Pat Kennedy - Your Washington, DC Real Estate Connection


Are Virtual Tours A Substitute For Previewing?

Today, I did a broker's open at a new listing, and while the traffic was pretty decent, I was struck by one thing.  Most of the agents who came by were highly experienced veterans.  And we started to talk about it.

We noted that a lot of the "youngsters" rely heavily on virtual tours and Google Earth as a substitute for previewing new listings.  With this hi-tech help, why bother with old fashioned previews?

Well, here are a few reasons to preview:

  • With wide angle lenses and Photoshop, a lot of the properties look a whole lot better online than they will when you walk in with your clients.
  • With agents who are really awful photographers and too cheap or poor to hire a pro, you could miss out on a great house that looks blah online.
  • You can't smell cats or mold on a virtual tour.
  • You can't hear the neigbor's loudly barking dogs on a virtual tour.

When I'm showing property, I like to have some idea of what I'm walking into.  And sometimes I can do that without a preview, but when I've seen the house before showing it, I feel a lot more confident.

Call me retro!

Comment balloon 103 commentsPatricia Kennedy • April 03 2012 08:31PM


Pat- I'm not a Realtor but was one about 26 years ago for 1 year.  My mentor took me out about 3 times a week to preview new listings.  There are just some things you won't see in a virtual tour. 

Posted by Kathy Streib, Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224 (Room Service Home Staging) over 8 years ago

Pat....we can save everyone so much time and look like the hero!

If a client insists on seeing a home after we have previewed it and don't think it will meet their needs, I just LOVE the words that come out of their mouth....."Oh you were so right...that house is not at all what we want. We should of just listened to you and not even looked at it."

Geez! Thanks!

I don't preview enough property and I've got to get my Tuesday's opened back up for just that.

Posted by Thom Abbott, Midtown Atlanta GA Condos For Sale ( |770.713.1505 | Intown Atlanta GA Condo Living) over 8 years ago


I have been doing a lot of previewing, especially for out of area clients and I am often struck by how different properties look than they appear on-line. Sometimes better, but often not. I think there is tremendous value to virtual tours, photos and videos but sometimes the real thing makes all the difference. And I often hear buyers commenting on how different homes look from the listings!


Posted by Jeff Dowler, CRS, The Southern California Relocation Dude (eXp Realty of California) over 8 years ago

Pat, the bottom line is that there is no substitute for previewing. I am not a fan of wide angle lens shots.

Posted by Sharon Parisi, Dallas Homes (United Real Estate Dallas ) over 8 years ago

In the inimitable words of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell........ain't nothing like the real thing baby!

Posted by Roger D. Mucci, Lets shake things up at your home today! (Shaken...with a Twist 216.633.2092) over 8 years ago

Pat - You are so right.  There are so many things you just can't tell from online - esp the other senses.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) over 8 years ago

So many think that on line this and on line that are substitutes for the real thing.  Obviously not.  And it's hard to smell those cookies baking on line!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

How true!  The smells are the worst thing you just can't experience without being there live.  However, I do think your point about skipping homes that are not represented well with their online photos should be a clarion call to all real estate professionals.  It is inexcusable to have sub-par photos for your listings.

Posted by Kathryn Maguire, Serving Chesapeake, Norfolk, VA Beach ( (757) 560-0881) over 8 years ago

Patricia, These are great reasons to preview the house. I have seen homes that have great photographs and when I  saw them in person they looked different.

Posted by Gita Bantwal, REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel (RE/MAX Centre Realtors) over 8 years ago

I haven't been doing as much previewing as I want to, but I do plan to make an effort to do more. 

I totally agree with how important it is to see the homes first.  Not only can you rule out property you know your clients won't like, but can suggest homes they might not have originally thought of.   Also, nothing beats being able to describe the important features of a home before you're even in the front door. And pictures often do not display the home properly. 

Thanks for the post!

Posted by Kat Palmiotti, The House Kat (406-270-3667,, Broker, Blackstone Realty Group - brokered by eXp Realty) over 8 years ago

So true, and many more things could be added to your list. Too many agents violate the " Paint a true picture in your advertising" requirement.

Posted by Jeff Pearl, Full Service Full Time Realtor (RE/MAX Distinctive / LIC in VA) over 8 years ago

Getting 'real' gives you a whole new perspective !


Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) over 8 years ago

You hit all the key points Pat. There's nothing like seeing & experiencing first hand, the "real" thing vs. simply viewing it online. It does give you confidence when you walk in with a client knowing exactly what your are walking's a level of being prepared that you simply can't achieve having only watched what someone else has chosen to show you online.

Posted by Charlie Dresen, Steamboat Springs, CO e-Pro (Steamboat Sotheby's International Realty) over 8 years ago

Hi Pat,

I wrote a blog on a similar theme - that it might be a good idea to physically preview properties before we show them - for much the same reasons.

