Virtual Tour Company on the move

Do you ‘work’ in order to take a vacation or do you take a vacation in order to ‘work’. Creating virtual tours with Real Tour Vision has enabled me to travel and ‘work’ at various locations throughout the country and experience what they have to offer. From resorts on the islands of Lake Erie, to top ranked golf courses in the Southwest and incredible lodgings in between, it’s been an incredible adventure. I’ve met some great people, made new friends and am creating one heck of a referral network for all involved.

Of course, there are the realtors, builders and vacation home owners that keep me busy at home while I’m not traveling. But who can refuse free lodging, golf or meals in exchange for a reduced rate on a virtual tour? I love being able to pick a destination, do some research and set up a virtual tour to shoot while I’m there! Bartering with virtual tours may not be for everyone but I sure love seeing the look in their eye when I dangle the worlds best virtual tour in front of a resort owner and having them just look at me and say, “And how long will you need to stay?”

2007 marks the 4th year that I have been doing this and I keep getting better and better at it. Does anyone else out there use the Real Tour Vision Virtual Tour System this way?

Rob Lenthe
Remote Global Viewing
A Full Service provider

The Virtual Tour Dilemma

The term ‘Virtual Tour’ has been left open to interpretation to the point that the term is open to just about anyone’s understanding or definition. Two definitions found on Google using the exact same search phrase (define: virtual tour) directly contradict each other. One states that a virtual tour is any graphical representation of a property while the very next definition states that there should be a feeling of actually walking through the property.

There are a lot of misconceptions about virtual tours. There are many people that even think that still pictures that fade in and out constitute a ‘virtual tour’. I do not and neither should you.
As technology evolves, the term virtual tour should only be used when the experience is near equal to that of having actually physically visited the property.

With slide tours, you cannot get that type of tour. You are limited to the photographer’s angle and you have no idea what the photographer may be hiding. With a true virtual tour, you are allowed to see the entire property. Video tours are useful, but most virtual tour providers either don’t provide them or are ineffective at filming the entire property due to lighting differences.

Do-it-yourself (DIY) solutions are rarely, if ever, truly virtual in nature and most of the time cannot even be considered a ‘virtual tour’ of any kind. Most DIY virtual tour solutions allow the end user to upload a set number of images and then use these images to display a moving (or sometimes even non-moving) graphical display of still images. Imagine being promised a virtual tour of New York City only to find that the provider simply gave you five pictures that move left to right. I don’t see how you can classify five pictures as a ‘tour’. In reality it is nothing more than a slideshow. There is clearly nothing ‘virtual’ about a slideshow.

What’s even worse is that many DIY solution providers and some larger full service companies have even been so bold and misleading to the customer as to name the resulting graphical slide show presentation a ‘Video Tour’. These companies are not misleading and preying on unsuspecting real estate agents who then go out and scream to the world ‘I am now using the latest in technology’ while in reality there is nothing new at all about the slideshows that they are using. This damages the credibility of the virtual tour industry overall. If they want to call it a video tour at least they could describe the underlying technology that is being used for the customer’s sake.

Then there’s the ‘one-shot’ solutions out there. I have used this so called ‘virtual tour technology’ before. While the end result is a 360-degree panorama, the quality is horrible. The resulting images distort the property and make counter tops and walls look rounded. You cannot use the cameras flash to brighten particular portions of the room like you can with photo stitching software. You are unable to do 180 degree panoramas and must do an entire full 360 of every room. You’re left with blown out windows and white balance problems. Finally the resulting images from this dreaded technology are not printable for your client to use outside of the virtual tour. A lot of low-quality providers use these solutions to present real estate and the result is a complete misrepresentation of the property.

Why would you purposely misrepresent a property by using a low quality virtual tour? Why would you not want yourself and your properties to look the very best? Would you show up for to a listing presentation wearing sweat pants? It’s pointless to throw money away like that. Seeing is believing and people do believe what they see. You may have had an interested buyer from across the country close your tour off their screen because they simply didn’t prefer to buy a house with ‘rounded walls’ and thought it looked too ‘futuristic’. Meanwhile, it could have been the perfect house. But, you will never know and they will never call. technology utilizes optical correction on all of the images within the virtual tour making sure every wall appears perfectly square and just as it would if you were there in person.

You have to keep in mind that virtual tours are very effective marketing tools. If you have any doubts, go check out the 2006 NAR REALTOR Technology Survey and the 2006 NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. It is no secret that both home buyers and home sellers are now using the internet extensively and are much more technologically inclined than they were just 10 short years ago. It is definitely no secret that Buyers and Sellers demand more technology from real estate agents today than ever before.

One of the most important points to having a virtual tour is that they should not be used solely to market a listing. They should be used to market YOU. One of the most important things you should have included in a listing package is a CD of one or more of your full-featured virtual tours. Show prospective buyers HOW you are going to market their property before saying a word. Handing a prospective seller a package that includes brochures, marketing materials, DVDs and CDs says much more to a seller than any words you could ever speak. Handing them a full-featured INTERACTIVE virtual tour puts you ahead of competition that has yet to figure out that their homemade ‘video tour’ is nothing more than a slide show.

