One of the challenges you face in the real estate world is getting across what a place looks like in an image. Digital photography has made that much easier. However, as in any revolution, there are some trade-offs and some uses of the technology that are not as successful as one would hope.
Virtual tours have been one of those areas. Really good ones cost a lot of money.
I had been working hard to find some easy to use techniques to show rooms in homes or views without spending a fortune. I spent a lot of time on Panorama Maker from Arcsoft and ended up with some mixed results which took a lot more time than I could reasonably devote to the effort on an ongoing basis.
I happened to stumble upon Mapwing. It lets you easily create virtual tours that can be far bigger on a computer screen than the ones that most people are used to seeing. While they may not be quite as elaborate, they have very high quality images at an affordable cost while providing a floor plan to go with the great picture views. People that have seen the one that I have did of a featured listing are impressed. I still have to add the second floor floor plan so my "stairs" view will be correct, but Mapwing is a huge step forwards as far as I'm concerned. It also has uses outside the real estate community.
(update- I have added the second floor and the tour can be accessed directly from this link. I have also added a walk through.)
Some of my favorite Mac tools, iMovie HD and Shutterbug helped me create a great dedicated website for the home featured in the virtual tour. The website 126 White Heron Lane, provides visually appealing information about one listing. It lets a potential buyer get a very good feel for the house. It also lets a seller see that his home is being well marketed. A dedicated site also helps to provide more effective connections with buyers who start their home searches on the Internet. It's something sellers should be expecting these days.
Another great tool that I just happened to find is Meebo. Meebo lets me embed a live anonymous chat window on my Realtor® site. Whenever I'm at my computer I can be available for live chats with potential clients. It's just one more great way to stay in touch and provide quicker feedback to potential buyers and sellers.
I struggled a lot in deciding what camera to purchase for my real estate work, but I ended up not with a DSLR but with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2. As you can see from the picture where it is beside my cell phone, it is not a huge camera. The images that I have gotten with it have been great inside houses as you can see from the house tour. Also I've had great success with outside photos which compare very favorably with the landscape pictures which I have done previously with my Nikon D50.
Though I have only had the Lumix for a few weeks, it is now my default camera for pictures of homes and large landscapes. (update- I wrote this article on the Lumix DMC-LX2 from a real estate perspective)
If you want to compare pictures taken with a Nikon D50 and with those from the Lumix DMC-LX2, you can visit my Accessible Coastal Trails site. The ramp picture on the site was taken with the Lumix. The Emerald Woods Trail was taken with the Lumix and the Croatan Big Loop and Tideland trails were taken with my Nikon D50 which doesn't have the advantage of a wide angle lens or the true 16:9 aspect ratio of the Lumix. As to why I don't have a wider angle lens for the Nikon, refer to the Can real customer service be revived? post.