Technology Solutions

Commercial Property Tours Go High-Tech

How can you show properties to potential buyers and tenants from around the country any time of the day or night, without scheduling appointments?

On the Internet, of course. Taking a page from residential real estate practitioners, more and more commercial brokers are turning to online property tours to showcase listings or peruse available properties for clients.

Online property tours may not eliminate site visits altogether, but they are a way to search or sell at all hours and can help buyers or tenants narrow the selection of properties they want to visit in person.

Many virtual tour service providers now promote commercial property tour services as well as residential or plan to in the near future.

Granted, it's not quite like being there in person, but typical “tours” include 360-degree rotating views of different areas of a property — such as entrance, back entrance, and lobby — giving more dimension and range than still photographs usually do. Users often can control the virtual tours' speed and direction with a mouse and can zoom in and out on the image using the “A” and “Z” keys on the keyboard respectively.

Tour Guides
Companies that produce virtual real estate tours of commercial properties offer starting packages that frequently include four property views (with more views available for additional fees), including photography and tour setup. Other options, such as audio, also may be available. Real estate companies or property listing services generally can link to the sites hosting the programs. Users can view some tours automatically; others require special software. Prices vary by service, but fees can range from $99 to a few hundred dollars.

What follows is a sampling of some available virtual property tour providers. Consult the Web sites for more information, demonstrations, system requirements, and current pricing — and keep an eye out for more players in this expanding industry.

BeThereNow.com. http://www.betherenow.com/; Seattle; (206) 344-2442. The company's Viewset uses customer-provided standard two-dimensional photographs to create 3-D virtual real estate tours. The technology also allows one viewer to lead a tour online while potential clients watch from other locations.

Debut.net. http://www.debut.net/; Spokane, Wash.; (888) 458-3943. The Grand Tour technology offers services from single-photo shots to 360-degree panoramic views. Specialties include seniors housing and entertainment properties, as well as other types of real estate.

Internet Pictures Corp. http://www.ipix.com/; Oak Ridge, Tenn.; (877) 353-4749. Using Ipix Panoramic Virtual Tours, the company (formed by a merger between Interactive Pictures and bamboo.com), produces panoramic property views. An Ipix photographer shoots the images and the company hosts the tour for up to 12 months.

StreamingVoices.com. http://www.streamingvoices.com/; Wichita, Kan.; (877) 787-3268. The site's Real Tour offers Real Voice technology and up to five property images in a slide-show format that is available for 12 months. RealPlayer, a free software download, is required for viewing.

Utour.com. http://www.utour.com/; Hillsboro, Ore.; (877) 448-8687. Interactive Video Tours include general commercial properties, development communities, and golf and ski resorts. Tours include 360-degree images, as well as clickable maps and floor plans.

VRViews. http://www.vrviews.com/; San Diego; (888) 878-4397. VRViews offers 360-degree interactive property tours, and audio also is available. Users decide whether to host tours on their own server or VRViews' server. Property tours often can be shot on 24 hours' notice and then are posted within 24 hours.

VideoHomeTours.com. http://www.videohometours.com/commercial/; Chicago; (800) 790-8687. The company offers full-motion, 360-degree video tours of properties on the Internet. The tours also can be produced on disk, CD-ROM, and videotape. After filming, transitions, graphics, music, and audio may be added to the tour. Tours usually take about a week to produce after taping.

Virtual 360 Systems. http://www.virtual360.com; Vancouver, British Columbia; (604) 253-0360. The company has a network of photographers in cities throughout North America and major international cities to create 360-degree property tours (though its real estate section currently features residential properties). Capabilities include infinite zoom, narration, and streaming audio. Tours generally are posted within 72 hours of shooting.

Barbara Stevenson

Carol C. Honigberg, JD, is a partner in the real estate group at Reed, Smith, Hazel, & Thomas LLP in Falls Church, Va. Contact her at (703) 641-4220 or chonigberg@rssm.com. Steven M. Nolan, JD, is a member of the firm\'s environmental group. Contact him at (412) 288-4158 or snolan@rssm.com.

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