Jim Gross of Real Property Videos
Jim Gross

Thinking outside the box can be a challenge – especially with new technology. This applies here to how one might go about creating the perfect style of virtual tour. With many new virtual tour companies coming onto the real estate scene it’s tough to know where to begin.

Let’s start with the basics. Virtual home tour companies all work in either video or pictures. While the end product is typically output onto a video platform such as flash, you can count on one of these two platforms. Photography based virtual tours are still called video because…. well, technically they still are (sorry videographers… your moment is coming). There are however, huge differences in stylization. 

These are the “in-the-box” current market options. About half the virtual tour companies incorporate software that stitches pictures together for a panoramic look or integrates dizzying 360 degree turns shown on your 2 dimensional computer screen. “Pano’s” aren’t bad however, if using good software and integrated along with other styles, but unless taken by professional photographers… may not have that WOW look you are going for. Then there are the picture styles that have template based motion. If your picture is too large or too small the motion will look jerky or have a “ping-pong” effect. The vast majority of virtual tour features are self-serve relying completely on the agent using the interface to upload their pictures, add text, property details and agent information. Often many steps are skipped over like adding alt tags and SEO optimization to get your tour seen by the search engines. More about this topic can be seen in our upcoming blog “Virtual Tours And SEO.”

 So now for the out-of-the-box suggestions. Start with a 30 second video agent profile spot that has been professionally filmed. You can delete that segment for your MLS version if required. If you have a high end property and can afford a videographer (please don’t try this yourself as it will likely wind up shaky and light challenged) take a story approach. Interview people that live at the house about the great neighborhood, features and schools. Shoot footage of the kids in the yard playing ball or with the dog. Sell the dream and the karma first, then follow-up inside for some video or pictures of the home highlights. Here is the best virtual tour I have ever seen… but it was also probably insanely expensive to produce by: Quentin Bacon.

Here is another hard-hitting pro that also uses video stories to sell his properties. He was our featured blog realtor in February, Larry Lawfer. These are some very forward thinking home tours. The idea to take from these is to really sell the dream and features that could become reality for a buyer should they purchase this property. It could be as simple as taking pictures of a home and including a few pictures of the nearby university and mall, letting people know that it is all within walking distance. For years I have used specialized photographer montage software for making virtual tours. While time consuming, it allows for placement of motion, audio, video, effects, transitions, captions and voiceover. Just recently I have become a fan of new virtual tour software because of additional contact, map, email and tour feature screens that are contained within the player. These are becoming more populated with features that are helpful and lead viewers towards that email button to request a home showing.

Creative virtual tours can also be shown on a creative platform. For a high-end listing that may take some serious exposure to sell, consider having a website built for the property. Include pages for a picture montage slideshow, virtual tour, property information and agent contact info. Buy a web domain name with the same address as the property. Also think creative output. You are not simply stuck sending your viewers to the site of the company who is hosting your virtual tours. Placement outside the box is key here. Get buyers to your site by embedding them on your site or using a listing portfolio multi player (see our recent article on listing portfolio multi players).  Send your tours streaming all over the internet using key real estate and social marketing search engines.

 In closing, I think the key here is that few virtual tour companies really want to make the tour for you when they can offer you a monthly subscription to make your own using their software. I think that virtual tours where professional pictures have been taken and the tour has been created by a professional will always “virtually” outsell template based home tours. If you can find a good value and consistent full-service you can spend your time showing property to all the folks that your awesome tours will bring.