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Review of A New Benchmark In Property Sites/Tours

In: 
Published: 01/09/2007
By: larry


I was googling around yesterday and ran across an interesting example of what I think is a state-of-the-art property site or tour. I think property sites and tours are morphing together into a single entity since it has become so inexpensive to purchase domain names these days. Why not get a domain name for a tour since it's only a few bucks a year.

I want to point out a few points about these (i-Flyer) tours which are a product offered in the Seattle area by a company called Vistaestate. I did a post last March on an earlier version of this companies property site. At the time we had quite a discussion about the HDR only approach that this company uses so I won't revisit that subject other than to say I think they do a good job of HDR and there only a few weird looking images.

I think this property site/tour has some significant features that are not unique but I keep seeing them over and over on tours I find appealing:

  1. The design is simple, elegant and straight forward.
  2. The navigation is clean and simple showing you thumbnails all the possible images and allows you to decide what to look at when instead of automatically marching through the photos and not allowing the viewer to control the slide show (I call this latter approach the Everett Fenton Gidley approach). Gidley's contention is that it's better to do everything for viewers. If they have to do anything they are likely to leave.
  3. The images are BIG. 800x600 or bigger. Big images can create more impact than small dinky ones. Small image tour and sites are a design left over from back in the days when bandwidth was a big issue. I just tested the effective speed of my Comcast connection and it's usually around 6 megabits per second... so I want BIG images! Most real estate viewers are no different than I am.
  4. Notice that it looks like they are selling advertising to local companies... tasteful yes but still ads. Or maybe the business of a friend of the founder.

The images are by-in-large pretty good looking. There are some inconsistencies; the fourth image from the top has a serious converging vertical problem. This distracts from the otherwise very professional look of the images. A few of the image have the "dirty shadows" so characteristic of HDR images.

The last thing I want to rant about is the mixed use of portrait mode and landscape mode. I haven't talked about this much but I'm becoming more and more annoyed by this phenomenon. I have nothing against portrait mode photos if used in an appropriate design that requires portrait mode, but I feel mixing them with landscape mode in a horizontal mode slide show frame is bad design. The horizontal images are displayed big and beautiful and the vertical ones are scrunched to fit the height of the horizontal frame. Yuck! The vertical mode photos are frequently vertical not because vertical is the only way to convey the image but because the photographer was oblivious to how the image was going to be used. I this particular slide show that has so many images I'd rather they just left out all the vertical images. Nothing would be lost and It would result in a much more pleasant viewing experience!

13 comments on “Review of A New Benchmark In Property Sites/Tours”

  1. That did look pretty good. I'm seeing more and more sites going to the black background and it definitely helped to make an impact with these photos. I have always liked the idea of a single property site as well and this one appears to have all the hot buttons. A few things did irk me however.

    Some of the dusk shots were a little too overdone. I'm still pretty green to a lot of this technology so I'm not sure if it was too much HDR or bad white balance or what, but I think there is a fine line between making a property have that magic glow and then making it look like one of those plastic houses you sit on top of the candle at Christmas time. The light was way too yellow/orange. It looked unnatural, interesting yes, but not natural. But this post was about the site, so...

    I'll echo you on the vertical shots. Several of those shots would have been just as effective horizontal in my opinion. The lack of consistency subtracts from the overall presentation, although if Realtors in my area would put in half the work this person did on the photography, editing, and slideshow, we would spend much less time previewing and more time selling.

  2. Property Specific Site Tours offer a great Platform to present a home on, but are they a viable options without picture path ? Are they picture path compatible?

  3. Picture Path compatibility is only an issue for agents wanting to link to a tour from a realtor.com listing. Realtor.com is widely used in some parts of the US and used very little in others. So yes, if you are in one of those areas where agents use realtor.com heavily and you are providing tours better sign-up with realtor.com and pay the money to get your tours picture path compatible.

    As I understand it though PP compatibility is not a technical thing it's just a matter of signing up with realtor.com and paying them to let let agents link to your tours from realtor.com.

  4. As an agent Realtor.com is becoming more valuable as my broker begins charging referrals for leads generated by his website. Without the dependence on Realtor.com I would think that a buyer of the marketing package would assume the Realtor.com compatibility. Maybe not though, the last time I checked a picture path license was $5,000 so you need to do some websites for that expense. I only bring it up because they offer a really good option, but I have too many clients that need the Realtor.com exposure. I was wondering if there were any restrictions on Picture Path partners regarding the formatting of the photos. I notice that they do not display URLS in any of the tours, some kind of restriction that would control the content, as in the advertising of third parties?

  5. The ability to post tours to Realtor.com is a huge deal in my area. Almost every agent that I do work for asks to have their tours posted there! I stumbled across a Hometour360Network that hosts all of my tours, and they are Picture Path providers, so I can get all of my tours posted to Realtor.com for $6.00 (Showcase) and $24.00 (Non-Showcase). I give my agents the option to post the tour to Realtor.com or not, and of course, they pay the additional fee that I am charged by Hometour360Network. The nice thing about this hosting company is that they only charge an initial fee of $250.00, and there are never any additional fees other than those charged in connection with posting the tour to Realtor.com. So, for an initial fee of $250.00, I get unlimited lifetime hosting with no additional fees. For me, it is a win-win situation.

  6. I don't know what all the bad talk is about http://www.Realtor.com. Can anyone dispute, it is the offical website of the NRA isn't it? What alternative do Realtors have? Where else can you get National exposure to local MLS listings? Zillow is pretty great. But they aren't totally National yet. For example, I can't find anything on Zillow for sale in places like Akeley, MN. But I can find a ton of stuff on Realtor.com.

  7. Does anyone know how much this costs? Custom websites like this are pretty expensive. The average real estate agent probably wont use something like this.

  8. Rick,
    You are right- the average agent won't bother with a property site or quality photography. Only the top producers understand the importance of quality marketing... that's why they are the top producers. This is exactly why 20% of the Realtors make 80% of the $.

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