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Virtual Tour Software Lets Teams Explore Properties Together, Apart


Just months ago, a property tour might start in the building lobby, where you would meet a property rep, a broker and other prospective tenants. You would discuss the perks of the building's neighborhood before crowding into an elevator to move upstairs to explore the available office suite. You and your group would conclude by perusing the property's on-site amenities and hearing reviews from other tenants in the building.

Now, that same building tour can take place with the participants scattered all around the world, exploring the space virtually.  

With most in-person meetups out of the question in the majority of the nation's largest markets, demand for virtual tours has skyrocketed. According to LoopNet, a marketplace for commercial real estate, its users clocked 29% more virtual tours in June 2020 than in the same month 2019. 

In response, property listing sites are launching technologies to facilitate more in-depth, collaborative virtual property viewings. The goal is not to create a facsimile of an in-person tour, but to give every party involved in the leasing process a larger digital quiver and to streamline leasing and acquisitions through and beyond the recovery. 

In early May, LoopNet released CoTour, a videoconferencing platform. Each of the site's listings now supports the CoTour functionality, which launches a video call where prospective tenants can meet up together — or with brokers and owners — to explore listings. 

While the video technology itself is comparable to other virtual meeting software, CoTour is specifically optimized for LoopNet's site, and the integration allows users to seamlessly explore different listings and take virtual tours without the hassle of working through a different video platform. With most property tours on hold, collaborative touring is one of the only ways to view a property as a group and instantaneously share and hear what other visitors think.  

By virtually touring properties first, tenants may be able to cut down on the number of properties that they feel they have to tour in person, or may have enough information to lease or buy the space sight-unseen.

While some businesses are biding their time before making office moves, leases are still actively running out for many others. Companies have become more motivated in the last few weeks to either rework and renew their current leases or to explore new options for office space. 

Tenants have become increasingly proactive about searching for new office spaces on their own. Being able to meet and take virtual group tours of a property, all without ever having to contact a property rep or broker, could reinforce a growing trend toward independence. 

For many owners, having a digital listing may be the only way that they can actually invite tenants into their buildings for the foreseeable future. Without digital media like photos, renderings, virtual walk-throughs from Matterport or other tours, property owners can't expect tenants to see the inside of their properties at all.  

Going forward, LoopNet is planning to invest in tools surrounding CoTour, including ways to let users schedule showings with brokers and owners, as well as note-taking capabilities that will let users compare listings more easily. 

As the site adds functionalities, CoTour may become a valuable tool beyond the leasing process. Sponsored listings can show buyers and sellers what comparable buildings in their markets expect in terms of price and cap rate. Even now, prospective buyers are using LoopNet to search for opportunistic acquisitions, according to a LoopNet spokesperson. 

Once cities reopen, travel will still likely be depressed, which means collaborative virtual tours and digital media will remain necessary tools for marketing. Corporate heads of real estate who might otherwise fly across the country multiple times a month to tour a property or sign a lease will still likely be conducting business online.

By touring properties in real time on shared video calls, brokers and searchers may feel a deeper sense of what the ideal office space has, and move forward in the new leasing paradigm.

This feature was produced in collaboration between the Bisnow Branded Content Studio and LoopNet. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.