I am not a "virtual tour mill," churning out endless lacklustre photos of house after house.
I photograph one home at a time and I showcase it with drama and style.
So, then what exactly IS a virtual tour?
The debate rages on. A "Virtual Tour" is usually thought to be one of the following:
A. that all-too-familiar video that shows a moving, spinning, dizzying 360 degree view of every room in the house, and often even the neighborhood. I personally am surprised that we're not hearing more about househunters having seizures and/or convulsing while viewing these (the way kids do when playing their video games . . . get it . . . ?)
B. a slideshow of photographs with that pan-zoom effect, where it makes the photos appear to be sort of moving. This one also *must* include plenty of loud, annoyingly cheesy music. Incidentally, I find that 99% of househunters spend precious virtual tour viewing moments searching for the button to TURN OFF that music-haha! This style is mostly associated with the brand called "Visual Tour." A term that has become familiar to most, and is often mis-used, or confused with the other term "virtual tour." I don't have a problem with this company, in fact I respect that they are basically the industry standard. Realtors buy/pay for this service (annually, monthly, or one at a time). They then take their own photos, upload them to their account on the Visual Tour website, and then publish them and use them as they like. If used and produced carefully, these can be a great resource! MY recommendation? Hire a professional real estate photographer to take the photos, then go ahead and make your own "visual tour" out of those! Truly the best of both worlds, and I actually have this arrangement with some of my own clients.
C. a video walkthrough of the house. I can honestly say I have only seen ONE of these that was done well. I'll post it soon on the "awesome virtual tours" page of this blog. Otherwise, what I see are people (sadly, often realtors) who walk through the house holding out their point and shoot camera in video mode. They also feature the requisite cheesy music, and often the requisite voiceover. I love it so much when the voiceover guy is literally reading the description as it appears in the mls. Example: "Brick rancher, eat-in-kitchen, hardwood under carpets, carport, deck, shed." Yes-I've heard the voiceover say this type of thing, word for word. Lame.
D. a photo slideshow, with or without captions or music. These slideshows are either:
-sooooo big and flashy that they take forever to load, most often testing the patience of, and ultimately losing the attention of the househunter-who then moves on to the next listing.
-so small that it makes me wonder why they bothered. Most local MLS's allow dozens of photos, viewable at a reasonable size/resolution, and offer the option to view the photos as a slideshow. It basically can even be thought of as a built-in virtual tour! So why go to the bother and expense to simply duplicate it?
E. a video or slideshow uploaded to youtube, then called a "virtual tour." This is sort of the newest version of virtual tours-I personally don't mind them, overall. My main issue with using a youtube video as a virtual tour is that simply because of the format, it tends to be slow-loading, and stops/starts constantly. Oh-and the overall quality/resolution of the video is usually poor. To avoid this, one could certainly choose the HD option, but that makes the video even larger and slower to view. Still - I do feel that every property should have its own video on youtube, and as a service to my clients, I produce and upload to youtube, a short slideshow video of the house. I keep these under a minute. Youtube isn't *yet* a major real estate marketing platform, but it is definitely required that realtors have a presence on it. It is also a great thing to offer to their prospective clients - people love to hear that their house will be on youtube!
Now to answer the original question of "what is a virtual tour?" The correct answer is . . . .
all of the above.
The photos in the slideshows I produce are large enough for househunters to see clearly, but not so large that they take forever to load and browse through.
Your virtual tours will not cluttered up with repetetive, unnecessary items or links. It's just the facts - address, price, number of bedrooms & bathrooms, and total square feet. If applicable, the year and/or property size may also be included. My tours get GREAT reviews from househunters!
The virtual tour is designed to show the home at its best with the ultimate goal being that the househunter will call the real estate agent! In most cases, I actually prefer NOT to show every corner of every room. Why? Well, think about it - do you want that potential buyer taking their own "VIRTUAL" tour of the house, or would you prefer that they take an actual "IN PERSON" tour of that home??!! Additionally, it's my experience that photos of every corner of every room are not always flattering, so only the most appealing areas of each room should be included.