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5 Tips for taking a virtual apartment tour

What to look for in a rental property when you can’t be there in person

Are you the kind of person who likes to try things sight unseen? Maybe you enjoy blind dates or using a clothing-delivery service that trusts a personal stylist to choose your outfits for you. But choosing an apartment is not the same as picking out a wardrobe. Before you sign a lease, you’ll definitely want to take a close look at your potential home. In a perfect world, you’ll be able to step through the front door of the apartment and walk through the whole place at your own pace. Unfortunately, that’s not always possible. Luckily for you, you can take a virtual apartment tour online.

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Why take a virtual apartment tour?

A couple of reasons why you made need to take a virtual tour:

  • Moving long distance and won’t be able to personally tour every potential new apartment
  • Your work schedule doesn’t work with times a property manager can show an apartment
  • Virtual tours allow you to see more places in a day
  • Covid restrictions

Although it’s not quite the same as an in-person tour but, by following our simple tips, you can make it a useful experience and get the most out of it so you know what you could be getting into.

What, exactly, is a virtual apartment tour?

A virtual tour lets you move around a 3D version of the space, checking out all the rooms and details from your computer or mobile device!

Tips for a great virtual apartment tour

1. See everything

Be sure to spend time in each and every space, not just the main rooms, like the bedrooms and kitchen. Check out the hallways, the closets, and the bathrooms. If there are bonus spaces, like a small office, storage space, or crawlspace, check them out, too.

See what features are highlighted in the listing and be sure to take a close look at them. And, as you go through your tour, check out anything else that catches your eye. With an in-person tour, you may be pressed for time and asked to leave before you’ve seen everything. With a virtual tour, you have all the time you need, so use it and see everything.

Roost Tip! Some virtual tours will show you a model unit, not the exact unit you’d be living in. If this is the case, request photos of the actual unit you’re looking at, so you can see if there are any differences or specific concerns visible.

2. Be thorough

Not only will you want to see the entire place, but you will also want to be thorough with what you see. Take your time in each room. Look at each part of the space from different angles. As you move from room to room, don’t be afraid to go back to previous rooms and take another look at them.

You’ll want to get a sense of the layout and how it would feel to walk through and inhabit the space. You’ll also want to see if there’s a cohesive feel to the apartment or if there are any glaring or jarring design elements that jump out at you when you (virtually) move through it.

Think about the details you’d consider if you were physically standing in the space. You can’t exactly knock on the countertop during a virtual tour, but you can take a closer look at the grain of the wood floor or the height of the ceilings.

This is potentially a place where you’ll spend a lot of time, so you do not want to miss out on any details. Take your time, be thorough, and don’t be afraid to take more than one tour to satisfy your needs!

Roost Tip! There are some things that are hard to check during a virtual tour. We’ve heard of people being surprised by weird smells, moldy bathrooms, and leaky pipes. Remember: ask to see everything and don’t forget to be thorough when you’re asking questions about the place.

3. Go multimedia

The website you’re using for your virtual tour will probably offer you the Google Street View-like interface that we described above, where you can move from room-to-room and switch angles at will to get a good sense of the space. This is great, but it has its limitations. You’ll want to make sure you access other forms of media, like photographs and videos, in addition to the 3D VR tour.

If the site you’re using offers these, you’re in good shape. You can download photos to your computer or mobile device and refer to them later, showing or sending them to friends or relatives for their feedback. You should also see if the site offers video tours of the property.

Watching a live tour gives you a different perspective on walking through the place and the running narration can add an additional layer of detail that could be quite helpful. Once again, you may be able to download these videos for later viewing.

If the site in question doesn’t offer these other media options, go ahead and ask for them. There’s sure to be an email or contact link for the apartment’s landlord or listing agent, so you can drop them a line and request additional resources. You can do this even if there are photos or videos online.

It doesn’t hurt to see if they have more information. Since you can’t see the place in person, the more you get to see, read and hear in a virtual environment, the better informed you’ll be.

4. Go live when you can

Video tours are great, really, but the experience that most closely resembles an in-person tour is a live tour. Not all sites or apartments will offer these, but it’s a good idea to ask if you can get a live tour. What is a live tour? We’re glad you asked!

Rather than a virtual, self-guided tour (think of the Google Street View example we gave above), this would be a live-streamed walking tour of the place, hosted by a landlord or renting agent. Think of it like a Twitch streamer who showed an apartment rather than a game of Hearthstone.

The tour guide can take you from room to room, and they can narrate features, highlighting things you might miss with a self-guided tour. They can slow down, speed up, or go back, and they can answer your questions as they go.

Again, you can’t feel or smell the place like you would in an in-person tour, but this gives you the closest possible approximation that you can expect from a computer screen.

Roost Tip! In some cases, landlords will offer in-person follow ups. If you like what you see in the virtual tour, you can take a self-guided tour of the unit under specific conditions.

5. Ask questions

This is probably the clearest connection between virtual and in-person tours. When you visit a prospective apartment in person, you’ll want to bring a list of questions with you (on a pad or your phone, if you prefer). As the tour proceeds, your tour guide will probably answer many of your questions, so you can write those answers down.

But, as you proceed, you’ll likely come up with new questions that you’ll want to write down, so add these to your list. At the end of the tour (or in the middle, if appropriate), you’ll want to ask any and all questions that your guide hasn’t answered, as well as any follow-up questions that stem from the answers you get.

The same holds true for a virtual tour. If you’re taking our advice above, you’re seeing every room in the place and taking note of every detail. Again, since you’re not there, you won’t get a sense of how the place smells or if the street outside is loud.

These are questions you can (and should) be prepared to ask if you don’t get the information from talking to the resident or landlord. You’ll certainly come up with questions as you learn more about the place, but here are a few to get you started:

  • How good is the overhead lighting?
  • How noisy is the neighborhood?
  • How solid are the floors, walls, ceilings, countertops, etc.?
  • Speaking of noise, how thick are the walls?
  • Are there any ambient smells to know about?

We’re sure you can think of more starter questions. Jot some down on paper or on your phone, and add to them as you go. Don’t be afraid to ask anything that’s on your mind, as it’s the only way you’ll get the answers you want!

Make the most of your virtual apartment tour!

If you can’t take an in-person tour of the apartment that interests you, then a virtual tour is the next best thing. There’s no substitute for feeling and smelling a new place, but virtual tours make up for this with convenience. You can check out a place that’s far away or see one from the comfort of your own home (which is nice during a global pandemic!)

But, if you’re going to make the most of your virtual tour, be sure to follow our tips. Be thorough and ask questions. It’s an important decision you’re about to make, so be as informed as you can. Then, when you move in for real, you’ll feel like you’re already at home!

Wondering how much rent you can afford? Check out our rent calculator.

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A quick note! Our goal is to gather and share info that’s up-to-date and helps you make great decisions as a renter. That said, the information you get directly from a provider could be a little different. Make sure to review their terms and conditions directly; and, if you see anything here that needs to be updated, please let us know! Advertising disclosure
Last Updated: May 20th, 2022