QUICK TIP. Do not give prospective sellers a marketing CD or DVD example from a house in their listing price range. Go a step above or well above their listing price range. Why would you show someone a marketing package for a 2006 Mercedes if they are selling a 1994 Buick? Simple answer: because they don’t believe that they own a 1994 Buick.

Cheryl Waller
Treasure Coast Virtual Tours

What is a Virtual Tour?

Well that really depends on who you ask, what company they work for, and the kind of product they are trying to sell you. has been building the world’s largest most powerful network of virtual tour photographers now for over 8 years and we like to think that our definition is among the most accurate out there. We define a virtual tour as a set of images both panoramic and still that give the user a sense of direction, spatial relationship, and depth. Most all virtual tours are released inside of an eye appealing template capable of displaying addition information relevant to the location being toured such as brochures, floor plans, video clips, and quite often audio voice-overs. Virtual tours are also very portable and can be saved to the desktop, emailed, and dispersed across the masses for maximum visibility.

We strongly believe that panoramic virtual reality tours should use a combination of imaging formats to adequately do justice to the tour. At the end of the day we are all in this industry because we want the end user or “Tour Taker” to get what they are looking for and pass those feelings along to the person who initially purchased the virtual tour thus promoting further interest in use of the technology.

Most importantly it is very important that the client ordering the virtual tour knows what they are actually getting when they place their order. Am I getting a virtual panoramic tour that I can interact with by moving and zooming? Am I getting a series of snapshots only here which is coined in the industry as a “Slide Show”? Finally some companies only offer a streaming video solution with no printable images, no interaction or control, but still call it a virtual tour. At the end of the day what we end up with here folks is a lot companies offering way too many technologies that should be going under different names other than a virtual tour but don’t. Why the lies, deception, or lack of being forthright with clients? The answer is simple here. Right now lots of people are searching for and asking for virtual tours. Companies want to get their business and will do whatever it takes to do so even if that means misrepresenting technology and keeping people uninformed as long as possible.

Here is a great example for you. Many of our prospects calling in to order tours from our virtual tour providers look at our panoramic virtual tours and really believe they are looking at a video. This is because the images are moving just like they do in a video. We feel that it is our obligation as a business owners and industry leaders to take a moment to educate them on the underlying technology and let them know what they are actually seeing. Both Real Tour Vision and our vast provider network take this approach with our prospects and feel that the higher road is the best to take for the industry in the long run.

We have seen far too often over the years several companies take advantage of common misconceptions in the industry. People are being sold Video tours under the name virtual tours. They are being pitched hardware free virtual tour systems that only produce second rate panos and slide shows at best. Slide shows for the longest time were called and sold to people who wanted to order virtual tours. Finally, to really top things off, the general public is now being sold “Video” tours but they are actually getting slide shows that move from one image to the next! Most of these virtual tour companies simply let the end users and clients think what they want and don’t correct the people who misunderstand the kind of technology being delivered. In the end this will only leave the general public confused as to what a virtual tour really is and harder for people selling real virtual tours to define their products.
At Real Tour Vision you WILL get the straight talk from us and each and every one of our providers. Letting you know exactly how things work inside and out is our promise to you the client. Every call that we take resulting in a sale or no sale we feel good knowing one more virtual tour shopper out there is better informed about the industry that we love so much. Happy shopping and we hope we can keep you better informed. Our doors are always open to you for your virtual tour technology and industry questions.

Virtual Tour of a Galley Kitchen

Since I began working as the Virtual Tour Track Administrator for I’ve heard from many virtual tour photographers about the impossibility of taking a good shot of a Galley Kitchen. Honestly, I do have to admit I thought some were exaggerating. I mean, how hard could it be to get a good shot of a kitchen, right? I decided to put it to the test so I pulled out my trusty, yet bottom of the line, point and shoot digital camera to try it out for myself. I then proceeded to take about 10-15 pictures of my tiny Galley Kitchen and uploaded them into my computer.

I was a bit surprised and a quite chagrined to discover that most of them were bad! I mean, after all I fancy myself an amateur photographer and have been taking pictures since I was 13! After stewing a little in my failure and pondering the results of my little experiment I decided that it would be fun to have a Submit Your Best Galley Kitchen contest on the Virtual Tour Track section of the RTV Support Forum. If you are a Real Tour Vision provider you can access the forum through your builder site, scroll down to the bottom of the Forum and you’ll find the Tour Track discussion area. Once there you can check out the virtual tour photos from my experiment and submit your own best galley shot. Once I have enough submissions I will create a poll so everyone can vote, so be sure to check back!

Jacque Stephens-Burke, your friendly Tour Track Administrator

Quick solution to a long distance problem.

Shortly after we became a Real Tour Vision provider, one of our REALTOR clients called with an urgent request for a 360 virtual tour. We needed to create a virtual tour for an “Estate” home. She had a potential client from the west coast visit the home while on business as he was possibly going to be transferred to PA. The transfer came and he remembered the home but his wife couldn’t get back to see it. This created the need for the tour to see if this home was a contender for their family. We created & posted the tour and sent a link as quick as we could. We found out about a week later the house was sold off our virtual tour!

His wife saw the tour and decided it was the right home for them from the tour and faxed contracts to secure their new home. This also solidified our value with a local REALTOR who has become a great client and friend.

Keith and Robin Volker
A Full Service provider