Christopher Vasilakis, 40, of Tampa, who has been working in the virtual reality startup space for the past five years, saw an opportunity in real estate during the coronavirus pandemic.
In November, he launched Guided Virtual Tours, which offers narrated, 360-degree video tours of residential and commercial properties, allowing prospective buyers and renters to check out a space as if they were doing an in-person visit.
One of their packages involved Vasilakis’ team capturing a 3D scan of the property using specialized cameras, handling the voiceover work and putting together the video for a set-up fee of $997, which is then licensed to the customer at a monthly rate of $399, he said. The license can be canceled or restarted at any time depending on the customer’s needs. They’re also expanding to an option that will allow customers to do more front-end work and pay less.
With about 45 clients — including apartment complexes — providing ongoing work nationwide and goals to expand this year, Vasilakis spoke to the Tampa Bay Times about his business model. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Can you explain how your services work and how you set yourself apart from competitors?
Up until now, there’s only been the traditional virtual tour, where you click endlessly through an apartment or property, clicking around, and no one is guiding you through. No one is talking to you or selling you. That’s the equivalent of someone giving you the keys to an apartment and saying, hey, go look for yourself. Well, we found that wasn’t the most effective.
We tried to replicate an organic property tour. And what that means is somebody taking you into a property, showing you the amenities, showing you the model units, explaining to you the value proposition of the property and then giving you a call to action. And that doesn’t require any work from the prospect.
It’s a video-based format. The reason why we did that is because this way, the prospect can just relax and be taken through the tour, and it also makes it easy to be shared. So it could be texted, it could be used on mobile phones, it could be used on computers.
The property (owners) themselves can do the guiding of a tour. So it could be their best leasing agents giving a tour and guiding. Or we have a team of professionals that can record, as well. They provide the script for us that navigates through the property, and we have that recorded.
How do you build a client base for your business?
So the easiest thing to do is on Instagram, we show people how they can actually take a tour of an apartment complex on Instagram.
We could message the property (owner), say, “Hey, if you do this,” I will show them exactly how they can do it. They can click the link in our bio and then click the demo and be taken on an immersive tour, where they can move their phone around, look around the property and actually get a guided virtual tour right there.
Usually, when they see that, they want to learn more information, and that’s how we can get them on board.
We also have an existing client base from another virtual reality company. We can go into our customers and show them a new product offering and then show them and say, “Hey, look, there’s something for your properties.”
How has the past year of the coronavirus pandemic played into how you’ve built up your business?
Once the coronavirus came out, it became a necessity for apartment complexes to give tours remotely. They couldn’t wait for a prospect to come to your property, they had to find a way to reach the prospect. So that’s why Guided Virtual Tours was created. It was created for the pandemic.
Working remotely, building teams that are not necessarily in an office space anymore, that’s been the only challenge, per se. But other than that, the product was created for the pandemic. It is something that will be around for many years to come.
What are your goals for the rest of this year?
Our goal is to get to 1,000 properties by the end of the year ... and I believe it’s highly achievable, because we have a new product to bring out that allows the property (owners) to capture the tours themselves, to record the experience themselves, which makes this a much faster process.
So they give us the raw data, and we build everything in-house.
So now somebody in Greece, we can show them how to capture their property, they can record their script in their native tongue. We can combine it together. They’re the ones creating everything.
So that allows us to scale much faster and actually become a global audience.