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What You Need to Know About Free

Published: 14/10/2009
By: larry

Last week Leandro Suarez a real estate broker in Mendoza, Argentina that I've been helping get started photographing his own listings ask me if there was some where that did free virtual tours. I believe Leandro's question grew out of the post I did a while back on free websites. At first I was a bit put off by Leandro's question. I was within nanoseconds of responding to Leandro's question with something like, "why would anyone offer free tours?" or "If you get them for free, they are going to be junk."

A little voice in my head said, "why don't you just check for free tours first". So I  Googled "free virtual tour". I was stunned. There are pages of sites that offer virtual tours in some form or another. Before recommending a free tour provider to Leandro I decided to try out which Google gave the top ranking. I threw together a quick tour just to see what Flyinside tours looked like. They are simple but not that bad. Just a few years ago you had to pay for this kind of tour. There are people out there right now paying for tours that are very similar to these.

After thinking about this subject overnight I realized I should have known better. There are beginning to be free services of every kind all over the net. Google and Craigslist got this business model going many years ago. Just a few months ago I read (actually listened to the audio book) Chris Anderson's (Editor of Wired) new book, Free: The Future of a Radical Price. Not surprisingly, I got it for free at For those that don't want to read the whole book, the video on this post and this Wired article that it came from give some insight into the trend I'm talking about. The short summary is as follows:

The rise of "freeconomics" is being driven by the underlying technologies that power the Web. Just as Moore's law dictates that a unit of processing power halves in price every 18 months, the price of bandwidth and storage is dropping even faster. Which is to say, the trend lines that determine the cost of doing business online all point the same way: to zero.

Hold on. I'm not suggesting that you start shooting real estate for free. What I am suggesting is that you constantly reevaluate the online services that you are using for your real estate photography business to make sure that there isn't some free service that isn't just as good as the service you started using a year or two ago. Don't get all wrapped around whether or not you like the particular example I gave above, it's just an example of at least four google search result pages of free virtual tours. I haven't had time to checkout all these free tours, but there are a few on the list that look pretty good. I think we all have the natural bias against free like I described at the beginning of this post. Even though I'd already read Chris Anderson's book, I had no idea sites were giving away tours.

The fact that there are free or nearly free tours available reinforces my long time belief that every real estate photographer should include a bundled tour with their shoot. Not just because they are so inexpensive but because they show off your work and make you look good.

12 comments on “What You Need to Know About Free”

  1. Free services look like just, especially when there are so many quality tour companies offering great services for right around the $100-$150 mark.

    The fact that a real estate brokers/agents are looking to "cheap out" when providing his services to clients is scary considering the amount of money they are making on commision. To be honest, if i was a homeowner and saw that kind of junk on my listing I would immediately find a new agent who was willing to spend the little extra to showcase my house properly.

    Free services are great, when selling a $200 ipod or your kids $300 xbox....but when a client is paying you 2.5% to sell their $300,000 house, its probably not a good idea to "cheap out" as it could look bad on you when it comes to referrals.

    Is it really worth saving $100-$150 to be known as the agent who "cheaps out" with freebies?

  2. I am new to the biz -- and am thankful that you continue to provide me with great info and free venues to get my work out to the masses. I work primarily for a local architect firm and can see some benefit in using FlyInside to provide the firm's residential clients a way for their family and friends to see their newly built homes via the web.

    This was the first virtual tour I've built, and found FlyInside to be be very, very easy! It took me less than 15 minutes to build, and place it on my website.

    On the note regarding free vs professional -- I've seen some professional virtual tours that didn't do the property justice due to bad photographs. It's not always the fault of the provider, sometimes it's the fault of the "professional".

    I continue to hone my craft hoping to get to the level of you, Scott and some of the other amazing R/E photographers out there -- always thankful to you for providing me with things to think about and direction!

  3. I have used for a couple of listings (they actually just got their website up and running recently) and I think their work speaks for itself. You cannot beat the price......especially with same day turn around. It is definitely worth more than the $10 it costs, and I would gladly pay this than use the free sites. Also, you don't need to mess around learning how to do it because they do it for you. I just send my pictures to them, and they take care of the rest!

  4. Many quality tour companies offering great services? In my opinion most of the tour companies are offering products that do not present properties well. They are too gadgety, busy, and not visually appealing. They look as though they are designed by techies, not people with real training in visuals and marketing. I think there is a real need for simple but attractively designed property websites with a high-quality medium sized slide show, without all the bells and whistles. If not actually free, I would think such sites could be offered inexpensively enough to appeal to realtors (and many others) in a big way.

    There is something weird about the flyinside slideshows. I am seeing way too much moire on many pictures. I know moire can show up with many things at the right size , but this seems unusual.

  5. Re. my last comment: The service Linda mentions sort of what I am talking about, except with better graphics (something with a little class and not so generic), a little text about the property, and with button links to Web data. There is still some distortion showing up in that slideshow too. Maybe it is the pan effect?

  6. David-

    1. not sure what you are seeing in that slideshow linda mentioned in regards to distortion?, I think that is actually one of the better looking products i have seen mentioned on this site....especially for that price.
    2. what "gadgets" are you seeing that I am missing on the one linda mentioned?...i see thumbnails, a few buttons for forward and back, a button for fullscreen and thats about it. I see a link to get the latest flash, which is a great idea to help those who are having problems with it.
    3. agents are listing on MLS systems which already have a complete description and all info of the property so there is no need to be repeating it....

  7. CJ,

    I didn't check out the full size. That is great. The medium size exhibits some jaggies or moire during the pans on many images.

    I would like to see button links to the realtor's web site, Google map of the neighborhood, Google aerial, and Google neighborhood/town info.

    As far as text on the web page: just a paragraph or so mainly for marketing, not an entire property description.

  8. I agree that some Realtors are a little tight with their wallets/purses when it comes to marketing a property and in this economy it is understandable. However, you can have the best product in the world but you must always market that product as best you can. Although businesses like McDonalds and Burger King are well known, they still advertise and have great marketing campaigns not just to sell the product but also for competition and to become the industry leader.

    If a Realtor wants to “sell a property”, they can use the least expensive way and provide poor quality photos, but if a Realtor wants to “sell the property and themselves” for future business, then they would have to spend money to make money.

    Our website will be launching soon and provides a happy medium that allows the Realtors to easily create unlimited listings and/or virtual tours for a small annual fee and includes all the bells and whistles that most tour companies sell as additional features or upgrades.

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