If the idea of showing off your listed home using a virtual tour sounds appealing, real estate professionals urge you to consider a few things before making your decision.
* Not every home will be shown to advantage by a virtual tour. Realtors say homes in need of repair or cosmetic fixing-up may look less attractive on a virtual tour than in real life, where ameliorating factors such as a nice neighborhood or a beautiful tree in the backyard may balance out the home's need for a paint job, for example.
But even if a house is in need of some TLC, the seller and agent could choose to create a tour focusing solely on the home's more charming elements, said Suzanne Peterson of Coldwell Banker Previews in Brentwood.
"Just like with still photography, you accentuate the positive," said Peterson, who along with partner Michele Hall just completed their first virtual tour, of a home in Santa Monica Canyon.
* Decide whether you feel comfortable with the prospect of thousands of people, perhaps, looking at the inside of your home. If you normally have valuable art or other possessions displayed, you might consider putting them out of view when the tour shots are taken, although because of the quality, the tours don't reveal extensive detail.
"You don't really see if they've got crystal or signed art," said Fred Sands Platinum Properties agent Debbie Burton, who began offering tours with her listings last month.
Burton said she thinks security concerns are minimal, especially because homeowners can omit the street address from the electronic listing if they choose.
* If you think a tour would help sell your home quickly, you should select an agent who's comfortable incorporating new technology into his or her sales efforts.
For some realty agents, computers, e-mail and Web sites are unfamiliar territory. So if you're enthusiastic about having a tour of your house done, make sure you find an agent who's on the same (Web) page as you are, especially since it's usually the agent who will be paying for the tour. If you're selling on your own, you can contact tour developers directly.
* If you prefer to show your home only by appointment, rather than having a lockbox on your door, a virtual tour might be a good investment of time and money.
* If you and your agent have decided to create a tour of your home, on the appointed day make sure the house is clean and tidy before the shoot. Because, as photographer Marshall Fried points out: "Clutter [viewed] in 360 degrees really looks like a lot of clutter."
Be Here Corp.: http://www.behere.com, (888) 4-BEHERE (888-423-4373)
Interactive Pictures Corp.: http://www.ipix.com, (800) 336-7113
Jutvision Corp.: http://www.jutvision.com, (877) 588-8687