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RISMEDIA, January 27, 2011—Virtual Tours have become very popular, but do you really need one? For that matter, do you really need good pictures, or a professional photographer? Can’t you just snap two or three photos with your point-and-shoot, load them to the MLS and “poof” the house is sold? Well, in some cases…maybe, but is this the image you want created to represent you, your brokerage, and your marketing skills?

Real estate has changed and unless you are changing with it, you are falling behind. Eventually, you get run-over by those on your heels. The key to success in real estate has always been and will continue to be; price it right and market it well. You know how to price it right. So, just what do we mean by “market it well?”

According to “How to Photograph Houses by Stan Barron:” “Selling a house is not a real estate function… it is a marketing function, and pretty photographs sell more houses. Think about the marketing used for professional products you are exposed to. Have you ever seen a bad photograph (taken with a point-and-shoot-camera) in an ad for a BMW? Of course not. Ever seen a badly composed shot in a cosmetics ad? Never. Good photographs are worth the effort.”

So, with the most expensive asset most people will ever own or sell, it is not only good business sense, but also the agent’s and broker’s responsibility to represent their client in a professional manner. This includes photographs that highlight the homes features and to market it to the public, even more so than the BMW dealer.

How do we take good or even great pictures? Start with a good camera. You don’t have to hire a professional photographer if you can learn some basic photography skills. With recent technology improvements, you can buy a good digital camera for under $200 with a wide-angle 28mm lens. If you want to step-it-up, buy an SLR camera for under $1,000.

The key to capturing good architectural photos is the wide-angle lens. You want a lens that is somewhere between 12mm and 28mm for a digital camera. Remember, the lower the number, the wider the lens. Next, try to use a tripod whenever possible. You want to be sure the camera is steady and level and that’s hard to do when hand-holding the camera. If you do not have a tripod, use a chair, ledge, or countertop near you to keep the image steady. And use the walls or windows as your guide to keep your pictures level. When it comes to lighting, you can either use a very slow shutter speed such as four to six seconds for a long exposure with natural light (no flash), or use a flash even in daylight. Always turn on all the lights in the room you are shooting and let in as much light as possible.

After you have taken the photos, how do you display them to your potential buyers? Virtual tours are a great way to enhance the listing, give a better sense of the floor plan and flow of the home, and to demonstrate your marketing skills. And with the right virtual tour, you can add customization, create e-flyers to promote your listing on advertising sites like Craigslist, and even add YouTube-Style video for more exposure. Tie it all together with built-in social networking and SEO and you are branding yourself as a true real estate marketing expert.

Again I ask, do you really need good pictures or a virtual tour to sell homes? The answer: only if you want to brand yourself as the area real estate marketing expert, get more exposure, sell properties faster and get noticed by more potential sellers and buyers that will take note of your great photos, superior virtual tour, and expert marketing skills. The rewards will be well worth it—your clients will be telling their friends and associates what a great job you did. And statistics show that listings with the most pictures and with virtual tours get more viewings by more than 30%. helps agents and brokers sell their listings by offering “Do-It-Yourself” virtual tours with more flexibility to take advantage of current and future technology. Features include social media integration, HD full-screen virtual tours, YouTube-Style video, mobile phone support and Craigslist style e-flyers, with just a few simple clicks of a mouse. VirtualTourCafe was built by real estate professionals for real estate professionals.

Tim Denbo is president/CEO of VirtualTourCafe, LLC. VirtualTourCafe LLC is based in Dublin, California and was co-founded by Timothy Denbo and Hannele Rinta-Tuuri. The business is operated as a limited liability company and has an advisory board made up of professionals in the real estate, technology, and marketing fields.

For more information, visit