34 Replies Latest reply: Dec 5, 2018 5:35 PM by moosebigd RSS

    Free Virtual Tour Promotion Update

    moosebigd Contributor

      Our virtual tour video was taken a couple of weeks ago and we were informed today that it will be released on Friday, August 31 to a selected audience. I have included the link we received to preview the tour and would like feedback.  Thanks!

       

      https://svc.homeaway.com/havr-api/static/index.html?sphfi=HyqaTc4UQ

        • Re: Free Virtual Tour Promotion Update
          georgygirl1955 Senior Contributor

          thanks for posting.

          Wow that will show every speck of dirt if a house is not spotless.

          A little hard to "work" but I like it.

          • Re: Free Virtual Tour Promotion Update
            ohst8er Senior Contributor

            very cool!

            • Re: Free Virtual Tour Promotion Update
              psphoto Active Contributor

              A little kludgy in terms of interface and display compared to other 360VR  tours such as Matterport or Cupix, but it's always a balance between ease of use and speed of loading and navigating.

              Vacasa has been using Matterport for some time, but it generally requires them ( Matterport ) to host it....for a fee of course!

              I think Vacasa has a deal with Matterport so the homeowners aren't paying any hosting costs.

              Not to mention the fact that you have to use their camera, which costs over $3k

              Other software can use any 360VR camera such as the Ricoh Theta V, which for most purposes does a good job, and doesn't require as much time to scan a room since it can do the job in one shot.

              If only VRBO/HA allowed us to upload 360VR to their website....but I guess this is what they are beta testing right now.

              • Re: Free Virtual Tour Promotion Update
                moosebigd Contributor

                Thanks for the replies!  It seems that several of our concerns are yours, as well.  Below, I have included correspondence from Homeaway/VRBO in which they have addressed our criticisms of the tour.  I realize that this video was free; however, I am concerned that the quality of it leaves something to be desired.



                1. The color is washed out. The virtual tour of your home is comparable to the lighting and camera quality of thousands that I have seen. I understand that it’s not the same quality as a professional DSLR camera, but we’ve had significant evidence from shoppers that this level of quality is sufficient to give an accurate and compelling sense of the space in the home. We are investigating other ways to capture virtual tours with new camera technology, but we are starting here with this experience.

                2. The video is EXTREMELY difficult to navigate.  Can you elaborate on this feedback? Anything specific you are having issues with? To give more context, we have spent hours in the user experience lab testing this with shoppers and have found that the navigation UX seems to be fairly intuitive for the average shopper to pick up and leverage quickly.

                3. The master bedroom is not pinpointed and must be located by use of the directional arrow. We have received constructive feedback on the navigation circles and plan on innovating better ways to drive shoppers to the right highlights of the tour.

                4. There is not a cohesive flow around the condo and through the rooms. Can you elaborate on this feedback? The flow of the tour mimics the layout of the home. We’ve instructed photographers to take a shot every 6-10 ft within the home and to be sure to stop at important points throughout the home. They then take the time to map out paths between shots such that a shopper can hop from one spot to any adjacent spots, just like if they were walking throughout the home.

                5. The camera set up is visible in many screens. This is an unfortunate side effect of using a 360 camera. We plan on releasing a blur feature in the future that will assist with this.

                  • Re: Free Virtual Tour Promotion Update
                    georgygirl1955 Senior Contributor

                    excellent feedback

                    Question:  If you did not like the results...would you have the choice to reject it being on the site?

                      • Re: Free Virtual Tour Promotion Update
                        moosebigd Contributor

                        I don't know.  I was thinking about asking to be able view other virtual tours that have been "successful" in the eyes of Homeaway/VRBO as a basis for comparison.  However, correspondence seems to have broken down with them after I confronted them with criticism.  I don't know if you caught the words "plan to" in their reply.  I am concerned that this virtual tour is another example of pushing something out without full consideration for the product.

                      • Re: Free Virtual Tour Promotion Update
                        psphoto Active Contributor

                        I still think Matterport is the best state of the art in terms of look and feel and interface for 360VR tours.

                        It seems less distorted....less "zoomy", and a cleaner presentation overall.

                        There's a reason it's achieved the level of success it has, and it's the one everyone compares itself to!

                        The VRBO/HA test just looks "cheap" in comparison.

                        You should check out Vacasa ( who advertises on VRBO/HA..... BTW ) and how they implement it.

