PFRE Reader Recommended Tour Hosting

February 3rd, 2017

I’ve gotten several questions recently asking who the best tour hosting vendor or what the best tour software is. So it’s apparently time to remind everyone of the Suggested Tour Vendor page again.

First of all, I recommend you use a tour hosting vendor rather than trying to use slideshow software to create your own custom tours because it’s just too difficult for most real estate photographers to create their own custom tours. Great tours are just not that expensive and you can easily recover the cost of the tour.

I have a page for tours similar to the outsourcing page we talked about a few days ago. The benefit of the tour page is that it summarizes the suggestions of PFRE readers. Readers vote for their favorite tour vendor by leaving comments on the page.

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16 Responses to “PFRE Reader Recommended Tour Hosting”

  • Always a good topic. I use TourBuzz. I find that it offers me the best options and control so far. And they keep improvising it. Now with the Crisp template they offer a separate button for video and now the template can be modified like their other templates.

    And it has a client control panel so your clients can make changes as they need to themselves.

    A couple of my realtor clients who, unlike most of their local peers, actually want to go in and fiddle, find some things are designed for photographers rather than realtors. One issue is with non MLS tours. Apparently there is an issue with not being able to use the domain name (wwww.123SmithRoad.com say) with the unbranded tour something they want to be able to do when sending out an eBlast to other realtors. This is something we photographers do not run into ourselves but Larry might be able to shine some light on this and other limitations of many virtual tour sites.

    Otherwise as a photographer, I am very happy with the tours, the control panels, and very much with their customer support.

  • I also use Tourbuzz for now (2.5yrs), and the main reason is because it syndicates out to both the local MLS and REALTOR.com. Templates are not the best but it is the best that I have seen doing what it does with the unbranded and branded platforms until now. Houselens, a large national group is going to be offering non Houselens photographers their platform at the same rate as Tourbuzz with very nice templates along with a calendar for scheduling, CRM and payment function all in one place! I was told that it will be up and running by Feb 20. The main questions I had were – maximum video size and do they syndicate to the local MLS and REALTOR.com. The answers were 50GB per month of space on the middle plan and Yes to syndication! Many REALTOR I know really like the look of the Houselens branded and unbranded templates and also like how they can share to social media with ease. The info website is: http://www.houselens.com/artistpro/ I am looking forward to this platform since I use 3 different places for photos delivery, payments and photo/video MLS syndication templates.

  • I use a Photodex program called “Pro Show Producer” to create all of my slideshows (including RE) and it doesn’t get any easier than this! The “Producer” option has the most features and customization potential, but they have a less expensive option “Pro Show Gold” that’s more than adequate for RE slideshows. They even have their own licensed music options if you need that. Output file options are super easy to use.

  • @Cindy, thanks for the HouseLens info. However, after visiting the site, I am really confused and have many unanswered questions. Perhaps I missed something there.

    For example, what does a finished tour look like? Are there – or will there be – buttons similar to those you will find on TB (maps, local links if you choose them, an email or share button, etc, etc)? Will there be a way to archive the tours, or change them as time goes by with new photos or video clips, music, etc.? The site doesn’t seem to have a lot of answers but perhaps you know what will be offered, or they have provided an example of one of their themes/layouts. Prices sound good!

  • I like Tourbuzz. Easy delivery. Clients love the product. And the support dept is top-notch. I even use one of their tours for my email signature – it gets passed around a bit – I think I’ve gotten more business there than my website: http://tours.davespencerphotography.com/public/vtour/full/688524/

    @Cindy it looks like Houselens has a nice product coming… just not sure how I feel about doing business with a tour company that’s trying to work my area with their own photographers?

  • For me, this is an easy question to answer. FloorPlanOnline is far and away the best virtual tour company out there. Most agents realize that pretty pictures are no longer enough to adequately market a property. They want photos, floorplans, aerial mapping, virtual walk throughs, local school information, and all of the additional content that help a potential buyer make an informed decision. FPO offers all of this wrapped up into a single package at a very reasonable price point. Syndication to MLS, Realtor.com, Trulia, YouTube and others are very important as are the social media sharing and marketing tools they supply agents. They also take care of billing and customer service which takes that off my plate so I can concentrate my efforts where I make the most money, out in the field taking photos and sketching floor plans.

