Shatha Judeh
Managing Director
Affinity Property Management Co

The lockdown during COVID-19 was a difficult time for most industries, and this is especially true for the real estate market. The real estate industry usually relies on the ability of buyers to physically visit properties prior to making a decision, and COVID-19 restrictions made this difficult to schedule due to government restrictions and personal health reasons. This market situation created a higher demand for virtual tours to help clients make better decisions while in the safety of their homes. We have placed an emphasis on providing clients with virtual tours of residential and commercial properties to improve content since 2018. However, this demand grew based on our client’s requests and eventually created a higher demand for higher quality tours.

What is a virtual tour?

Within real estate, a virtual tour is a 3D interactive free-movement 360 view inside of a property which allows the user to explore a property using their device from a webpage or social media platform. Virtual tours as a technology have existed for years in products such as Google Street View within Google Maps. But in 2014 it began to grow on a much larger scale.

The benefits of a virtual tour:

· Enhanced shopper experience: A Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends study in 2018 showed that 79 percent of property buyers shop for homes online. In order to satisfy the majority of property buyers, virtual tours can be utilized to enhance the majority of property buyers’ online shopping experiences.

· More successful: An independent study showed that listings across four US regions which included a 3D tour sold for up to 9 percent higher and closed up to 31percent faster compared to traditional online listings. Virtual tours can also be monitored from an online marketing perspective in terms of impressions, views, clicks, leads, and most importantly closed deals for the sales team too. The global VR market size was estimated at USD 15.81 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach USD 21.83 billion in 2021.

· Accessibility: Many buyers who are looking for properties in attractive markets may live far away to where in-person visits are difficult to schedule. Allowing these buyers to take a tour of a property from the comfort of their home before scheduling further action saves the time and resources of both buyers and brokers. And in today’s Covid -19 situation, It allows you to browse in the safety of your home.

Virtual tours on Property Finder

According to Property Finder statistics, listings which include virtual tours have a higher click-through rate which ultimately close. This is due to clients having a better visual understanding of the advertised property before they decide to finally see the property in person. Affinity Property has been ranked in the top five in terms of quality of listings since 2019, and has been on the top 10 ranked closers of 2019, and 2020 consecutively. This has also given a lot of attention on social media, as well as our private clients who can’t see the units they want to buy due to an occupant being in the flat or having it as an off-plan property! 50 percent of our property sales in 2021 have been conducted by using this technology! Properties with tours receive 49 percent more qualified leads. Yes, welcome to the new era of viewings!

How is a virtual tour created?

Some basic cameras have the function embedded through software purchased online. But these phone dependent applications usually have lower quality virtual tours. Ideally a provider such as our company, Affinity Property Company, had the skills to create images, and different types of tours as well and support walk through videos with their sophisticated equipment and software at affordable rates. These tours also need to be hosted (stored) to continue to be available online for users to see.

The future of virtual tours on portals and social media: There is no doubt that a technology like this has raised the bar for brokers, developers, portals, and even institutions that require a detailed view of a location or unit. Virtual tours are not limited to the real estate industry, but this is definitely where the demand took off!

This article was published as part of the sixth edition of Property Finder Bahrain’s Trends Report.