                          • Re: Free Virtual Tour Promotion Update
                            moosebigd Contributor

                            Thanks for the reply.  The word "cheap" also came to mind when I viewed the tour.  It does not look like the work of a professional.

                              • Re: Free Virtual Tour Promotion Update
                                psphoto Active Contributor

                                What they need to do is adjust the streaming rate ( and video resolution like youtube does ) to the users internet connection speed and device.

                                The actual video quality is low in terms of what I see even with my high speed connection.

                                The navigation arrow looks like it came from a kindergarten coloring book!

                                I can't even see what's in the circles representing other rooms on the page.....and there's no pop up type there to help.

                                I give it a D+ overall

                              • Re: Free Virtual Tour Promotion Update
                                johnz Contributor

                                100% agree. I had matterport tours done of my condos. I don't like this video tour at all. I guess its better then nothing, but one huge plus for the matterport is the dollhouse view so the guests could see the layout of the property.

                                 

                                I was offered the tour by Homeaway, but after seeing this, its not worth my time to schedule it and make another trip to my property.

                                  • Re: Free Virtual Tour Promotion Update
                                    moosebigd Contributor

                                    Thank you for your feedback. We are extremely concerned about viewers' reactions to the quality of the tour.  And hopefully their frustrations in navigating the video will not turn them away from our property.   We put a great deal of care, labor and thought into the comforts of our home for our guests.  We wanted to project those qualities in the tour, but now we question whether it was really worth our efforts.  Perhaps some of our discontent should be directed to the videographer and not VRBO, even though VRBO hired the one-man crew.  We had hoped there would be editing but thus far, it appears there was none.  I had asked if we could decline the offer, but did not receive an answer.  I also wonder if we will have control of the video once it is published and be able to archive it from our listing as we do with our photos.  The Big Reveal is scheduled for today...  Time will tell!

                              • Re: Free Virtual Tour Promotion Update
                                moosebigd Contributor

                                Update...  In order to view our Virtual Tour, we think we must include the link VRBO/HomeAway provided to us in our listing.  The person viewing our listing must then cut and paste the link to be directed to the tour.  CS was going to get back to us to better explain the mechanics of the virtual tours...  Still waiting.   What I don't understand is why this topic has not been a hot topic on the forum.  Were we one of a few gullible people to accept this free offer?

                                • Re: Free Virtual Tour Promotion Update
                                  tahoelodgingonline Contributor

                                  I received an invitation but after taking the time to fill out all the forms - no dates are available. 

                                  • Re: Free Virtual Tour Promotion Update
                                    feibus CommunityAmbassador

                                    First one taken on Sept 8, second one on Sept 18.  No videos so far.  No schedule of when I'll receive them.

                                    • Re: Free Virtual Tour Promotion Update
                                      twobitrentals CommunityAmbassador

                                      While I have no experience with this particular virtual tour...I look at many properties for sale on RE.com and I personally do NOT LIKE virtual tours, they may be the future, but for me pictures of each room with perhaps a room layout is all I need to decide. Now if this is in addition to all other properties, then probably okay as long as it is not required to do the tour first (as with some RE company listings).  I can usually decide very quickly whether a home will suit my family or not...I don't want that process to slow me down as a guest in other homes. After all, I am not buying this home to live in....just to take a vacation in. (just my thoughts)

                                      • Re: Free Virtual Tour Promotion Update
                                        floridarob Contributor

                                        Background

                                         

                                        Virtual 3D property tours have been used quite commonly for a number of years in the highly competitive Orlando area, with a number of Owners and Property Managers using them to better feature their properties.

                                         

                                        HomeAway is testing the idea to see how it impacts upon bookings, by arranging to have them done for a number of select properties in certain test markets across the US. They have made arrangements with a large professional photography online booking system to have local pros shoot the virtual tours for the properties that HomeAway has selected to test the program with.

                                         

                                        HomeAway is paying for the virtual tours to be created, and will feature them on the test properties that they have selected to judge guest response. Even if an owner has a virtual tour produced for their property, there is no guarantee that it will be featured on the listing, or if it is, that it will be shown to all potential guests. For example, part of A/B testing could mean showing the virtual tour to half the guests who view the property, so that half are the test and the other half are the control.

                                         

                                        HomeAway selected the properties that they will test and sent invitations to the particular owners involved, so the owners could accept the opportunity to have the tour made, schedule it's shooting and be part of the testing, if they desired.