Posted by Brian Schulman, Lancaster County PA RealEstate Expert 717-951-5552 (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Lancaster PA) over 8 years ago

There is no substitute for standing inside a property. Thanks for the post.

Posted by Richard and Jean Murphy, (207) 712-4796 (Harborview Properties) over 8 years ago

Of course a video tour or photo gallery is no substitute for examining a property in person, just as Google Earth does a pretty mediocre job of depicting a neighborhood and a home's surroundings. I would never advocate relying on a virtual tour as an alternative to a preview or showing. Virtual tours were never intended as a substitute for examining a property.

The purpose of a virtual tour is to induce and encourage the viewer to schedule a showing. Once that person does view the home, they are presumed to be intelligent enough to decide for themselves if they like what they see.  Virtual tours are advertising and promotion. If the tour photos are unaltered and depict the property in a substantially accurate manner, that's hardly misleading.

I read a lot of whining by some agents who claim that wide angle and wide format photography give a few agents an unfair advantage. But as long as the agent or photographer is not altering photos during editing to the extent that features are added, removed or visually altered, there's nothing wrong with wide angle photos. 

One could argue that home staging is misleading as well. I've shown homes to folks in situations where the place was an absolute mess and looked nothing like the beautifully-staged (and brightly lit) place it appeared to be in photos.

What's far more unfortunate is the agent who puts up a dozen narrow-angle shots which make the listing look like a broom closet. That doesn't serve the seller, nor does it "paint a true picture" of the listing.

If NAR had a problem with agents using virtual tours or wide angle photos, they would have banned them. And yes, this issue has been discussed by standards of practice committees all over the industry. 


Posted by Eric Kodner, Wayzata Lakes Realty: Twin Cities, Madeline Island (Wayzata Lakes Realty: Eric Kodner Sells Twin Cities Homes) over 8 years ago

Good morning Patricia,

It is like pulling teeth to get Agents out on tour to preview homes.  While pictures, virtual tours and google maps are useful, they are not a substitute for seeing a home in person.  Great post!

Posted by Lisa Von Domek, ....Experience Isn't Expensive.... It's Priceless! (Lisa Von Domek Team) over 8 years ago


I guess I notice about a thousand things about a property that I actually walk in to and see for myself. It's pretty amazing what the human eye and brain can pick up from ALL six senses!

Posted by Richard Weisser, Richard Weisser Retired Real Estate Professional (Richard Weisser Realty) over 8 years ago

If you're retro ... then I'm retro too :)  I totally agree!  I would much prefer to see a property in person.  As you pointed out, better perspective of what's really going on there -- and too many other possible variables you just can't see online.

Posted by Carie Shapiro (North Shore Suburbs & Chicago Real Estate) over 8 years ago

Pat, It's the same story here. The younger agents don't seem to think it's important. But I hear every day from the buyers I show that the pictures in the mls do not represent the houses at all well. There really is no substitute for seeing and "smelling" a home. Great post!

Posted by Barb Szabo, CRS, E-pro Realtor, Cleveland Ohio Homes (RE/MAX Trinity Brecksville Ohio) over 8 years ago

I think going to the property is far more reliable then the online tour.

Posted by Chuck Carstensen, Minnesota Real Estate Expert (RE/MAX Results) over 8 years ago

A GOOD virtual tour is properly staged. The cheap cabinets look high end, the formica counter tops look like granite, the scratches on the floor are covered (or sometimes photoshoped out). The bathroom that is falling apart, of course, is not even included!

Of couse, the opposite can also be true. BAD pictures and a BAD virtual tour can make a home look worse than it really is too!

Posted by Donald Reich (Prudential Centennial) over 8 years ago

By the way, the aroma of those warm, freshly-baked cookies in the oven that you notice with another of your five senses during your in-person preview is misleading (unless you're previewing a bakery).  The air freshener and plug-in scent devices scattered around the house to cover up odors? Those are misleading too.

Posted by Eric Kodner, Wayzata Lakes Realty: Twin Cities, Madeline Island (Wayzata Lakes Realty: Eric Kodner Sells Twin Cities Homes) over 8 years ago

The more pictures and video always help, however seeing it in person is the best way to get an idea for those intangible aspects of a property. 

Posted by Morgan Evans, LICENSED REAL ESTATE SALESPERSON (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) over 8 years ago

I guess I will be the odd one out and disagree.  Your ROI is very low on previewing after factoring in gas and time.  Maybe you all have loads more time and money to put into a preview search than I do for that "perfect" home.  If your a local expert though and are familiar with your target area, you'll know a lot of the home styles and neighbors anyway.  However, I do call the shots on my showings, so that I can run past them for a peek if I haven't been inside them before.  If the cat smells hits me at the front door, it's a pass, unless my buyer in an investor who is looking for a deal.  What I have noticed however, is that the best agent networking is mostly offline and in such home previews as Patricia mentioned in her post.  Wouldn't it be great if we had a post it note service directly on the MLS for Realtors to share things like "shows nice but smells awful".