    I have been working exclusively with FPO for over ten years and I can personally vouch for the integrity of everyone in the company, from the owner, to the service provider network, the customer support department, and their production team. I would encourage you to check out their product at http://www.floorplanonline.com and compare what they offer to the other tour companies out there.

  • Here’s another vote for TourBuzz. Easy to use, reasonably priced and great customer service. I do wish their downloadable flyer was a little nicer, but that’s just a minor nit with me.

  • Do agents still use “tours?” Do photographers still try to sell these outdated products?

    No one watches tours. At least no one in my informal surveys I’ve conducted. This is a by-product of the 1990s when the idea of a virtual tour – looking at pictures of a home without having to actually visit the home – was made popular by the queen of England. The fact that a video played, NOT allowing you to control how long you looked at each picture, nor in what order you looked at them, made it a “tour.”

    Nowadays, the concept of a video slideshow is not novel and it’s not practical. Especially when it has the SAME pictures as are in the listing. I’d rather look at a kitchen photo for 8-10 seconds and a stupid bedroom photo for 2-3 seconds. I don’t need a slideshow and cheesy music.

    I think agents under the age of 45 understand this and don’t feel like paying the money for a slideshow. Instead, perhaps they’d rather pay money for a video walkthrough.

    Now if you want an actual “tour” I’d suggest that Matterport has the solution. Super expensive. But it’s actually a self guided tour that’s almost as good as being there.

  • Ok – I do agree with Trevor, and I personally feel Tourbuzz even when you add your walking video tour to their platform and template is outdated. Here is a link sample of what Houselens does integrating both stills, video, 3D and floorpans – nice templates. Not sure if they are in all regions, but I feel that I don’t need to reinvent the wheel and since my branding is going on their new platform and I like their look and my clients like the look, then why not since it’s the same cost as Tourbuzz and will offer more. (billings, scheduling, single site website, downloading photos and video, uploading to MLS and CRM)

    Just check them out!

    http://properties.houselens.com/KellyHartnett/46550/23+Crestwood+Dr%2C+Maplewood+NJ+07040

  • @Trevor…

    I’m sure that I speak for every reader here over the age of 45 when I say thank you, so much, for your generous sharing of wisdom. Personally speaking – from age 60, with a foot in the grave – I was very surprised to hear that ‘no one watches tours’. Good information! I’d been squandering precious last moments over descriptive and predictive analytics that were leading me astray… Just another example I suppose, of how all that new-fangled math is not to be trusted.

    All the time there was results from your ‘informal survey’. If only I’d known!

    Worse yet; I had this silly notion that being a successful listing agent – even one over age 45, oh the horror, is practically as much about appeasing sellers, as it is about advertising sellers’ properties. Thanks to your integration of marketing knowledge, experience and deep understanding I realized there’s simply not many old sellers left that would enjoy a product of that bygone era.

  • Wow Dave Spencer. Quite the response from you. I was simply giving my opinion and I don’t think I was rude or offensive. I didn’t realize I had offended you. Please accept my apology.

  • I have had the same experience as Trevor in regards to tours. I don’t even offer a slideshow tour, and have only gotten two requests for one in the last year. I fully believe that currently a virtual tour needs to offer the buyer a difference experience and perspective of the home. The same pictures put to music, bluntly put, is a waste of time for the online shopper. By the time they click on the virtual tour link, they have already seen the pictures, read the description, and are now looking for something MORE, not the same.

    You could argue that these virtual tours are great in the agent’s arsenal during a listing presentation… and they probably have been, but they are no longer a match for a well done walkthrough or cinematic video, or even a matterport tour.

    Hopefully this doesn’t elicit a personal attack.. this is just my opinion.. and what I am personally experiencing and seeing in my area!

  • @Tim, I just watched the matterport sample tour. I had to turn it off. I became nauseated with all the transitions. Anyone else experience this? Not a good experience for me!

  • A little data to get you thinking — in 2016, Tourbuzz tours were seen by 16.6M people via 26.3M sessions, lasting an average of 4m41s. Tours average over 130 views. That’s over 2 million hours of engagement time.

