Virtual house tours are here to stay

The share of listings on Zillow advertising an open house in April was down 42% from pre-pandemic levels, while those featuring 3D tours were up about 200%. (Getty Images/iStockphoto/anyaberkut)

The pandemic jump-started the residential real estate industry’s use of high-tech virtual and 3D home tours. Open houses are back now. But the rise of virtual and 3D tours is here to stay.

Virtual tours have not replaced open houses by any means, but they are emerging as just as important. The D.C. market is among leaders.

“Prior to the pandemic in the spring of 2019 in the D.C. area, there were about seven or eight times more open houses per 3D tour. This spring that had fallen to about two-and-a-half open houses per 3D tour,” said Cory Hopkins, senior managing editor with real estate listing site Zillow.

Zillow says the share of listings on Zillow advertising an open house in April was down 42% from pre-pandemic levels, while those featuring 3D tours were up about 200%.

A virtual tour will never replace the physical open house where potential buyers can open closets, see what the home smells like and experience the home in general in person. But Zillow says that is not the point.

The point is convenience. For that reason, it will remain something house hunters expect.

“When you are starting your home search, and you are looking at dozens and dozens of homes these 3D tours really help you figure out which ones you’re going to drive from your apartment in the District and go out to Tysons to see — this one and not see that one,” Hopkins said.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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