The unprecedented situation brought by the pandemic placed emphasis on virtual tours, a real estate trend that was already on the upswing. Before COVID-19, seeing a property online through 360-degree photos or virtual reality (VR) technology allowed potential buyers and tenants to get a three-dimensional view of a property when a physical walkthrough wasn’t possible. Now, virtual tours provide an important and safe alternative to walk-in tours.

For our next entry in the Expert Insights series, we talked with Sean Boyle, co-owner of virtual tour company Momentum. We asked Sean about the place of virtual tours in today’s commercial real estate market, particularly in the Philadelphia area. See the full interview below.

Q: Could you start by telling us a little bit about your background and why you chose a career in digital marketing?

I grew up right outside of Philadelphia in Lafayette Hill. I went to Roman Catholic High School, among the best high school in America. After graduating in 2016, I set my sights on Penn State. I’ve always loved the idea of engineering, so that’s what I sought after as a degree. After half a semester of engineering, it turned out this was the complete opposite direction I wanted to go in life. I felt boxed in. There was no room for freedom. God sent me a blessing because one day I was eating lunch in my dorm room and my roommate Zach at the time came bursting into the room. It was as if he found the key to life. He started telling me about digital marketing and how it worked.

After his 10-minute pitch, I was hooked! I started applying to different internships as a freshman and got involved with my current business partner, Mac Frederick. After years of interning with him, he made me partner. I just graduated Penn State this May, virtual graduation and all, and now am working full-time as co-owner for Momentum. I work about 12-14 hours everyday and I love every second of it! To date, Momentum is ranked as the best virtual tour agency in Philadelphia for realtors and small business owners.

Q: Considering the COVID-19 outbreak, what are your thoughts on the CRE market in the US today in terms of trends and challenges?

The market as a whole has been a rollercoaster, that’s for sure. Co-working spaces, gyms, small businesses, they’ve all suffered. With the guidance of our state government and representatives, we’ve been able to tackle this virus and have business almost return to normal. I’m very proud of our state for doing a great job handling COVID. As a result, if you look at Philadelphia the past couple of weeks, the CRE market is on fire, with people buying and investing like never before. There are many incentives to buy right now:

  • 10-year tax abatement
  • 1 year builders warranty
  • Sub-3% mortgages
  • Grants from Bank of America

Now, if you asked me, “Sean, do you think prices will go down as demand will start to decline?” Of course, that’s just basic economics. But if you’re thinking about investing in Philadelphia office space, it’s never been a better time to buy!

Q: What are some of the benefits of doing virtual tours?

Virtual tours allow you to immerse yourself in a property or small business unlike anything ever seen before. Now from the comfort of your home, you can virtually walk-through your favorite spots in the city just from your phone or computer.

When realtors couldn’t show in-person tours, virtual tours were a necessity. Hand over fist we were getting calls asking for our services. It was blessing, being able to do business during this difficult time while helping over 300 realtors across the United States. The same goes for the 50+ restaurants and retail shops that we helped. Everything is transitioning to online now. Buying just about anything online now seems like a common practice. These virtual tours serve as a great middle man for businesses to take that first step in the digital age.

Q: What do you see for virtual tours for CRE in the future?

I see virtual tours becoming even more of a common practice, especially in real estate. Instead of strictly photos, you’ll see a virtual tour too. Overtime, I predict the virtual tour to be used more often than plain photos, as it’s a better content marketing tool. I’m very grateful and blessed to live in the era that we do, as there’s never been a better opportunity in the history of the world to be an entrepreneur.

Q: What are some of the important things to learn about virtual tours?

What makes Momentum unique is that we’re partnered with Matterport and Google. Matterport is the best virtual tour platform on the market right now. Google, of course, is the world’s leading search engine. When you combine the two, you get a virtual tour that not only looks fantastic, but is also optimized to rank on Google!

For instance, if I own a coffee shop in Philadelphia and I want a virtual tour to help get more online sales, Momentum will optimize this tour so I can start ranking for the keyword “coffee shops in Philadelphia”. This way, not only will I bring more attention to my online store, but I will start gaining more online traffic to my shop for these prominent keywords. Think of it as a snowball effect, the more keywords you have, the better.

As time goes on, these keywords become more and more valuable, bringing in more and more business, and before you know it, you’re the best coffee shop in Philadelphia just from SEO.