6 Things to Consider When Taking A Virtual Home Tour

Before you buy a home based on a virtual tour, think about the details you still don't know.

U.S. News & World Report

6 Things a Virtual Tour Doesn't Show You

Dining table and chairs near staircase

In a virtual tour that's being marketed by the seller's real estate agent, keep in mind that you're less likely to see minor flaws and details of the home that might make it look less desirable.(Getty Images)

While sheltering-in-place orders have proven their ability to physically sideline homebuyers across the U.S., real estate agents have turned to feature virtual property tours online to showcase and enhance their listings. Once relegated primarily for luxury, high-priced homes, video tours have become an essential tool alongside standard photos and a floor plan.

As helpful and alluring as these videos are for the online shopper, buying a home is more complex and requires a multifaceted evaluation. After all, home videos or virtual tours are selling tools that the listing agent produces to sell a property – the goal is to feature the home in its best light.

The hope is either that a buyer makes an offer, sight unseen, or the video inspires the buyer to come for a visit or as a refresher for those who have seen it in the past. Regardless, a virtual home tour is a great supplemental offering, but for the wise consumer, it should be used as a piece of the puzzle – not the full picture.

Here are some key points a homebuyer should consider about a home that a video tour cannot capture:

  • The senses.
  • Personality.
  • Nitty gritty details.
  • Building and neighborhood.
  • Intel on the property.
  • Inspection.

The Senses

Light, views, smells and noise are all important aspects of a home that cannot be captured by a video. If the video triggers a visit, these are key areas to investigate. Homebuyers have passed on a home they loved because of cigarette smoke creeping in from a neighboring unit or because of the noise from the constant yapping of a nearby dog.


For most buyers, a floor plan is helpful in understanding the flow and general layout of the space. Scale, ceiling height, room size and how it all comes together is usually something buyers best experience firsthand. It can give the house a personality that works (or doesn't) with your own. It's like online dating – what looks like love online might be a toad in real life.

Nitty Gritty Details

Small defects, cracks on the kitchen countertop and watermarks on the ceiling do not reveal themselves in a video tour. Even a home inspector will not focus on minor wear and tear issues. It is up to the homebuyers to see it for themselves to understand the condition of what they are buying.

Building and Neighborhood

When buying an apartment, the appearance of the lobby and hallways are just as meaningful as the surrounding neighborhood of a single-family house. Does the building look well run? What goes on around the home holds a lot of value as well.

Intel on the Property

When you're home shopping online, the lack of human interaction means you don't necessarily get the insider information on the home and seller that could be valuable during negotiations. When interacting with a selling agent in person, a relationship forms, which could be to your advantage when negotiating, or at the very least, a source of relevant information.


When buying a house, you always want an inspection to determine the condition of the roof, heating and cooling system, mechanicals and other parts of the home. In New York City apartments, where home inspections are less common, inspecting the HVAC system can still be worthwhile. Do not let a beautifully produced video with elegant music convince you that the home is perfect and forgo the proper due diligence.

When people are quarantining across the country, searching for real estate online from the comforts of home is the only option for a prospective buyer, as in-person appointments may not be possible. As a result, video tours exist to enhance the experience of viewing the property online, but it is important to remember that they are a selling tool. In the end, a virtual tour doesn’t show the full picture, and no one should purchase their largest asset without knowing everything about a property. As wonderful as technology is in our lives, nothing takes the place of experiencing a home in person.

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