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.

[Read: The Best Virtual Room Design Tools]

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.

Personality

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.

[See: The Best Free Interior Design Apps]

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.

Inspection

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.

[See: The Best Apps for House Hunting]

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.


The Best Real Estate Apps to Download

Improving real estate transactions with tech

Young bautiful woman texting surfing the net on the sofa at home

(Getty Images)

Buying or selling a home is an easier process with the help of technology – specifically apps that offer quick communication and lots of information for research. Mobile access to details, documents and professionals doesn’t only help homebuyers and sellers, it also makes just about any real estate-related process faster, benefiting property managers, real estate agents and anyone planning a home renovation. Read on for apps that can make your real estate research and transactions easier, faster and more accurate.

Corrected on March 4, 2020: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the credit reporting agency partnered with Zumper. TransUnion works with Zumper to provide credit information.

Best for finding a rental: Zumper

Best for finding a rental: Zumper

Zumper

(Courtesy of Zumper)

If you’re searching for your next apartment or rental home, Zumper offers a database catering to those looking to lease rather than buy. Zumper is best suited for people in major cities, since the widest variety of available rentals are found there, but users can find ample information on rentals in smaller markets, too, such as Charlotte, North Carolina, and Boise, Idaho. Additional features in major cities include the ability to book tours and make an offer to a landlord through the app.

Best feature: Through a partnership with TransUnion, you can run a credit report and submit it with a rental application directly through the app.

Apple, Android

Best for buying and selling: Zillow

Best for buying and selling: Zillow

Zillow

(Courtesy of Zillow)

Zillow is one of the most recognizable brands for property information and has more than 100 million homes in its database. The company has expanded into instant offers for fast sales, mortgage lending and real estate broker services. The Zillow app is a mainstay for those seeking homes for sale or rent, and if you're a seller, you can use it to update the property description and list of home features as well as add new photos to showcase the property.

Best feature: If you’re looking to both buy and sell, the Your Home tab allows you to store your current property’s details, update information and track its estimated value over time.

Apple, Android

Best for real estate agents: DocuSign

Best for real estate agents: DocuSign

Shot of a businesswoman using technology at work

(Getty Images)

Electronic signatures on key documents are becoming the norm in real estate transactions, and DocuSign is one of the most popular platforms for creating, sending, receiving and organizing documents. The app is aimed at professionals and business owners, so you likely don’t need to download it if you’re a homebuyer, seller or renter who only needs to sign a few documents to seal a deal. However, you may recognize the DocuSign logo when you’re sent a form for an e-signature, which means your real estate agent, attorney or landlord likely has the mobile app.

Best feature: While this isn’t a feature exclusive to the app, DocuSign offers special plans and pricing for those in the real estate industry, including a $20 monthly plan for members of the National Association of Realtors.

Apple, Android

Best for reaching real estate pros: Redfin

Best for reaching real estate pros: Redfin

Redfin

(Courtesy of Redfin)

National brokerage Redfin offers property and listing information for homes throughout the U.S., and it also has agents in more than 90 markets to represent buyers and sellers. Redfin's nontraditional model allows for lower commission fees and the convenience of working with multiple people who can help market your home, host open houses and take you on home tours.

Best feature: You can schedule house tours with a Redfin agent through the app without having to make phone calls or send emails to ask for available times.

Apple, Android

Best for renovating: Houzz

Best for renovating: Houzz

Houzz

(Courtesy of Houzz)

When it comes to interior design and renovation projects in your home, the Houzz app helps you plan, seek advice, find professionals and furnish the space when your project is complete. Save inspiration to your own ideabooks on the app, which make it easy to organize different projects throughout your home.

Best feature: Looking to work with professionals? You'll have access to profiles, information on their expertise, photos of previous work and reviews from former clients. While you can contact professionals directly through the app, their websites are also linked on their profile pages to help you find even more information.

Apple, Android

Best for property managers: Buildium

Best for property managers: Buildium

(Getty Images)

If you're a property manager or landlord, access to property information, vendor payments and tenant details helps you stay organized and on top of tasks. You have to subscribe to Buildium to use its services and mobile platform, but there is a free trial option if you’re interested in trying it out first.

Best feature: Buildium covers everything from tenant background checks to online rental payment and payments for contractors. Everything is accessible on the app, so you can reference details as needed.

Apple, Android

Best for learning the lingo: Real Estate Dictionary

Best for learning the lingo: Real Estate Dictionary

(Courtesy of Farlex Inc.)

The real estate industry is full of jargon that you may not understand if you’re not an insider. By keeping the Real Estate Dictionary app by Farlex on your phone, it’s easier to have in-depth conversations with real estate agents, home inspectors and contractors.

Best feature: Real Estate Dictionary’s platform is set up so you can search real estate-related terms. When you type in a word, related words and phrases come up to help you narrow down the right term.

Apple, Android

Best for neighborhood information: Trulia

Best for neighborhood information: Trulia

Trulia

(Courtesy of Trulia)

Most users of the Trulia app are looking for their next home and are interested in property details. Trulia's individual property profiles provide photos, listing information and home features, as well as statistics and local opinions about the neighborhood – for example, whether it’s dog-friendly or if neighbors tend to decorate for the holidays.

Best feature: Neighborhood data on the app includes reviews from local Trulia users who live there, plus how many other homes in the immediate area are for sale, crime and local school statistics and more.

Apple, Android

Best for calculating a mortgage: Mortgage by Zillow

Best for calculating a mortgage: Mortgage by Zillow

Zillow Mortgage

(Courtesy of Zillow)

This app offers calculators for monthly payments, the total cost of a home based on your budget and refinancing options. It also provides information on current mortgage interest rates across multiple lenders. The ability to both calculate information for your own mortgage and shop around for the best mortgage option makes it superior to other apps of its kind.