Posted by Jennifer Kinzle, Top Rated Kane County Agent! (Charles Rutenberg Realty of Illinois) over 8 years ago

We sell so many properties because of a well produced real video with audio tour and also community tours. Our buyers for a Maine farm, waterfront property are not just local and before driving from DC, RI, NY, CT with the price of gas, they want to see the property first. Real videos, not a slide show with Kenny G only in the background do that oh so well. The buyer sees more properties, makes better selections and can do it on his time, not 9-5. If he has a hour delay in a fight in Texas, he can droid or laptop watch five videos, check out three local community videos and study some blog posts that are hyper local. Our real estate office is not a fixed place, but on line in many place. Take the goods, services, product to the buyer not the other way around. Have close to 600 videos and would not put the time in to them if they were not the cat's meow and working for my unique market.

Posted by Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573, Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker (MOOERS REALTY) over 8 years ago

Previewing homes is also valuable when it comes time to present an offer on the property that you previewed and it is time to negotiate the offer, nothing is better than saying that I have seen the other sales in your neighborhood and this is how your property compares, or even better when you have an out of town agent arguing the price who has no clue of what the market is and you ask them have you seen any of the compatibles, who do you think the seller is going to believe. I have met clients who are carrying a real estate magazines and gone through it and can usually comment on a majority of ads, previewing adds credibility and shows people you take your job serious.

Posted by Tibor I. Olah (Apex Results Realty Inc.Brokerage) over 8 years ago

One of my favorite movie quotes that really applies here: "It's the smell!!" Truly, as you point out nuances such as smell and condition of items that don't happen to be in the photos are very valuable input to share with our buyers. I know you are a fan of tours because I have run into you while on them.... Best of Spring to you!

Posted by Ellie Shorb, Realtor DC, MD & VA Luxury Home Expert (Compass Real Estate) over 8 years ago

It's hard to get agents to turn out for Broker Opens in my area.  We host gourmet lunches, give away door prizes, and hold drawings, but the turnout is still low.  Back in 2004-2006, our Broker Opens were packed.

Posted by Gail Robinson, CRS, GRI, e-PRO Fairfield County, CT (William Raveis Real Estate) over 8 years ago

Pat, I kind of base it on the price range. It is not feasible to preview houses for a lower price range - takes too long, probably a sure way to be crazy busy, and slowly but surely work yourself to death with a small income. Photos and virtual tours will have to do for pre-screening those houses. But for a little bit higher priced homes, I totally agree, I don't want to look bad by taking my Buyers to places that are a terrible fit or a poor value. Even if Buyers don't like a property, they often validate my choice of showing it to them in the first place!

Posted by Tanja Cisliek (Future Home Realty) over 8 years ago

Pat, virtual tours have their place but a live preview is definitely better for all the reasons you mentioned.  As a matter of fact, I'm going to preview a property today for an out-of-state buyer.

Posted by Silvia Dukes PA, Broker Associate, CRS, CIPS, SRES, Florida Waterfront and Country Club Living (Tropic Shores Realty - Ich spreche Deutsch!) over 8 years ago

Spot on! I remember sitting in a class about a year ago, when the teacher asked how many agents preview for their buyers nearly everyone raised their hands.  I was surprised. Then, an agent near the back said, "I preview the pictures and virtual tour!" and half the class started laughing and agreeing. I suspect they tell their clients they preview, though. 

Posted by Joetta Fort, Independent Broker, Homes Denver to Boulder (The DiGiorgio Group) over 8 years ago

previewing is a valuable tool.  Previewing allows you to see the true condition of the home. how big the rooms are and the true layout.  With today's technology and tricks you need to preview now more than ever. 

Posted by Kim Boekholder Utah Real Estate, Broker, Results Real Estate (Results Real Estate 801.580.5624) over 8 years ago

Hi Pat - True there is nothing like being there. I like virtual tours to pique a buyers interest and get them in the door, but live previews where possible make sense to me.

Posted by Andre R. Aragon, Real Estate Photographer (Greater Tampa Real Estate Photographer) over 8 years ago

I didn't know any one was still doing virtual tours? They are so last century!

Posted by Mitchell J Hall, Lic Associate RE Broker - Manhattan & Brooklyn (Compass) over 8 years ago

You have to know your inventory.  Yes, the videos and virtual tours and professional photographs are wonderful, but the listing agent isn't going to take a picture of the rotted wood, or the one room of lime green shag carpet or the plumbing leak under the sink.  And the pictures aren't scratch and smell.  On the opposite side of the coin, some pictures are so awful, a buyer would never go in!  I've literally had to beg buyers to go into a home because it looked so ugly online. But it was a house that would work for them.  Yes, gas is expensive. Yes, my time is worth a lot, but if I can preview 10 houses and take 5 off the list because I know the buyer would hate them, I've actually saved time AND gas. 

