So you know that you want to make your first virtual tour. The problem is that the tour company is in Albuquerque and you are in Australia. That’s a long drive, flight, boat trip… whatever – it will definitely mess up your morning trying to drop off your pictures. So do you need to find a local virtual tour provider? Well, if you want to share donuts and coffee together and be more hands-on at their computer terminal it doesn’t hurt, but most agents I know are busy, busy, busy with showing homes, writing offers and marketing for new listings.

The fact-of-the-matter is that when sending a folder with your pictures via your tour company’s FTP service, it can be sent via the internet across the globe faster than you can walk across the street and deliver a CD containing your home pictures. Here is what you should expect. For the pictures themselves, either hire a local real estate photographer, or if you are going to try it yourself, no problem, spend the time to research staging for photography, equipment, wide angle lenses and lighting issues. A solid virtual tour company works in programs like Photoshop and can clean up your dark pictures, repair vignetting and  moderate barrel distortion issues that arise from non-professional photography. Not every agent can afford a professional photographer for each and every listing. The good news is that you can learn to improve your photography skills by research and practice.

Now that you have 25-35 pictures, put them in a folder on your desktop. Contact your virtual tour provider and arrange to upload them to your provider. Once they have the pictures and a MLS number, they can look up the listing and add valuable room description captions about the property. They should host the tour and send you back both a hosted address for your MLS listing as well as a flash file version for other sites such as Youtube, Facebook, Realtor.com and your own site. You should look for a 24 hour turnaround time from most companies.

Some virtual tour providers will take the images off the MLS directly to create a tour. This is bad! At this point, with most MLS’s compressing pictures to a very small size the result is a badly pixilated looking show. Plan to use the original image that you or your photographer took. If you use a professional real estate photographer, have them send you or your virtual tour company the pictures. In many cases you can set it up with the photographer to send you the images to load into the MLS, and copy your virtual tour company. Then it is as easy as sending a quick email with the property address and MLS number.

For busier brokers that have frequent new listings, a virtual tour company may be willing to offer the initial virtual tour at no cost so that you can audition their work and business style. Don’t be afraid to ask if this is an option.

Most importantly you should have a direct line via phone and email to an individual that can discuss your listing system and personalize it to blend in with your style. Some agents work alone. Others work in teams and “pass-the-ball” through the listing process. Some agents will want to review the final product before it is listed, while others want a very efficient fast-paced listing system having a complete listing with details, pictures and virtual tour moving throughout different real estate sites almost immediately.

If you are using sites like Facebook and blogging, personalize it with pictures and virtual tours of various “featured” properties. Your sellers will appreciate seeing that you are using social marketing to sell their property.