                                         

                                        Participation is by invitation only. HomeAway requests that owners NOT contact them to ask to be part of the test. If a property is selected for the test, that does not mean that all properties belonging to that particular owner or manager will be part of the test. HomeAway requests that those owners who are invited not ask to have other properties of theirs included.

                                         

                                        If you are selected to participate and sent an invitation (both by email and through your dashboard) consider it a compliment and enjoy the potential benefits that could result from participating.

                                         

                                        Again, please allow HomeAway to run their tests without spending a bunch of time fielding requests from owners about it. This is, I believe, a very positive exploration for HomeAway to undertake, and it would be great to encourage them to do more experiments like this by respecting their need to conduct the testing as they have seen fit.

                                         

                                        For this reason, it is probably best for those owners who were invited to not draw too much attention to it. It could be a long time before such a program is rolled out to all owners, if at all.

                                         

                                        My experience with the tour production

                                         

                                        My tours were shot on September 4, and I received a link to the ‘completed’ (I expected first draft) of the tours on September 6th through the photography booking site. No one from HomeAway has ever been in touch with me, either before or after, regarding the shoot.

                                         

                                        I contacted the photographer who did the shoot to ask some questions, and make some suggestions about the finished tour, as I believe there are some problems with the design (hot spots link to wrong places, some missing that should be there, etc.).

                                         

                                        The photographer basically told me in her reply that her work on the project was done and that I would need to direct any questions to HomeAway, and she gave me an email and first name of her contact person at HomeAway to get in touch with.

                                         

                                        I sent my detailed information and requests about changes to the tours to the contact at HomeAway, and heard nothing back. I followed up after a week, twice, and never heard anything back. So that was three emails to HomeAway directly about the tours with absolutely no response, and beyond that I have never heard anything from HomeAway about this aside from the initial invitation to participate, which was sent by email, with a link to a sample tour, and instructions on how to go to a website online and schedule the shoot, which I of course did.

                                         

                                        I believe that not responding to any communications received is simply unprofessional, and I am disappointed in HomeAway’s handling of this. I realize that it is a test, but I invested considerable time (in addition to marshaling assistance from a friend who along with his wife spent three hours ensuring everything was staged properly for the photographer) in preparing for, and over-seeing the shoot.

                                         

                                        After contacting HomeAway by email three times, I would expect that I would receive a reply, if nothing else to say that they are busy and will be responding later.

                                         

                                        A week after my last attempt to reach the HomeAway contact that I had been given by the photographer, I called HomeAway PP support to inquire about what was happening with the virtual tours, and was told that I would be contacted at some point, but that it could be up to three months before that happens.

                                         

                                        The tours themselves

                                         

                                        There has been some discussion on this thread regarding the quality of the tours produced. I can’t say that I am disappointed, because I went into this without any expectations, and it cost me nothing out of pocket (but did take a couple of days of time) but I am surprised by the mediocre quality of the tour.

                                         

                                        My specific concerns are 1) the inaccurate, oversaturated colour, 2) the blurry/out of focus parts of the images, and 3) the navigation challenges (hot spot arrows produce surprising results; the tour ‘jumps’ to unexpected locations).

                                         

                                        Since being invited to participate in this test program (and as a bit of an amateur photography buff) I have done some studying and research on 360 tours, and I believe that the quality issues result from the Ricoh cameras specifically used for shooting the tours. These unusual and unique cameras have the ability to shoot a complete ‘sphere’ (360 degrees all around and up and down) in a single shot by using three lenses, and have software built in to remove the camera itself from the images it takes, resulting in the interesting situation where if you look down in the tour you can see the tripod, but not the camera itself.

                                         

                                        A far better quality tour could result from using a high quality DSLR and an expensive ‘pano’ mount to rotate the camera smoothly, and then shooting the interior in steps which would then later be combined using ’stitching’ software. This is how higher quality panoramic images are most often made.

                                         

                                        The Ricoh cameras are intended for ‘quick’ and easy 360 tours for real estate agents. As such, these tours have a short shelf life, meaning they will be used to present the property for only 3-6 months while the sales listing is active. A 360 virtual tour presentation for a vacation rental should be good for at least 2-3 years and thus would, in my opinion, justify the greater investment in time and equipment necessary to produce a high quality tour.

                                         

                                        I could not determine what software was being used to create the tours out of the images supplied by the photographer, but it likely could be used with higher quality images, but I can’t say this for sure. I don’t know if the software used is proprietary, supplied by Ricoh for use with their cameras, or whatever.