Best feature: It’s a simple detail, but the app menu displays the current average 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage interest rate, with a line graph showing how it’s changed over the course of a few months.

Apple, Android

Best for planning your home: magicplan

Best for planning your home: magicplan

Deutschland,Baden-Wurttemberg,Mannheim,umziehen,lifestyle

(Getty Images)

Whether you’re trying to figure out how to arrange furniture in a room or looking to design an addition to your home, the floor plan design capabilities on magicplan offer a user-friendly experience with a heightened level of detail. You can include the location of electrical outlets, different styles of windows, appliances and furniture to make a rendering and realistic plan for your space. Contractors can also use the app to estimate pricing based on completed floor plan designs.

Best feature: Once you’ve created your floor plan, you can export it as a PDF and even get an online 3D model for use outside the app.

Apple, Android

The best real estate apps to download in 2020 include:

The best real estate apps to download in 2020 include:

Mature men at his cottage resting on porch with his dog. Sitting down drinking coffee and using smart phone. Wearing casual clothing.

(Getty Images)

  • Best for finding a rental: Zumper.
  • Best for buying and selling: Zillow.
  • Best for real estate agents: Docusign.
  • Best for reaching real estate pros: Redfin.
  • Best for renovating: Houzz.
  • Best for property managers: Buildium.
  • Best for learning the lingo: Real Estate Dictionary.
  • Best for neighborhood information: Trulia.
  • Best for calculating a mortgage: Mortgage by Zillow.
  • Best for planning your home: magicplan.

Read More

Tags: real estate, housing, housing market, existing home sales, pending home sales, new home sales


Wendy Arriz is a licensed real estate broker with Warburg Realty in New York City. An accomplished real estate professional, Arriz has been ranked a Top 10 Warburg Producer four years in a row in 2019, 2018, 2017 and 2016. She was also named one of America’s Top Real Estate Agents by Sales Volume in the 2018 REAL Trends ranking in 2018 and 2019. Known for her sophisticated eye, discretion and sharp attention to detail, Arriz has brokered transactions and represented clients across Manhattan's luxury co-op, condo and townhouse marketplaces.

After earning a degree in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania, Arriz worked in wholesale sales for several top fashion designers in New York City. While her business sense, tireless work ethic and integrity fuel her success, most importantly, she believes wholeheartedly that one’s living space should be not only an investment but also a home and sanctuary.

Arriz has resided on the Upper East Side for over 30 years and currently lives in Carnegie Hill with her husband, three children and her miniature schnauzer, Lucy.

Recommended Articles

What Is a Duplex?

Devon Thorsby | Aug. 11, 2020

Learn the basics about duplex properties, and how they can be a first step for people looking to invest in real estate.

Should You Live in a Single-Family Home?

Steven Gottlieb | Aug. 11, 2020

Depending on your own priorities, finances and bandwidth, one style of living might be better for you.

Denver Housing Market Forecast

Andrew Fortune | Aug. 6, 2020

Here's what you need to know about the Denver housing market now, and what to expect in the future.

How to Make and Accept an Bid on a Home

Devon Thorsby | Aug. 6, 2020

Here's what you need to know to go under contract and move toward a successful home purchase or sale.

Considerations Before Buying a Vacation Home

Geoff Williams | Aug. 5, 2020

You'll want to think about money, rental challenges and market.

How to Build a Fire Pit in Your Backyard

Devon Thorsby | Aug. 4, 2020

Follow these 10 simple steps to transform your backyard into a rustic retreat.

What to Know About the LA Housing Market

Devon Thorsby | July 30, 2020

Before you try to buy, sell or rent in Los Angeles, know what to expect.

What to Know About Moving to Seattle

Devon Thorsby | July 28, 2020

Consider cost of living and your love of the outdoors if you're thinking about a move to Seattle.

What to Know About Month-to-Month Leases

Devon Thorsby | July 24, 2020

Skipping the long-term lease agreement may give you the flexibility you need, but be aware of the control you give up.

Should You Buy a Fixer-Upper?

Devon Thorsby | July 23, 2020

When deciding between a new house and one that needs some work, a few details can be the deciding factors.

Tenant Rights in Pennsylvania

Devon Thorsby | July 21, 2020

Before you get in a dispute with your landlord in Pennsylvania, it's best to know your basic rights as a renter.

The Guide to Title Insurance

Devon Thorsby | July 16, 2020

Getting title insurance is a key step in the homebuying process. Here's what you need to know.

How to Become a Real Estate Agent

Devon Thorsby | July 14, 2020

Follow these steps to start on the path to being a successful real estate agent.

The Guide to Living in a Co-Op

Devon Thorsby | July 9, 2020

Here's what you need to know about how a co-op works differently from traditional homeownership.

What to Do if You Get Evicted

Maryalene LaPonsie | July 8, 2020

With government protections being lifted, many people could face eviction notices in the months to come.

How to Find a Real Estate Agent

Devon Thorsby | June 30, 2020

Here's how to find a real estate agent to help you confidently navigate a home sale or purchase.

Should You Buy a Condo?

Geoff Williams | June 26, 2020

Before you commit to owning a home, consider factors like maintenance fees and proximity to neighbors.

What to Know About Moving to Canada

Devon Thorsby | June 25, 2020

Planning and preparation can make your move to Canada a success.

The Guide to Buying a Home Sight Unseen

Dima Williams | June 24, 2020

While feasible, purchasing a home sight unseen requires more work and attention.

How to Look Up the History of Your House

Devon Thorsby | June 23, 2020

Find out anything from previous owners and environmental records to who died on a property.