Blog Tag: 360 home tour

Real Estate Agents-Online Marketing is Key

Real Estate Agents are quickly learning that establishing an online reputation could make them or break them in today’s market. The days where families want to drive from house to house are long gone. With children schedules to coincide and gas prices quickly rising once again, shopping for houses online using virtual tours has become extremely commonplace.

When I first opened SLP Virtual Tours, my best friend was ecstatic. She told me that her and her husband wouldn’t even consider buying a home that didn’t have a tour. They spent a few hours a week online reviewing houses on the market that had virtual tours. They narrowed them down to their three favorites and then began calling real estate agents. From the three, they picked “The ONE!” and live in it still today. And what was the exact quote of my 32 year old best friend with a husband and four children? “If a real estate agent gets a listing and doesn’t think it’s worthy of a virtual tour, then why would it be worthy of my time to see in person and spend our money on?”

By using virtual tours on every tour, real estate agents are quickly seeing a rise in their client lists. Using a top leading virtual tour company such as Philadelphia’s SLP Virtual Tours-the real estate agent’s reputation gets catapulted into a “who to use” real estate agent status. The agent’s photograph is included on every tour as well as contact information and company logo. It’s a surefire bet for a real estate agent to “Brand” themselves in today’s ultra-competitive market. And the tours offer top notch conveniences for each viewer including music, crisp clear images that rotate 360 degrees, with a zoom in and out feature that allow viewers to zoom in and out on the fine architectural details of a property.

Not all virtual tour companies out there offer top quality tours. It’s a buyer beware market. In fact, the newest game on the net is companies claiming to be virtual tour companies when in fact, they only make up a slideshow of still photos. There is no 360 degree “spins” that modern technology gives us and that consumers demand. That is why trusting virtual tour providers in the Real Tour Vision Network is imperative for a real estate agent who understands the importance of online presence and reputation. The tours are uploaded quickly, the viewing window is large, and they are true to life. Virtual Tours will get an agent every listing that comes their way. Consumers want to be in the “now” of technology and expect their properties to be listed with the top marketing pros who will save them money in the long run. The tours help to sell the homes quickly and warrant to be placed in every marketing budget of every property.

Jennifer Stiefel
SLP Virtual Tours

The Realtor® Lowdown

Brand recognition is one of the elusive goals that all businesses strive for. The ability to bring into someone’s mind the image of a product or service by simply saying its name is a powerful marketing tour. Some brand names have become so synonymous with a product that the name is used to describe a product regardless of who makes it. When you have a runny nose, do you ask for a facial tissue or do you ask for a Kleenex®?

An organization that has beyond any doubt accomplished this goal is The National Association of Realtors® (NAR). Anyone looking to buy or sell a home will say they are working with a Realtor®. Rarely do they say they are working with a real estate agent. So what is the big deal with the word Realtor®?

The word has become such a part of our vocabulary that we forget that not all real estate agents are Realtors® and not all Realtors® are real estate agents. Confused? Here is the NAR definition of a Realtor®:”NAR is composed of REALTORS® who are involved in residential and commercial real estate as brokers, salespeople, property managers, appraisers, counselors and others engaged in all aspects of the real estate industry”. NAR is an organization that someone in the real estate profession can join.

So, what does this have to do with us? Many Real Tour Vision virtual tour providers are participating in public forums and blogs that we fully expect to have people from the real estate industry read. We all pride ourselves in delivering that extra little bit that will make us stand apart from all others. One extra little bit that takes very little effort would be the use of the word Realtor®

I rarely use Realtor®; I prefer real estate agent or real estate professional. When I first started as a mortgage broker, I had a few agents correct me about the use of Realtor®. Several went to great lengths to let me know they belonged to NAR, but were in fact real estate agents. Some agents will not care one way or the other how the word is used. Others are like I was. When a service provider came into the office, the first question was always “Are you a Realtor®”. I would say “Yep, I am also a real estate agent”. That would always slow them down.

The point I am trying to get across is simple. Set yourself apart from others by using the word Realtor® correctly. When you write something that potential clients are going to read, I know you carefully craft the sentences and check for misspelling. Why not go that little extra distance and write the word as it is registered? One last little bit. Try not to pronounce it “relitter”. Think about how RTV is pronounced. Real Tour said fast sounds a lot like Realtor®.

Roger Hall
Sunwheel Consulting

Virtual Tour Production

I formed Round the Room virtual tours to provide local real estate professionals with quality virtual tours to better market their listings. I began in the Destin Florida area and have expanded to servicing Panama City to Pensacola. I am proud to help bring attention to the many outstanding properties available on the Emerald Coast.

I use Real Tour Vision software for producing my virtual tours. After my initial purchase of equipment, an inventory of virtual tours, and the production software, my costs are very affordable. The level of customer service provided by Real Tour Vision is outstanding. RTV offers a user friendly format that can easily be customized. Technical support has been quick and helpful. I would highly recommend Real Tour Vision to anyone considering producing multiple virtual tours.I would be happy to assist anyone considering producing virtual tours with Real Tour Vision. Please contact me for more information.

Producing your own virtual tours makes sense if you have the need for a large quantity of tours. Many real estate agents do not require enough tours to justify buying their own equipment. Some do not have the time, or just prefer to use a provider with more photography experience. Real Tour Vision has a national network of virtual tour providers capable of servicing accounts nationwide.

Joe Beane

Is it “Snowing” Outside Your House?

As a real estate photographer and a virtual tour provider, I often peruse and other sites where virtual tours and listing photos are posted to gage them against my own work and make sure that my offerings and services are of higher quality than that of my competitors.