Posted by Jeanne Gregory (RE/MAX Southwest) over 8 years ago

There is no substitute for previewing homes. 

Posted by Linda Metallo DiBenardo (RE/MAX Impact, Lockport, Illinois) over 8 years ago

I, for one, find Google street view to be indispensable in real estate.  It often helps me find out why a property has no "front of the house" picture or why something is priced lower than most.

Thanks to Google, I save much more $$$ on gas, not to mention all that silly driving.

Posted by Anthony Daniels, SF Bay Area REO Specialist (Coldwell Banker) over 8 years ago

I use virtual tours, photos, and Google StreetView as a first pass to eliminate properties.  Assuming the agent has done their job reasonably well, I'll get an idea of the overall condition, floor plan, and neighborhood.  It's a chance to weed out the weak prospects.

That said, there's no substitute for a live preview and when needed, that's always what I'll do.

Posted by Bryan Robertson over 8 years ago

They can certainly cut down the number of showings since clients can mark many off their list with these virtual tours............for out of state or out of country buyers, it can be a substitute for a flight into town if they already know the neighborhood and feel comfortable with it.

Posted by Barbara-Jo Roberts Berberi, MA, PSA, TRC - Greater Clearwater Florida Residential Real Estate Professional, Palm Harbor, Dunedin, Clearwater, Safety Harbor (Charles Rutenberg Realty) over 8 years ago

Considering the price of gasoline now a days...YES to the tile of your post...Patricia

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) over 8 years ago

Hi Pat,... seeing is believing... and that means real previewing. Good topic! And it's true, you feel a lot more confident and your client feels like you have done your homework.

Posted by Sandy Acevedo, RE/MAX Masters, Inland Empire Homes for Sale (951-290-8588) over 8 years ago

Patricia, this is very true. There is not substitute for actually touring a property in person.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA over 8 years ago

I wonder if some of it is a communications issue. In the 'old days' we would get paper fliers in time for the Tuesday meetings. In my real estate world of today, I neither get fliers nor have Tuesday meetings. If I am interested in a certain property, I will look on the MLS to see if it is being held open. Other than that, I get an occasional email notification, but will only go if it is a close colleague or if I have a buyer or seller in that community & price range.

I think a better technology solution to notifications could improve attendance--maybe.

My association had a listserv at one point where we could advertise Broker Opens. I liked that

Posted by Holly Weatherwax, A Great Real Estate Experience ( Associate Broker, Momentum Realty) over 8 years ago

The sounds, smells and looking at what is next door and the neighborhood I so agree Pat can't be done with a virtual tour. But a virtual tour can save tons of gas money and give you a reason not to go look in the first place.

Posted by Gary Woltal, Assoc. Broker Realtor SFR Dallas Ft. Worth (Keller Williams Realty) over 8 years ago

Pat, As you said some homes look much better in the photos and some much worse. However the virtual tour is such a great tool to get things started and involving the buyer in the process early. And it shows potential sellers what the agent can do for them to expose their home.

Posted by Debbie Reynolds, Your Dedicated Clarksville TN Real Estate Agent (Platinum Properties) over 8 years ago

There is no substitute for seeing a prroperty. It is great to have properties on the computer but that will nevwr take the place of being at the property.


Posted by Team Honeycutt (Allen Tate) over 8 years ago

There is no better way to represent your clients.  Previewing doesn't waste anyones time.

Posted by Pamela Smith, Sun City West, Corte Bella, Sun City Grand (Award Realty) over 8 years ago

Although never an agent, I was an appraiser ... and I can say this.  Viewing homes and seeing .. breathing .. walking ... touching ... all details of the home has great value.  In fact, I would say a SALE is found in those details.  Details you can't experience fully in a virtual tour.  Although a valuable tool and important in tweaking someone's interest ... a virtual tour will most likely not "seal a deal".  If that's true for a buyer, it certainly must be true for the agent as well??  How can you sell something affectively if you have not seen it in its' entirety? JMO ...


Posted by Gene Mundt, IL/WI Mortgage Originator - FHA/VA/Conv/Jumbo/Portfolio/Refi, 708.921.6331 - 40+ yrs experience (NMLS #216987, IL Lic. 031.0006220, WI Licensed. APMC NMLS #175656) over 8 years ago

Although I'm a "youngster" who loves technology, I AGREE... I don't like taking a client to a viewing and they leave disappointed, I feel like it shows them I don't know what they are looking for.  I take my clients vision and I go shopping as if I were them....It's a waste of time to see property that doesn't have the features my clients have recommended.  Plus, I've seen many realtors make errors in postings and at the end of the day you're the one that looks bad to your client. 

