Will Zillow Control How We Do Business
Zillow Rolls Out Interactive Floor Plans as Video Tours Fall Flat
House-buyers and browsers want 3D walk-throughs and floor plans, not prerecorded video tours
Zillow reported 9.6 billion platform visits in 2020, up 19% from the year before, helped by a pandemic-driven increase in noncommittal browsing.
Zillow Group Inc. has introduced a feature that lets users virtually tour properties via their floor plans. It hopes to provide a better alternative to real-estate agents’ prerecorded video tours, which have proven unpopular even during a pandemic-fueled boom in visits to its platforms.
The online real-estate company’s new browsing experience, which became available in an initial 25 U.S. regions this week, indicates on a home’s floor plan where each photo and panorama was taken. Previously, images were posted in a sequence that didn’t indicate the vantage point—a drawback for users seeking a sense of a space.
Zillow's interactive tour product aims to bring together a property's floor plan with photos and 3D images. Before, users would often have to toggle between all three to understand a house's dimensions.
Another source of irritation: Anybody who wanted to look at the photos and the floor plan at the same time had to open two webpages. The new feature integrates them with 360-degree panoramic images of a home and lets users “teleport” to different rooms by clicking around the floor plan.
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“We’re now breaking down the barriers between these different types of listing media,” said Josh Weisberg, vice president of Zillow’s rich media experience team.
Online real-estate companies made moves to improve the customer browsing experience before the coronavirus pandemic. Zillow’s new experience builds on its 3D Home feature, introduced in 2019 to let prospective buyers explore a home through a series of 360-degree images much like Google Street View. Redfin Corp. introduced a 3D walk-through feature in 2014.
But finding a good way to present homes virtually became critical for listings platforms last year, when lockdowns designed to slow the spread of Covid-19 canceled many in-person house viewings—just as a rush for space was pushing up home prices.
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Zillow already offered sellers and agents the capability to upload prerecorded video tours, but viewing rates were so low that the company considered scrapping the option entirely right before the pandemic, Mr. Weisberg said.
Zillow kept the video tours when in-person viewings began getting canceled, but consumers still didn’t embrace them, according to the company. That was despite the boom in noncommittal “Zillow surfing,” a phenomenon that Zillow says contributed to a record 9.6 billion platform visits in 2020, up 19% from the year before.
“People just don’t really seem to like watching videos that are more than 15 seconds long, and it can be really hard to show a home in that time,” Mr. Weisberg said. Zillow users prefer an interactive method of viewing that they can control, he added.
Zillow said listings that included 3D panoramas and floor plans garner the most interest on its platform. Redfin said views of its 3D walk-through feature have increased nearly sevenfold since February 2020, and Rightmove PLC, a British property website, said its best-performing listings include a minimum of five photos and a floor plan.
Some real-estate companies are still investing in video features, although not necessarily prerecorded video tours. Redfin in March introduced a feature that let home-buyers request a video-chat tour from an agent on the platform with a single click. Video-chat tours now account for around 11% of all home tour requests, said Jared Jones, Redfin’s director of product.
Homesnap Inc., another real-estate technology platform, in April introduced an option that lets consumers tune in to a live broadcast of an agent’s open house event on an external streaming platform, such as Facebook Live. The company is now building a service called Homesnap Showings, which will allow agents to give private home tours from within the app itself, said Guy Wolcott, senior vice president of product strategy at Homesnap.