Moving during the pandemic? You may want to keep things as virtual as possible. The coronavirus sped up a lot of emerging technologies, from telehealth to multi-party interactive conference platforms. It also caused a lot of people to re-think their living situations. When the pandemic began, there was an exodus out of New York City – a place well known for being cramped and crowded. Virtual apartment tours have been around for sometime, but they hadn’t quite gotten to the point of replacing the leasing agent. Chris Vasilakis out of Tampa Bay is changing that. He has been mesmerized by 360 degree cameras since they first emerged, and decided to use them to create Guided Virtual Tours of properties.
Around 2016, Vasilakis saw a 360 camera for the first time. He was fascinated by it, but thought of it as somewhat of a gimmick, and not particularly useful for anything. Only after seeing one displayed in a Best Buy did it click for him that they could be great sales tools. He says, “Everyone went into gaming. I was like, I want to go into sales. I want to be able to transport someone from one place to another.”
The difference between regular virtual tours and Vasilakis’ guided virtual tour is that the viewer doesn’t have to click all over a room to guide themselves, and potentially miss something. The tour can be texted directly to their phone and they can move the phone around to view the room while listening to a virtual agent guide them through the amenities of the property.
Vasilakis believes that Guided Virtual Tours stands out because the videos can be accessed through YouTube, an app that comes pre-loaded on most phones. This also makes it easy for properties to advertise the tours through YouTube so that potential tenants can see the property without having to visit their website.
Guided Virtual Tours is expanding rapidly. The company recently partnered with Matterport, the largest virtual tour company in the country. The partnership helped make the business model scalable, because Vasilakis’ team can use Matterport’s team of videographers to capture footage all over the country. If rental properties already have virtual tours, they can still partner with Guided Virtual Tours to make their tours guided, adding a script and so forth.
Vasilakis says, “We try to make everything as simple as possible.” The site offers a script-building tool where a property can copy and paste their information, or make a custom script. Each tour includes 9 scenes, and turnaround time from capture to finished product is between 10-14 days. The setup fee for capturing footage is $997, and the monthly cost is $399, but properties can choose to turn off the service at anytime if, for example, they have leased all of their units, and then turn it back as they see fit.
Through their partnership with Matterport, Guided Virtual Tours intends to expand internationally, as they believe the transition to virtual tours is global. Vasiklakis believes that his company will make it unnecessary for apartments to keep model units vacant since the guided virtual tours are so comprehensive.
The employment landscape around the world has shifted in response to coronavirus. Some jobs were found to be obsolete, other necessary – some could be done virtually, others not. The market has always trended toward bringing more virtual options to consumers. Physical stores have closed all over the country, as more and more people prefer shopping online. Not having to visit a property to be guided by an in-person leasing agent eliminates the worry of unnecessary germs – and small talk.