-A youngster using veteran ways :)

Posted by Roxanna Calero (Guardian Properties of New York) over 8 years ago

There is no doubt imho too Pat that previewing is primo!

Posted by Ginny Gorman, Homes for Sale in Southern RI and beyond (RI Real Estate Services ~ 401-529-7849~ RI Waterfront Real Estate) over 8 years ago

Thank you for all of your comments!  And a lot of you make some excellent points.

I think it's really important in my area, because the prices are pretty high and it does make economic sense to know the territory.  And I think that people who are looking around here, especially as price tags approach a million, have expectations that we will eliminate the stuff that won't work for them.  They are more concerned that we help them use their time wisely than whether sorting through the inventory effectively will be an efficient use of our time.

It's just easier for me to get them excited about the home and about working with me if I am confident about knowing what we will walk into.

And even if it smells like rank kitty litter, it's better to prepare them for the negatives so maybe they can look beyond! 

Posted by Patricia Kennedy, Home in the Capital (RLAH Real Estate) over 8 years ago

This post belongs on your list of Pat's favourites of the week!!

Posted by Alan May, Helping you find your way home. (Jameson Sotheby's International Realty) over 8 years ago

Virtual tours are a supplement to previewing not a subsititute. That goes for buyers as well since you really don't know how a home feels unless a physical tour has been done. I have a friend working out of state and he is trying to everything he can not to preview the place and and answer all his questions at the same time.


Posted by Toby Barnett, Toby Barnett (KW North Sound) over 8 years ago

Personally I am a fan of combining the old and new methods of checking out a property. I tell clients that looking only online is like online dating - you may not get quite the advertised goods once you meet in person.

Posted by Reba Haas, Team Reba, CDPE (Team Reba of RE/MAX Metro Eastside over 8 years ago

A virtual tour is a good start in narrowing down homes however driving through an an area of neighborhood if you have never been there is the only way for a buyer to get a true view of what it is like.

Posted by Scott Godzyk, One of the Manchester NH's area Leading Agents (Godzyk Real Estate Services) over 8 years ago


Posted by Stephanie Arnett, SRS, IMSD, Broker Associate, REALTOR (ERA Town & Campus Realty) over 8 years ago

I've been guilty of thinking virtual tours replace open houses.  Your points are dead on and I completely understand where you are coming from on this one.  

Posted by Amanda Christiansen, Christiansen Group Realty (Christiansen Group Realty (260)704-0843) over 8 years ago

Pat, virtual is NOT the same as real life. Virtual tours are for consumers who may or may not eventually buy a house; virtual is eye candy. Previews are what professionals do as part of keeping up with their local real estate market.

Posted by Maria Morton, Kansas City Real Estate 816-560-3758 (Platinum Realty) over 8 years ago

Hi Pat,  No doubt the quality of the pics can give a buyer/agent a good idea of how attractive the listing is.  Love the line about the cat litter !

Posted by Bill Gillhespy, Fort Myers Beach Realtor, Fort Myers Beach Agent - Homes & Condos (16 Sunview Blvd) over 8 years ago

Virtual tours are great but will never replace an ocular inspection, and will never allow a client that I am representing to purchase something based on a virtual tour!

Posted by Jennifer Chiongbian, Real Estate Broker - NYC (Specializing in all types of Manhattan apts & townhouses) over 8 years ago

I'm not previewing for clients which gives 'me' the option to choose for the buyers.  That's not my job - we are both going to go smell the cat urine in that house & decide on it at the same time.  It's a process for the buyers that I believe in - shows the good with the bad.

I do rely on virtual tours & so do buyers BTW so if you don't do it professionally you won't get much traffic.

I also don't believe that previewing makes you sell more homes than someone that doesn't because I used to do it! 

Posted by Lyn Sims, Schaumburg Real Estate (RE/MAX Suburban) over 8 years ago


In my community, attending brokers' opens is almost a requirement.  Seeing pictures may be helpful but it does not substitute for seeing the home in person.

Posted by Evelyn Kennedy, Alameda, Real Estate, Alameda, CA (Alain Pinel Realtors) over 8 years ago

I preview selectively.  If the photos and virtual tour are good and I know the area I may show the property without previewing.

Posted by Norma Toering Broker for Palos Verdes and Beach Cities, Palos Verdes Luxury Homes in L.A. (Charlemagne International Properties) over 8 years ago

I completely agree. Open houses aren't AS important as they used to be, but they're still useful. Traffic won't be as high as in years past, but any traffic is worth it. You are so right that you can't really get a good sense of a place from the virtual tour. Online photos and tours are great for narrowing down places to see, but especially on higher-end properties, you don't want surprises when you show up with clients.


