What is a Virtual Tour & Should You Get One?

Virtual Tours Turn Your Clients into Your Best Sales People!

Before we talk about what a virtual tour is, I think it’s important to address why they are so valuable. Top Selling Agents have figured it out… When you provide a virtual tour for your listings, buyers and sellers post it on facebook and twitter, and they share that tour with everyone-they-know; neighbors, friends, and co-workers. That translates into POWERFUL word-of-mouth advertising. But they’re not just promoting your listings, they’re referring YOU, and showing the world what you do to market homes, vs. the competition.

  1. Adding a virtual tour to your listing is like adding a frame to a valuable painting. It makes it stand out from the crowd and says “there’s something special and valuable here”.
  2. Virtual Tours make a home look and feel more attractive, and THAT makes your sellers like you more.
  3. Listings with virtual tours attract more clicks and are more likely to turn viewers into clients.
  4. Buyers love virtual tours because it’s a much nicer way to share their new purchase with friends and family, than sharing the mls page.
  5. Virtual Tours are extremely inexpensive, yet pay higher dividends than any other kind of marketing.

So, what is a Virtual Tour?

Wikipedia has a pretty good definition. A virtual tour is a simulation of an existing location, usually composed of a sequence of video images. They also may use other multimedia elements such as sound effects, music, narration, and text. The phrase “virtual tour” is often used to describe a variety of video and photographic-based media. Panorama indicates an unbroken view, since a panorama can be either a series of photographs or panning video footage. However, the phrases “panoramic tour” and “virtual tour” have mostly been associated with virtual tours created using still cameras. Such virtual tours are made up of a number of shots taken from a single vantage point. The camera and lens are rotated around what is referred to as a nodal point (the exact point at the back of the lens where the light converges).

What about Video?

I talked to a friend and Realtor yesterday, who said a videographer presenting at her office said, “Virtual Tours are on the way out”. It’s all about Video now.” Really? Isn’t a video a virtual tour? It’s true that video is growing in popularity among real estate agents, and for many good reasons. But I contend that Video is just another form of virtual tour. Isn’t any means by which we virtually tour something, a “virtual tour”?

Like everything in technology, virtual tours have evolved. When virtual tour software first arrived in the mid 1990’s, a virtual tour was considered an un-broken panoramic image that let you spin around and see a 360 degree view of an area. In the early 2000’s, that evolved into a [what I think is a] much more pleasant and simple photo tour; a gallery of full screen, high quality images. Enter the Video Slide Show in 2004, which showed those same beautiful images, but in a presentation format (music, narration, pans and zooms). Sticking with the slide show theme, virtual tours have moved away from video slideshows to a more navigable and high definition presentation of those photos. Which bring us to 2012, where now video is making inroads. There are still other tour formats today, including some that let you click on a hotspot within a floor-plan and some still do the original 360 degree panos.

So is Video replacing “the virtual tour”? Hardly!

Video adds to an evolving definition of what a virtual tour is. Even as a stand-alone option, video is a virtual tour. Companies like WellcomeMat, specialize in video. While others like PreviewFirst.com offer multiple tour options, including a Photo Tour, HD “Motion Picture”, and PreviewFirst includes video, too.

I think VT downers like this guy and others are speaking form a sales perspective. They have something to sell and they feel like they must put down virtual tours in order to lift up their product. For instance, this guy doesn’t want to compete with virtual tours, so he says video is replacing virtual tours. I even heard (in 2011) that the VP of Marketing at Realtor.com said “virtual tours are no longer necessary”. LOL. So, when exactly did they go from being necessary to unnecessary? Answer, when they realized how many users were clicking off their website to view the virtual tour. That’s my guess, anyway.


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