    We talk about this topic a great deal internally at Tourbuzz. Talking about the value of tours is really hard, because there are so many audiences for the tour. Also, the utility and needs/drivers for tours have changed significantly over time. Even the simple question of “what is a tour” is so complicated now as to cause heated debate. I can talk a little bit about the questions we ask ourselves as we think about this issue.

    What is a “tour”?
    At the highest level, a tour is simply a “web page dedicated to a single listing”. There isn’t much point in arguing about photo galleries vs video slideshows vs floorplan tours vs video tours vs Matterport, etc. Those are simply different presentation styles or different media types. In fact, there is no “photo gallery vs video slideshow” war; that’s a red herring. Use as many different media as are appropriate for the job! When you think of a tour simply as a “web page dedicated to a single listing”, then you free yourself from either/or thinking and instead can focus on the question of “what experience can I create for this listing that’s appropriate for the listing, the budget, the market, the agent?” It’s also important to be mindful that tours have many benefits for many different participants in the ecosystem (brokers, agents, home sellers, home buyers, and even photographers), and to think about how to maximize the value of the tour for all participants.

    Up in our ivory towers, we could just focus on “what’s the best experience for visualizing the house”. Unfortunately, in the real world, there are a lot of complicating factors and constraints that must be dealt with. Budget, marketing goals of agents & photographers, even local market trends. Beyond that, there just isn’t a “best” of anything when it comes to media. Even if YOU prefer to watch HGTV style videos, other people may hate them (and trust me, they do). The idea that there’s a one-size-fits-all solution is simply not realistic. Visitors to tours span so many different mindsets — buyers early in the process, buyers deep in the process, visitors familiar with the neighborhood, sellers checking out their neighbor’s homes, other agents checking out listings, etc. Visitors come from different contexts as well — are they clicking through from IDX? Realtor.com? A yard sign? Which constituencies needs should be ignored? A good tour allows any one of these users to quickly and meaningfully get what they need from their visit.

    What are the core, sustainable problems that a “tour” solves for agents?
    1. An online “destination” that is the landing page for various marketing efforts to drive demand for the listing (Social Media, YouTube, SEO, Syndication Portals, etc). If you don’t own the destination you cannot control the message or measure the response.
    2. Ability to tell a deeper story about a listing through additional media and information than allowed or supported by IDX/MLS/Portals.
    3. Ability for listing agents to “connect” with buyers & sellers via the tour. Real estate is a sales industry. Tours create the opportunity to generate brand impressions and generate both buyer and seller leads.

    What are the core, sustainable problems that a “tour” solves for photographers?
    1. If you’re just delivering your media, you’re creating a problem the agent then has to solve. What do I do with all this “stuff”? By packaging your deliverable with a tour you’re delivering a solution and increasing the value of your deliverable.
    2. Tours *of any kind* are great marketing for photographers, too! Some MLS’s even allow photographer branding on tours in the MLS/IDX. How many agents & homeowners see every tour you deliver — think some of those visitors might need your services soon? It’s hard to overstate the value of this viral marketing effect.
    3. Not directly related to the tour experience, but the platform that generates the tour can save you a lot of time. If it’s easy to produce/edit/deliver/maintain the tours and other marketing artifacts (flyers, social syndication, SEO), then you can deliver more value for less cost. It also isolated the photographer from needing to learn how to integrate the latest technologies (video, mobile/responsive, VR, etc) because the tour platform gains new capabilities with no effort from the photographer.

    While there are a ton of additional benefits, hopefully this overview gives a good survey of the core drivers of why tours are important for both agents and professional real estate photographers. What do you think?

  • @Alan, would it be okay, as a TourBuzz customer :), if I plagiarized some of the above for my marketing material?

    @Trevor, no apology needed. I turned 60 and anointed myself age discrimination watchdog with a hair trigger. Probably me that should be apologizing 🙂

    Soooooo, if a lot of photographers ‘hate’ virtual tours, and a lot of clients ‘love’ them… Are we back to that Art -vs- Business thingy again?

  • @Dave — absolutely! I’d love to hear which parts you think will resonate and then how they work with your clients. I think we all win if we can communicate more value from the delivery of a great Tour experience!

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