Posted by Mel Ahrens, MBA, Kelly Right Real Estate, Customized Choices for your Real Estate Needs (Kelly Right Real Estate) over 8 years ago

Pat -- You definitely have the edge showing a house that you have seen before.  Previewing is an excellent practice, but it is a dying art.

Posted by Barbara Altieri, REALTOR-Fairfield County CT Homes/Condos For Sale (Kinard Realty Group Fairfield and New Haven County CT Real Estate) over 8 years ago


Great point.  I have out of town clients coming in next week to make a house purchase in a short period.  I will be doing a ton of previewing of homes PRIOR to their arrival to help make the best use of their time.  It just doesn't make sense to RELY on pictures. 

All the best, Michelle

Posted by Michelle Francis, Realtor, Buckhead Atlanta Homes for Sale & Lease (Tim Francis Realty LLC) over 8 years ago

The younger agents think technology rules.  It's a poor substitute for eye on examination.  Next the dot com Whiz kids might have add real estate to clothes, shoes, and accessories - just order online.

Posted by Bonnie Vaughan, CNE SFR - Buyers/Sellers - Lackawanna & Surroundin over 8 years ago

As far as I am aware I don't think one will see photos of all of the negatives of the home,  -- the crack in the foundation, the  rot around the windows. etc...  , the long drive way, the planes above, the noisey neighbors etc... It is best to physically view the home.

Posted by Joan Whitebook, Consumer Focused Real Estate Services (BHG The Masiello Group) over 8 years ago

Pat, I'll preview a house if I have specific buyers in mind, otherwise it's a pass. Buyers get so much information online before they will even call an agent that trying to suggest to them can become frustrating

Posted by Ed Silva, Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally (RE/MAX Professionals, CT 203-206-0754 ) over 8 years ago

Pat, I didn't read all the comments but I want to share a recent previewing story.

I have clients who were looking for just the right home. Aren't they all? Anyhow, we were striking out and they were set to close on the sale of their home in a month.

I kept seeing one house in the MLS that I thought would be perfect for them but it didn't have any photos of the backyard. I surmised that it probably wouldn't work for my clients. Everyone here shows off their big backyard and that's exactly what my clients were looking for. I finally decided to preview it.

It was indeed just what they wanted. The backyard wasn't huge but it was adequate.

I called them and they agreed to meet me at the house the next day. I arrived early for the showing, went in and turned on all the lights, lit the fireplaces (both of them), and opened all the blinds.

The clients absolutely loved the house. We wrote a contract that day and we close in less than two weeks. We had been through 25 homes with no luck. But because I previewed this home, I was able to convince my clients it was worth their time to see.

That's a good enough reason for me to keep doing it.

Posted by Tammie White, Broker, Franklin TN Homes for Sale (Franklin Homes Realty LLC) over 8 years ago

Pat - Ok, I'll call you retro ; ) Still, I think you make valid points.

Posted by Christine Donovan, Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M (Donovan Blatt Realty) over 8 years ago

Pat ~ You have some valid points here. Nothing can replace the live viewing of the home.

Posted by Roland Woodworth, eXp Realty (eXp Realty) over 8 years ago

Pat, it's interesting to see the change in perspectives throughout the comment thread above.

It looks like the comments began as a referendum on whether or not virtual tours are "misleading". But the comments later on seem to have morphed into a more constructive discussion about the pros and cons of previewing versus relying on photos or videos.

The rising cost of gasoline will make agent miles more of an issue in the future.  In the meantime, I agree with the commenter above who said "virtual tours are a supplement to previewing, not a substitute".

Posted by Eric Kodner, Wayzata Lakes Realty: Twin Cities, Madeline Island (Wayzata Lakes Realty: Eric Kodner Sells Twin Cities Homes) over 8 years ago

I have not seen any photos that would come close to making me not want to preview a property. I don't photos does any home justice.

Posted by Charles Stallions, 800-309-3414 - Pensacola, Pace or Gulf Breeze, Fl. (Charles Stallions Real Estate Services ) over 8 years ago

Virtual tour and preview go hand in hand. The virtual tour can determine if you want to preview in person. I do like to preview when possible and do attend broker opens, even though I would be considered a young agent. But buyers are more important that agents and virtual tours are a must for them...

Posted by The Derrick Team - Indy Metro Realtors, Your Pet Friendly Realtors (Carpenter Realtors) over 8 years ago

I like to preview if the property is in my area, or if it is a high end client.  They know that I do not know properties 1/2 hour's drive away like the back of my hand, but expect me to know those closer....   

Also, I sure know I could easily have eliminated some properties that my buyers may have considered, so I am careful.  

