately, we have not mastered the art of touch and feel when it comes to FaceTime—buyers can’t walk on the hardwood floors and feel how solid they are, or feel the soft-coated marble or really capture that mountain view from a phone. Ideally, things will continue to progress in virtual space as we continue to go touchless.

While a live virtual tour could help mitigate some of these problems, ultimately, an intangible sense that a home is meant for you can be difficult to glean from a screen. Virtual tours aren’t for everyone, and that’s OK. Know if it doesn’t work for you, our team is skilled at finding alternative ways to tour your new home.

The Art of the Follow-Up +The Future of Virtual Tours

As virtual tours increase in quality and prevalence, buyers will look to them as an initial screening mechanism. A virtual tour will be seen as a prerequisite before committing to an in-person tour or scheduling an open house appointment.

Right now, virtual tours are a point of difference, but in the future, they will become an expectation. We can all benefit from a more efficient buying process. Additionally, you may have more questions and want to see more details, don’t be shy and ask your agent to share specific photos of spaces, or perhaps do another live FaceTime tour before you decide on your next steps—it will be worth it in the end, and remember we at Merrill Thomas are here to serve you from phone to finish!

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