Jim Gross of Real Property Videos

Jim Gross

What can your virtual home tour provider do for you? It’s a new industry and a level playing field for agents wanting to make the most of their online home marketing. Indeed, the platform has arrived for sending video tours of your listings streaming across social online networks. An increasing number of agents are using virtual home tours because they work. The truth is that “online” is where your clients choose to spend their business and non-business hours. Do you know what questions to ask your virtual tour provider as you begin making tours of your home listings? Most good virtual home tour providers will all offer the basics… MLS and non-MLS versions, hosting for a year and the ability to upload your pictures. For many however this is where it stops.

Many virtual tour companies have been investing heavily in virtual tour software for self-serve tours implying that they do not themselves make the tours. Imagine if 40 years ago gas stations started out self-serve. Golly, they had to earn the right to stop giving service to customers…one gallon at a time. Seems like many virtual tour companies are just starting out that way.  1. The first question to ask is if you can email your pictures having them create and host the tour for you? If so, what is the turn-around time to receive your finished hosted tour link back?

Many virtual tour companies offer monthly or yearly “subscription” fees. That is OK as long as you have monthly virtual tours to produce in addition to time and computer savvy to make them yourself.  2. Ask if there is a reasonable price per tour instead of a recurring credit card charge?

 We all have heard of “GIGO” (garbage in garbage out) regarding computers. A dark or poorly optimized picture is only going to look much worse on a full screen tour. Again, most tour companies don’t want to handle your pictures as it is labor intensive.  3. Ask your virtual tour provider if they have a product that includes optimizing your pictures to make them brighter and clearer for the tour?
 
You will want a way to list all of your tours on one playlist keeping your viewers on your site.  4. Does your virtual tour provider offer a home listings portfolio to embed on your website streaming all your listings? 
 
You should automatically receive two identical tours… one with your contact information picture, logo, email and website links, bio information and phone numbers; and one without for your local MLS5. Does your provider always send out two versions – one MLS compliant and one with all your contact info?
 
Many virtual companies have invested so heavily in the software platform that you will use to build your virtual home tour that they may pass costs on with initial software, hardware or other upfront charges.  6. Are there any up-front costs that may be incurred to start listing virtual tours?
 
Face it, no one likes to offer free consulting services to explain how to use a product, but your hosted tour is only as good as the marketing that you intend to do with it. The initial virtual tour needs to be individually discussed prior to implementation. Does it go to your website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, Realtor.com, local MLS, printed on postcard or flyer or burned on DVD?  7. Does the virtual tour come with one-on-one consulting to best market and place the virtual tour online?
 
Room description captions can be a plus for detail minded viewers. You can add useful information that you may not want to show like the fact that every room has walk-in closets, square footage, lot size details or special features the property has.  8. Does your tour company include  room descriptions in their tours? Do you have to provide that or can they grab that information from your MLS freeing your time up for other sales related activities?
 
 360 degree tours may define the term “virtual tour” but it is not for everyone as they can distort on a two-dimensional platform (aka. computer screen). Find out in advance how your virtual tour provider works. Some use stitching software combining several pictures while others prefer to use high resolution wide angle photographs allowing for motion.  9.  What style of virtual tour does your company provide and does motion of the pictures react differently depending on the size or style?
 
Perhaps the most important aspect of a tour is automatic updates to the tour after it has been published. We recently published a virtual tour and the pool (during the winter) had not been cleaned prior to our photographer shooting the pictures. The following week, we were asked to come back out to the property and reshoot the clean pool. 10. Does the home tour company have the ability to edit previously released tours and do the changes populate to all outstanding versions of the virtual tours?
 
We ran out of room here but here are a few other key questions:

11. What music will be used, is it appropriate and legal to use?

12. Are maps included to the property? Many platforms use google maps.

13. Are links included to email the tour to a friend from within the tour?

14. Will the show play on an iPhone/iPad? Flash based shows typically don’t.

15. Can the tour be texted and played on mobile phone platforms?

16.  What sites does your tour provider syndicate your show to?

17. Can people view all your tours on the hosted site as a playlist?

OK, if you ask your provider all of these questions they will most likely feel a little bit “worked-over” but if it’s your first tour you want to make the right decision for the long term.