Posted by Dagny Eason, Fairfield County CT, CDPE Homes For Sale and Condo (Dagny's Real Estate) over 8 years ago

If you're extremely busy - google earth and virtual tours can be a lifesaver.  But I don't think you ever know as much about a home, nor will it come immediately to mind if you have not seen it in person.

Posted by Lainie Ramsey, Lake Texoma Expert (Homes By Lainie Real Estate Group) over 8 years ago

I notice the same behavior in our area.  And I agree with all your points!

Posted by Barbara S. Duncan, GRI, e-PRO, Executive Broker, Searcy AR (RE/MAX Advantage) over 8 years ago

I am amazed how often I hear my buyers say "The pictures made the rooms look bigger!"  I agree, the smell of a home, and the "feel" when you walk in the door will never be captured on video.  And I have had buyers really gravitate toward a house after seeing the friendly neighbors!

Posted by Melissa Brown, Realtor - South Charlotte NC Homes for Sale (Helen Adams Realty) over 8 years ago

I recently read an article that calimed that listings with "virtual tours" got less showings than those without. Tough for me to see how this could be an apples to apples survey but there you go...


Posted by Morris "Bill" Austin, Exceptional service is my standard expectation. (Team Price Real Estate) over 8 years ago

Photographs and Virtual Tours are just a starting point.

Posted by Raymond Denton, Veteran Friendly Realtor® (Homesmart / Evergreen Realty) over 8 years ago

I understand that some sellers (and some companies) discourage just previewing, and I understand thatit's a bit of inconvenience for sellers, but this is a great way to see a lot quickly so we can do a better job when the buyer finally makes that 400+ mile trip and has only a few days.   And the sellers don't have to make it spotless if I'm just previewing.  

Previewing was easier in Maryland where I was for many years - we called sellers directly and coordination was much easier.

One previewing problem is that so many properties are listed as "occupied" when they're really vacant.   Agents here are notified almost instantly by email when there's been a showing, and who showed it, so it's not just a record-keeping issue.    If we could just zip in and out of a lot of vacant ones we could cover more territory quickly.   Sometimes it takes longer to set up a preview than it would to see it.

Posted by Mary Sheridan, Creative Marketing, Buyer Agency 423-943-7655 (Keller Willliams - 1033 Hamilton Place,Johnson City TN 37604) over 8 years ago

I think that virtual and real tours each have their place. Virtual tours attract buyers to tour a home, but we all agree that virtual is no real substitute for a real tour. A home is more than the bricks and mortar that create it.  The neighborhood, the yard, and odors, etc. create an emotional reaction that a buyer responds to, either postively, or negatively. 

Posted by Jim and Suzie Hudson, 30 Year Residents at Lake Oconee (RE/MAX Lake Country) over 8 years ago

I agree, as much as I believe every house and condo should have a Virtual Tour to further represent how it looks vs. just still photos; 1.) Some Real Estate agents are truly horrible photographers and only have a cheap camera to use so you could miss out on a great house because they're unable to take a decent picture. 2.) You can't smell a mold issue via an on-line Virtual Tour. 3.) You need to walk into a house and see if you 'feel' a connection, see if it feels like 'home' to you. You simply can not get that from watching any Virtual Tour on-line.

Posted by Bobi Bigelow, Advertising / Marketing Administrator (Jim Green Realty) over 8 years ago

Virtual tours do not give the whole picture, especially smells and noise, as you mention. Sometimes virtual tours only take the pretty pictures and leave out defects. Nothing like seeing it in person.

Posted by Sylvia Jonathan, Broker Associate, SFR (Coldwell Banker Platinum Properties) over 8 years ago

Seeing properties regularly is what helps me gain and retain clients. Internet leads may call about a property that is already in escrow but I can tell them about other comparable properties I've seen that might work or give additional information on other properties they might ask about. Internet buyers know ALOT about their neighborhoods and the available properties. We need to be able to show them we know MORE and that there isa reason to work with an agent rather than go it alone.

Posted by Jenny Durling, For Los Angeles real estate help 213-215-4758 (L.A. Property Solutions) over 8 years ago

Hi Patricia, I agree about the VT, but at $4/gal. I can justify looking at 3,400+ homes on the market.

Posted by Bob Miller, The Ocala Dream Team (Keller Williams Cornerstone Realty) over 8 years ago

Who buys shoes without trying them on?............................My wife! She just bought two pair online. First time ever. She immediately returned them. Why? Naturally, they didn't fit! Anymore questions?

Posted by John DL Arendsen, Crest Backyard Homes "ADU" dealer & Contractor (CREST BACKYARD HOMES, ON THE LEVEL GENERAL & FACTORY BUILT HOME CONTRACTOR, TAG REAL ESTATE SALES & INVESTMENTS) over 8 years ago

Regardless of the video and pictures of a property and the price, it's essential to explore thee neighborhood too, so while those tools might get me interested, inspecting the neighborhood is essential prior to inspecting the property, yet that's my opinion and business process.