One problem I notice again and again on the majority of pictures I view (both stills and panoramas) is “blown out” windows which make it look like a blizzard is raging outside! Since I’m not viewing listings in Antarctica, I know that this is actually because the photographer doesn’t know how to expose the scene for both inside and outside light.

The reason this happens, without launching into a full-scale lesson on dynamic range (the range between the darkest and lightest areas of a scene), is that exterior light (sunlight) streaming through a window is typically much brighter than the ambient light and/or the artificial lighting inside of a room. While the human eye is the most advanced lens on the planet and can adjust lighting levels so that you see more even lighting in a room, even the most expensive camera lenses don’t come close to duplicating this kind of dynamic range.

I live in Los Angeles and often shoot very expensive homes with great views of the beach or mountains, so it is very important for me to adequately capture the view. So, a few “tricks” are necessary to make sure that the end result is a scene or a photo where both the interior and the exterior are properly exposed.

First of all, choose your camera angles carefully. You can often choose camera angles that minimize window glare and still for the most part properly expose the interior. If you shoot a sunny window straight on (i.e. at a 90 degree angle) you will most certainly get a partial or total “wash out” if you expose for interior lighting. However move your tripod so that you are capturing that window from an angle of 10 or 15 degrees and voila!!

You can often capture the exterior scene with very little effect on the interior lighting (you may have to use the “dodge” tool for some minor tuning up around the window). Of course, you may have a window across the room that you are shooting straight on, so that may only solve your problem with one window. Also, sometimes we don’t have the luxury of total flexibility when choosing our interior angles due to room features, furniture or objects we are trying to shoot around. That’s when a little “Photoshoppery” comes into play. Yes, you’ll need a little bit of Photoshop knowledge to do this, and (duh) the Photoshop program itself.

There are a few ways to do this, but here’s what I do. First, you must have a camera that contains selectable metering spots or zones (not all do) and also you must use a tripod to match shots exactly. Also, if possible when lining up your shot, try to not have anything partially or totally in front of the window, because it may create problems for you later. When a window is partially or totally in the shot, you are going to capture two shots. First, expose for optimum interior lighting (the window will be partially or totally blown out to white). Next, without moving the camera, move the meter point so that it is exposing for the window. Immediately, the window scene comes into view while the rest of the room goes somewhat dark. You now have two identical shots, one with optimum exterior lighting and one that exposes the interior properly.

Repeat this process for all shots that include windows. Now, time for a little Photoshop magic! Open up Photoshop and pull up your duplicate shots. Now go to your picture where the window scene is optimum and push in pretty tight on it (200-300%) so you can be precise with your selection work. Now use the polygonal lasso tool (or if you have a more rounded or irregular shape to trace, the magnetic lasso tool) to trace the window. I usually trace outside the window frame, and then if necessary, use the “dodge” tool to lighten the frame up.

Now, select the “move” tool, which will automatically cutout your selection, and drag the window over to your “interior” picture. Push in again real close on this picture so you can place your window exactly where it should be on top of the “blown-out” window. Now flatten the layers of your image and VOILA, you have just “composited” an image!! You have a shot where both the interior and window scene are perfectly captured and exposed. If you are doing this for panoramas, I recommend stitching the scene first, once with the window shots and once with the interior shots and then compositing the resulting images. This is because if you choose to do it picture by picture before the stitch, you will find that you are often cutting out and replacing the same window twice or even three times due to the overlap of the pictures. If you are an RTV provider and have any questions on this process, I’m glad to answer them personally, visit my website and drop me an email.

To Your Success,
Lawrence McBride
Virtually There Media

The Best Virtual Tour Needs Great Stills

Quality is a must when it comes to a product like Real Tour Vision virtual tours. Good still pictures are just as important as taking good panoramic images. I have noticed some tour track orders (National Accounts for Real Tour Vision), as well other tours have fuzzy stills. I have a feeling that many virtual tour providers are shooting their stills by hand. This may be ok for vacations but when it comes to shooting as a professional you should offer top quality stills. First of all, you need to make sure the camera is in focus. If the camera auto focus is not focusing well on a particular shot then use the manual focus mode and make sure the picture looks great. Next make sure that the camera is still and not shaking when the shutter is pressed. Property re-shoots are expensive so make sure to capture the images correctly the first time. Many digital cameras have either digital or mechanical image stabilization to aid in shooting. Do not rely solely on these features to shoot great stills.

The lighting conditions for virtual tours often force the camera’s shutter to stay open longer than normal to capture adequate light and if you are not 100% stable when you take the picture then your shot will come out fuzzy. The clearest pictures are taken using a tripod. When your camera is mounted on the tripod it sits completely stable and you are pretty much guaranteed to get a clear picture as far as stabilization goes. For the widest angle still the camera should be mounted horizontally, not vertically like when panorama photos are taken. If a tripod is too cumbersome for you to carry around the shoot or you would like something that is lighter and quicker to setup for each still shot then I would strongly suggest that you invest in a monopod.

A monopod is a single support leg that has a quick release plate that attaches to the bottom of your camera. The plate with the camera attached to it then locks in place on top of the monopod. The monopod stabilizes your camera from moving up and down and doesn’t require as much setup time as tripod does. You can extend the monopod out to the desired shooting height and you are ready to go. It has a light and slender design that makes it easy to carry from shot to shot. If you are interested you can search online for monopods. There are many different brands available but most will have the features listed above and would work for camera stabilization. Good luck on the still images and keep the great looking virtual tours coming!

By Ben Knorr
Real Tour Vision Lens Engineer