Real Estate Virtual tours are very popular, but what really defines a virtual tour? Is a slide-show a virtual tour, how about a video? Virtual tours have been around a long time as well as many virtual tour providers who offer everything from full-service virtual tours including photography, 360 degree panoramas to the very basic still images rotating in a slide-show format, no music or transitions and little or nothing else. So, what really makes it a ‘Virtual Tour’?
I get asked this question often and first wrote about the topic back in 2010 when we launched VirtualTourCafe at the NAR Expo in New Orleans. VirtualTourCafe presented our NEW virtual tour marketing service both in our booth and during a live NAR Presentation Theater event. I heard many arguments on both sides of this discussion.
It’s an interesting question, but the wrong one I suggest. First, let's talk about the "purpose" of a virtual tour before we get too bogged down by dictionary definitions. As a real estate agent, why do you even need a virtual tour in the first place? After all, in this economy do you really want to spend more money on marketing? So why then…
- Is it to sell the home faster?
- Is it to give the potential buyer (some from far away) a better view or feel of the property and surroundings?
- Is it a lead-capture tool for future business?
- Is it to appease or even impress your sellers?
- Or is to demonstrate your marketing skills, market yourself and improve your branding?
It is probably a combination of several of these. But none of these reasons require a 360 degree panorama such as the one above. However, a panoramic image can give the potential buyer the feel of looking all around in a complete 360 degree circle of view. Some homes and large rooms show better with a panorama and some are probably better displayed with a wide-angle (12-28mm) lens.
Keep in mind your objectives and not the dictionary definition (below). This is about representing the seller’s best interest and at the same time, positioning you as the online marketing expert, and ultimately selling the property and maybe even gaining a few leads along the way, right?
So what all this boils down to is "options". A virtual tour should offer options to include still images in a slide-show format with (quality) music, pleasing transitions, full and partial panoramas (optional), and even YouTube-style videos. More and more buyers and sellers are searching YouTube for homes, yes homes for sale! YouTube is now the second largest search site online, second only to Google who, in case you weren't aware, owns YouTube!
And we haven't even talked about social media, syndication, branding, website links, printable e-flyers, mobile-friendly, QR Codes, and high-definition images... So look for a virtual tour provider that offers options, promotes the listing through syndication, promotes you with branding, and is automated and fast and easy to use! If it isn't easy to use and cost-effective, you won't do it anyway, right?
And in case you are interested… here is a "dictionary" definition of Virtual Tour:
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A virtual tour is a simulation of an existing location, usually composed of a sequence of video images. They also may use other multimedia elements such as sound effects, music, narration, and text. The phrase "virtual tour" is often used to describe a variety of video and photographic-based media. Panorama indicates an unbroken view, since a panorama can be either a series of photographs or panning video footage. However, the phrases "panoramic tour" and "virtual tour" have mostly been associated with virtual tours created using still cameras. Such virtual tours are made up of a number of shots taken from a single vantage point. The camera and lens are rotated around what is referred to as a no parallax point (the exact point at the back of the lens where the light converges).
So, what do you think? Do you use virtual tours in your marketing and why or why not?
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