Posted by Kimo Jarrett, Pro Lifestyle Solutions (WikiWiki Realty) over 8 years ago

There is no substitute for actual physical, in-person previewing -- however that said, in today's world of gas approaching $5.00 a gallon, not to mention the cost of one's time to do the previews - - there is a lot to be said for on -line virtual tours and previewing that way. If an agent is working a small defined geo area, it might be more practical - but here in the Phoenix market, most agents have markets that are quite huge, so the gas and time issues come into play a lot. Out 2 cents.

Posted by Bob & Carolin Benjamin, East Phoenix Arizona Homes (Benjamin Realty LLC) over 8 years ago

Wasn't Retro the Jetsons dog?  :)

Posted by Mel Ahrens, MBA, Kelly Right Real Estate, Customized Choices for your Real Estate Needs (Kelly Right Real Estate) over 8 years ago

I agree with your points, but I don't preview.  The client has to see the homes to determine if they would want it.  How many times do they tell you one thing and end up buying another.

Posted by Marsha Cash (RE/MAX Advantage) over 8 years ago


I preview a lot of properties. I agree that you cannot get a feel for a house without walking inside.

Posted by Rachel Tipton (KingOne Properties International) over 8 years ago

I was in a house about a year ago that looked great in the pics, a bit over priced, but looked great.  So I set up an appointment and went to take a look.

I was in awe, it was all ripped apart, the floors were flooded w seepage from a leaky pipe, the walls were a bit moldy, the ceiling was torn out, it was a wreck. It looked like a typical foreclosure!  What a surprise, I had to check my spec sheet to make sure we were in the right house, we were, and this certainly was not an $80k house but rather a 10k house.

When I got back to the office i pulled it up on the mls, and the photos were correct, they were just Extremely selective in which walls and which parts of walls  they took the photos, bordering on Fraudulent.  Good thing we did not rely on photos.

Well a year later the house is still on the market, and still Extremely over priced!

Posted by Bob Crane, Forestland Experts! 715-204-9671 (Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, Keller Williams Fox Cities) over 8 years ago

Previewing is absolutely critical. You can save your clients time by previewing. Otherwise, you're right, some surprises can pop up.


Posted by Sylvie Stuart, Home Buying, Home Selling and Investment - Flagsta (Realty One Group Mountain Desert 928-600-2765) over 8 years ago

I think another issue is that Younger agents get more  clients form the web.  Many times those clients tell us what homes they want to see.  

Posted by Gene Riemenschneider, Turning Houses into Homes (Home Point Real Estate) over 8 years ago

I use the virtual tours to weed out the homes that will not work for buyers but always preview the ones that I think might.  Like you pointed out, the camera cannot present the entire picture and it saves so much time if I go look at the home before taking the prospective buyer to it if I really know exactly what they are looking for.

Posted by Marnie Matarese, Showing you the best of Sarasota! (DWELL REAL ESTATE) over 8 years ago

Good morning Pat,

I so agree..there is nothing that can substitute the real thing! Sometimes it's amazing telephone poles or a large blue water tank are photo-shopped out of a picture..sights and sounds can make all the difference in a final choice.

Posted by Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR, Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate (Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.750.6899) over 8 years ago
Good morning Pat, I'm not a realtor, but a developer of websites. With many sites in my care I have NEVER recommended putting virtual tours on the listings.. Pictures work great and they drive prospective buys to ask for showings.. Can one "virtually" envision owning a home? Great post! Happy easter..
Posted by Joe Smith, Great SEO Services that you can afford! (NeNet) over 8 years ago

Patricia~ I still preview homes after 8 years in the business.  It's important to KNOW the market and what you get for the price in differing neighborhoods.  Last year, one of our title companies offered a broker tour.  It was great.  Someone else did all the planning, provided breakfast and the transportation, all I had to do was show up and give feedback.  They even had drawings.  

Posted by Donna Foerster, Metro Denver Real Estate Assistant (HomeSmart Realty Group) over 8 years ago

We do local touring of different homes. Not everyone is on baord for this sort of previewing properties as we can be seeing a properties 20 miles apart. I find it helpful and i got a house sold during a showing. I know that they work. Photos and video don't always show the property accurately. Still, i am working on learning video as i see it has enormous value too.

Posted by Janis Borgueta, LIC RE Salesperson (Key Properties of the Hudson Valley ) over 8 years ago

I guess I'm one of those "veteran" agents; I preview every Wednesday and sometimes on Sundays too!

Posted by Marie Story, Broker Associate, Pinecrest (Miami) Specialist (Coldwell Banker - Pinecrest (Miami)) over 8 years ago