Tips for Online Home Tours

It may seem long ago that virtual tours were an impressive feature of your real estate Web site. Today, they're practically commonplace. Any website without virtual tours risks appearing technologically stale and out-of-date. Make sure your virtual tours are as polished as possible with these tips:

  1. Choose your vendor and photographer with care. “Some of the companies don’t have good photographers. They pick up a camera, and they take the most awful [images]. You need someone who has a good eye and who keeps up with the technology,” says Anne Riley of Coldwell Banker-Burlingame 400 in Burlingame, Calif. Also consider adding photos of the property's views if they are particularly noteworthy.
  2. Don’t delay. It’s much smarter to order the tour as soon as you obtain the listing, rather than hoping the home will sell itself in a week, and then getting a late start if it doesn’t.
  3. Show the home’s best features, and make sure the tour downloads and moves quickly. “You don’t want the people viewing the home to feel as though their time is being wasted,” Riley says.
  4. Be sensitive and sensible about showing the sellers’ valuables in a home tour. Images can be edited, and valuables can be removed before the tour is shot or eliminated from the picture afterwards, if necessary.
  5. Use online home tours to screen buyers. “The people I don’t hear from who have seen [the tour] are as important to me as the people I do hear from, meaning I haven’t wasted my time or theirs,” Riley says.
  6. Emphasize space and scale. “[Virtual tours] are wonderful for showing cubic volume space, scale, and proportion,” Riley says.
  7. Use caution when shooting views. Not all cameras are equally capable of capturing distances well.
  8. Show off the floor plan. With sites like TourVista.com, Flyinside.com and MapsAlive.com, it's easy to include one in your video.
  9. Use Google Maps to highlight interesting features of the neighborhood. More than likely, your MLS provides a basic map of the neighborhood surrounding a given property but take this up a notch in your virtual tours by creating map mash-ups using Google Map's Mania directory for real estate. Drag and drop or cut and paste to create mash-ups that combine information about schools, shopping centers, restaurants and even commuter times.
  10. Go Three Dimensional. Photosynth is a relatively new program powered by Microsoft that takes 2-D images and renders them into 3-D format. Adding this cutting edge technology to your virtual tours will up the wow factor of your videos.
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