How Important Is A Virtual Tour?

Very important, in my opinion.  And most active MLS listings for properties up for sale that don’t have virtual tours are severely lacking in a market where it pays to be thorough.

Let’s be honest – the concept of a “virtual tour” is nothing new, and “virtual” might have seemed like a futuristic word twenty years ago, but now it should simply be expected.

There are some virtual tours, however, like the one below, that might be a bit to extreme.  Watch the video, chuckle, shake your head, and then we’ll discuss…

Geez, this blog is getting pretty gangsta!

I didn’t mean for it to get like this, I swear.

Monday’s video about the upcoming movie “Pocket Listing” might have had some NSFW content, and even my wife said to me, “You just used the word ‘cocaine’ in your blog, twice, and joked that your average day involved consuming a lot of it.  What if somebody was new to your blog, and didn’t get your insane sense of humour?”

Well, who knows.  Maybe they’ll be more inclined to read…

So in today’s video, we see another example of somebody “making it rain” dollar bills, and while a lovely blonde lady lays on the kitchen counter while the gangster raps, it’s not quite as racy as Monday’s post.

This video, like it or hate it, is by an Australian real estate agent who is very successful, has gained notoriety for his unique marketing style by media outlets across his country, and who just released a book.

Again – like the video or not, I have to think that this video is better than no video, and unfortunately, most properties listed today don’t have any videos or virtual tours.

Now I’ll be honest – there are times when a virtual tour or video isn’t necessary.

I wouldn’t do a virtual tour or video for a property listed for lease.

And I probably wouldn’t do a virtual tour or a video for most vacant properties, since there’s very little you can show, and it might make the property look boring and incomplete.

But I also differentiate between a “virtual tour” and a “video,” as the latter has become more of a “film” about the property.  I utilize both tools, depending on the property.

I’m being open and honest here, folks.  And it’s not about the money.

If I had a 1-bed, 1-bath condo coming out for sale, I would do a virtual tour, but not a film.  The reason is simple: the unit does not necessitate a 90-second film.  What can you possibly say in a film for a 590 square foot unit?

Accuse me of playing favourites, if you want.  But I reserve my property films (and ironically, that is the name of the company I use), for the larger properties, where there is more to show.  And if I do say so, most Realtors don’t blow $1K on a film…

Consider a 4-bed, 4-bath house, measuring about 2,800 square feet, and now think about how many features of that home you want to highlight to the potential buyer.  The MLS listing only gives you 20 photos (thank GOD that number came up from 9, and it only took a decade…), and only so much can be conveyed in those photos, and the 463 characters we get to write in the “Remarks For Clients” section of the listing.

A 1-bed, 1-bath condo?  Sure, you can get the point across in 20 photos and 463 characters, but I still do a virtual tour for my listings, which adds more still shots that what is on MLS, and provides two 360-degree panoramas of the living space and usually the master bedroom and bath.

But a 4-bed, 4-bath house?  It needs something more.

That video above might be really cheesy, but at least it shows the property.

That agent doesn’t always rap either.  Here’s one that you might consider more tasteful:

So maybe he’s bad at lip-synching, but at least his videos showcase the house and the property.

Folks, let me be brutally honest here and spell it out for you in dollars: a professional virtual tour costs less than $200.

So who the hell would list a property in Toronto without spending that paltry sum?  Who would list a property and take photos on their iPhone rather than pay $99 to get a professional with a $5,000 camera to take photos?

Having a virtual tour for a property listed for sale, in today’s market, is an absolute MUST, in my opinion.

And the most frustrating part is that it’s so damn simple.  As an agent, you just make a phone call, and swipe your VISA.  What’s the problem?

Well, I guess when we’re accustomed to logging on to MLS and seeing “PHOTO NOT AVAILABLE” for about 5% of all active condo listings, asking for every listing to have a virtual tour is probably a bit far-fetched.

As I said at the onset, there’s nothing fascinating, innovative, or ground-breaking about a “virtual” tour, since that word hasn’t sent shivers down our spines since Total Recall was a hit movie in theatres, and Bill Gates was telling us that one day, our TV would know what we wanted to watch.

So why doesn’t every MLS listing have one?


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  1. lui says:

    Just HDR photos would be nice,the virtual tour thing if done properly is a bonus,and PLEASE stop stretching the photos or using fisheye lens.

  2. Fro Jo says:

    I thought houses in Toronto sell themselves — and at 20% over asking.
    Pictures, virtual tours, staging? That’s so Y2K.

  3. Chroscklh says:

    I no like 360 degree – as other reader say it distort. Video – meh. Maybe for next house, maybe when spend 8-9 trillion kuzo (3-4$mm) -but this 5yr away least! BUT abstolutely have to have link with 20-40 photo I can ENLARGE and SCROLL through. No stupid stupid stupid slide show that play automatic with the music play – I hate this. Dont make me press pause or reverse 8 times to get good look at laundry room. Who is person who believe we cannot be trust to click ourselves, need hands-free slide show? Frustrate.

  4. Mike says:

    I never check out the virtual tours, it’s too time consuming and lets face it, it doesn’t really represent the property well.

    What I like:
    Lots of pictures
    No music (is there anyone that doesn’t quickly hit the mute button on that)
    Floor plans- so many listings don’t spend the money on floor plans they show you the layout and make it a lot easier to get a feel for the house an its sizing.

    The one think I’m really liking right now is the floor plans that link to the photos

  5. Greg says:

    I’m a little shocked at the $200 pricetag for a professional RE photo shoot in Toronto. The photographer is essentially giving away the service at that price. A respectable RE photo shoot requires, not only expensive photography equipment, but also a person who understands how to shoot a room without making it look like a bowling alley with leaning walls and follow it up with tasteful editing in photoshop.

    The expectation of the RE photographer is MLS formatted photos, high-res photos, temporary web gallery, brochures, and a video for $200???! Unbelievable.

    1. Geoff says:

      @ Greg – I understood that it was the realtor that is paying the photographer. $200 for one job is not enough. $200 for 20 jobs a month 10 months a year though might be worth it.

  6. DavidP says:

    A virtual tour is all good and handy, but not when there’s no floorplan or layout to help someone understand where these images/360 views are from. It’s probably the most annoying thing about most Toronto listings. I could probably live with just a handful of pictures if the listing would have a properly drawn layout with measurements or square footage summaries.

    1. Geoff says:

      +1. Photos + a floor plan outweigh a stupid video, especially for condos. Get those right, and then do a video, fine.

  7. hoob says:

    it only costs $200 for a reason and, in the eyes of this viewer, you can tell it only costs $200.

  8. hoob says:

    And continuing the rant.. . all using the same cheesy stock MIDI chamber music, all using the same 8′ slide tracks, all using the same contrast boost effect, etc. It was pretty clear to me at the time (3-4 years ago) that there were only 3-4 products out there to made video and virtual tour listings, and they were all pretty crap, all giving that same plasticky, synthetic, vapid feel for the property. I actually found that they cheapened the curb appeal of the listing itself, while actually adding nothing, adding no net new information.

  9. hoob says:

    During my house hunts I always thought the video tours and virtual and such were completely pointless. I don’t think I ever watched a single one while actual in the shopping process, even if the listing had them.

    In my experience they were all poorly done productions that all used similar tools to generate too much Ken Burns effect, used the same crappy “360 degree view” widget that blows dimensions completely out of proportion.

    Good pictures let you know if a property is worthy of consideratoin. If I want to see the house I book a viewing, not count on some wannabe Oliver Stone’s version of a house tour.