A Virtual Tour is A Virtual Tour – Not Really!

As a Realtor(r) with many years experience in down markets I knew the importance of keeping my name, expertise, and professional marketing ability in front of future clients. I went looking for a marketing tool to place myself in front of the whole pack of hungry agents. Since I own an Internet marketing company I knew that the Internet was the key. The technology I first found was the free programs from a major software company and I thought that this was a good solution. In fact I then went to a seminar and the program was pushed as a great way for an agent to make their mark as an above average agent.

I published two listings using this program and saw that they were far from the excellence I wanted. Being a perfectionist I looked for other solutions. I viewed at least fifteen tours posted on the local Mesa, AZ MLS that were offered by various companies using many different solutions to the “Virtual Tour” presentation for viewing on the Internet. My knowledge of the Internet allowed me to investigate even deeper as to what technology and provider would allow me to show case my listings in the best light.

I had a Samsung Digimax A7 camera I picked up for a reasonable price. Most real estate agents like reasonably priced products and services, as do I. The camera allowed me to make some adjustments just like the old 35mm cameras of the film age that I used to use. I then went off to photograph my first two tours using the free software. I was almost OK with this but saw that I used to do better photography with a film 35mm and my own darkroom. I was very disappointed at the quality even though the quality was equal to or better than most other agent self shot tours or tours shot by other tour companies. My photography background, classes, and darkroom experience told me that the point and shoot digital cameras would not give the quality marketing pictures that are needed in a down market to put me ahead of the rest. In fact I noticed that the majority of the virtual tours on the Internet were actually a slide show and not a true 360 Interactive tour.

I wanted technology that would allow me to tell my clients that they could have an interactive walk through virtual open house 24 hour per day 7 days a week to draw potential buyers to their home. I found Real Tour Vision and used their virtual tour software on a couple of listings and used my Samsung camera. I found out that the light blew out the windows, I did not get as crisp and clear images that I wanted, and that the photo shoot of each home was using up three to four hours of my time. This goes to show you that the best software cannot correct images obtained from a cheaper camera.

This was way too much time to spend, so I went to the Real Tour Vision provider forum to get advice and to see what other photographers were using. Boy did I get advice! These easy shoot cameras can be used for family photos, but to get great real estate shots better equipment is needed. Just like I have always been told when it comes to software and computers, junk in junk out.

From the advice that I received I decided to invest in an additional $2,000 worth of software and camera equipment. I now can say that I have the ability to shoot weddings like I used to do with my 35mm film equipment and dark room. Most home self-shot photos are good, but they would not past muster as a marketing tool. I have not talked to anyone, except professional photographers or serious amateurs, that know what real photography is. In fact when I mention the following terms to the average agent their eyes glaze over like a deer in the headlights of a car: f-stop, exposure, lighting, depth of field.

I saw that an agent that I had done tours for had a different tour on a new listing. She told me that she had an old tour for the listing prior to my entry into the virtual tour business (she had the listing many months ago and it was taken off the market for some time), and I asked to re-shoot the listing to make it look better and to showcase the differences. See the comparison photos below of a Tour Factory Virtual Tour and a Real Tour Vision Virtual Tour. The kitchen on the top is from inside the Tour Factory technology and the same kitchen below is in a Real Tour Vision virtual tour. The quality difference is amazing. The windows in the top tour are blown out with light.

I have 100% of my listings with a fully interactive tour, and every home has closed escrow or is in the pending stage at this time, in fact I need some more listings as I’ve sold every listing that I have accepted this year. Even though I do not make my full living as a virtual tour photographer, I have more experience than many of the competing slide show and 360 tour photographers have.

Steve Knievel
Best Web Tour