Virtual Tours have become the new “got to have” tool in the agent’s arsenal and every client wants their house featured in a virtual tour. I hate the virtual tour packages that are popular today. I always have and I always will. There are two types of virtual tours that I see most often. The first is a set of still photographs created in a slideshow that looks like a crappy PowerPoint slideshow complete with annoying background music that grates on your nerves and announces to all your co-workers that you are loafing on the job if you have your PC’s volume set too high. The second virtual tour, I actually don’t mind so much, and that is a series of photos, shot through a fisheye lens and stitched together to look like a 3D representation of your house and you can look around it similar to Google Maps Street View.
The Crappy PowerPoint Looking Virtual Tour
These virtual tours were created so agents can brag about offering a virtual tour without actually having to pay for a decent one. They are nothing more than still photographs assembled in a slideshow, complete with amateur transitions and grating background music. Next to the slideshow are links about the property’s features. Agents should be ashamed selling these things as virtual tours. They look cheap, take a while to load, and may require plug-ins to work. Adding plug-ins limits your audience, especially unknown third-party Internet browser plug-ins. Once they’re running, they offer nothing that wasn’t already seen in the MLS listing. They just rearranged them a little and added some horrific soundtrack. In my opinion, a dedicated web page would be better than this. A web page could have all the photos, links, maps, etc. You could link to it in your MLS listing, like you would a Virtual Tour, give it a memorable address, and best of all, it’s searchable by Google. My biggest problem with these virtual tours is that they look cheap and don’t offer anything new to the listing.
The Fisheye 3D Virtual Tour
These virtual tours actually do give you a feeling of touring the house, or at least a few rooms. I actually like these, but there are some serious problems with them. I don’t like the virtual tours that spin you around. If you have a big monitor like I do, nausea and dizziness could set in if you watch it for too long. I would prefer they start the tour without the spinning. You can move your mouse around to explore it at your own pace. Besides panning left and right, you can look up and down too. With limited success, you can zoom in and out, but the picture becomes grainy fast, limiting it’s value. However, it does give you a spacial sense of being there. However, there are some drawbacks. Users with slow Internet connections will have to wait for images to load. Another disadvantage is that the spinning room doesn’t allow you to focus on features or highlight anything special about the house. As a matter of fact, all beneficial features of the house get lost. Also, to create a 360, 3D panorama, you have to use a fisheye lens that distorts the image so that the images can be stitched together creating a visual bubble effect. Distorted pictures distract the viewer from the features that would sell the house. When you create tours like this, even the unflattering features of the house are shown. Not every part of a room is pretty.
What’s Better Than A Virtual Tour? Video Tours!
Think about it. What would be better than filming the real estate agent giving a walk-through tour of the home. The agent could point out the features, benefits and walk through the best parts of the house while discussing its greatest assets. Important messages could be highlighted with text overlaid in the video to emphasize benefits and features that the agent is talking about. To me, this would complement the MLS listing, any on-line ads and all printed materials.
I don’t think virtual tours sell houses, they just sell agents. Agents like using them to land listings because clients think they’re valuable. However, I believe that video tours would do a better job of selling houses.