                                         

                                        I was able to extract the images from the web page showing the tour so that I could adjust the images for a couple of minor corrections, and would like to submit them to whoever is building the tours. I would also like to request the changes that I would like to see regarding the tour functionality, but as I said previously, I have not heard anything back from the contact at HomeAway, so don't know how to proceed any further.

                                         

                                        For the moment, the tours sit on a HomeAway server, available through a link that I can see on the photography web site. I have an opportunity to approve them on the photo site, but have not done so, nor do I intend to until I at least hear from someone at HomeAway about how my concerns will be addressed (if at all).

                                         

                                        Ultimately, I am pleased with the tours, as it is a pleasure to 'explore' my properties online, even if it is in a virtual format. The tours may have short-comings, but they can still be enjoyed, and again, they cost me nothing out of pocket. Having the ability to move through the property and take a look around at details without actually being there affords a new way to experience the property in an enjoyable way that still photography doesn’t always allow for.

                                         

                                        I wait patiently to hear anything further from HomeAway with regard to the tours; if they will be corrected, and how they will be used (and when).

                                         

                                        While I can edit and correct the images myself I don’t have software for building my own version of the tour. (If anyone knows what software it is that HA is using for this please let me know.) I would like to try my hand at building the tour component with my corrected images, and fixing the hotspot issues.

                                         

                                        If I don’t hear anything after three months, I will contact HA PP support and ask again what is happening with the tours of my properties.

                                          • Re: Free Virtual Tour Promotion Update
                                            georgygirl1955 Senior Contributor

                                            My tours were shot  2 months ago and I have never heard a peep from ha, nor seen a final Product or my shoot.

                                            I should check my page and see if they uploaded something

                                              • Re: Free Virtual Tour Promotion Update
                                                moosebigd Contributor

                                                Our virtual tour was filmed in August.  We have been able to find it only when logging into Explorer and doing random selected searches.  You really have to look for them!  When VRBO/HA said about the tours show up in limited markets, they meant it!  It appears as an arrow to click on when looking through our pictures.  There is no mention of a virtual tour being available anywhere in our listing.  It appears that some very minimal editing was done to the original version we were shown; however, it is still very difficult to navigate through the tour.  Other properties in our locale managed by PMs also have "virtual tours", but these tours are more of a slide show and probably not done by the same team that did our tour filming.  Even so, these slide shows are much less frustrating to view.  Good luck!

                                            • Re: Free Virtual Tour Promotion Update
                                              feibus CommunityAmbassador

                                              Finally got mine, supposed to launch tomorrow...

                                              https://svc.homeaway.com/havr-api/static/index.html?cfi=rySYq7Tj7

                                              https://svc.homeaway.com/havr-api/static/index.html?cfi=ry6_9Xai7

                                               

                                              Has an odd yellow coloring to some shots.  And never look down or in a mirror .  I'm not "dissatisfied", but I also don't think I would have paid money for this;  I don't think the return on investment would be high enough with my properties.

                                              • Re: Free Virtual Tour Promotion Update
                                                floridarob Contributor

                                                Thanks for sharing. Interesting... your's are both in much sharper focus than mine are!

                                                • Re: Free Virtual Tour Promotion Update
                                                  nirvana91 New Member

                                                  I'm happy to have found this thread. I too have been waiting to find out the status of my virtual tour. The freelance photographer uploaded it from my living room to VRBO/HA and so I figured it would be just a few days until I had access to it. That was 3 weeks ago.

                                                   

                                                  I think the quality of the tours posted in this thread are fine - they're meant to give a traveler an idea of the layout. I wouldn't worry too much about the color.

                                                   

                                                  As a traveler, I really like the idea of being able to see the layout of a property before deciding to rent it. Let's hope this results in more bookings for us all.

                                                   

                                                  I'll post my tour when I receive it.

                                                    • Re: Free Virtual Tour Promotion Update
                                                      moosebigd Contributor

                                                      Our virtual tour now shows up consistently using Chrome for a browser, but to the best of our observations, it has been a regular feature on our listing for only about the last three - four weeks.  (Our tour was filmed back in August.)  HA/VRBO has inserted it as an option for viewing immediately after our third photo.  There is no reference made on our listing indicating the availability of a virtual tour.  There appears to have been some editing done to the video because it is much easier to navigate since it first aired and the images are sharper.  We have not noticed any increase in interest for our condo since the virtual tour was introduced:  Less than 25 inquiries total so far this year versus over 70 last year, and only one booking for 2019 that was accepted in the beginning of September .