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Realtor Online Marketing and Virtual Tour News
Using Virtual Tours and Professional Still Pictures

Photographer reveals massive 360-degree Tokyo panorama

DPReview 8/2/13

If you haven't seen the 600,000 pixel, 360 degree Tokyo panorama that's flying around the internet, clear your schedule for the next hour and take a look. It's another work from photographer Jeffrey Martin, who previously documented London in a similar fashion. With a lot of storage and processing power, Martin captured the photo with a Canon EOS 7D, 400mm F5.6L lens and a single robotic assistant.

How does a single camera capture such a large scene? Martin had help from a "gigapixel robot" dubbed Clauss Rodeon, moving and snapping images rapidly. According to Martin's website the scene was shot from four different positions at the top of Tokyo Tower, "each section was stitched together into a panorama, and then these panoramas were joined together to make a full 360° image."

For more on his process watch the video below.

360 Minnesota submits 360 degree panoramas to 360Cities that hosts this project.

Realtors Agree to Stop Blocking Web Listings

By ERIC LICHTBLAU for the New York Times May 28, 2008

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department and the National Association of Realtors reached a major antitrust settlement Tuesday that government officials said should spur competition among brokers and ultimately bring down hefty sales commissions.

The deal frees Internet brokers and other real-estate agents offering heavily discounted commissions to operate on a level playing field with traditional brokers by using the multiple listing services that are the lifeblood of the industry, government officials said.

The Justice Department sued the National Association of Realtors in federal court in 2005 on antitrust grounds, charging that its policies were stifling competition and hurting consumers. That case was scheduled to go to trial in Chicago in July.

The settlement “is a win for consumers, certainly, who will now have the benefit of unrestricted competition,” Deborah A. Garza, deputy assistant attorney general for antitrust, said in an interview. “There inevitably will be more efficiency and more competition in the market.”

Real estate agents earned $93 billion in commissions in 2006, with a median commission of about $11,600, Justice Department officials said. Internet brokers, offering pared-down services, provided average rebates of 1 percent on commissions that normally ran 5 or 6 percent, translating into thousands of dollars per sale.

Consumer advocates hailed the settlement as an important and somewhat surprising step by the Bush administration, which has staked out a position on many antitrust issues seen as favorable to business interests.

“I was very pleasantly surprised,” said Stephen Brobeck, executive director of the Consumer Federation of America, which tracked the case. “Given the reluctance of anyone in Washington before the Justice Department to improve competition in the real-estate industry, this settlement represents a milestone.”

The National Association of Realtors, with more than 1.2 million members, said that the settlement was “a win-win” for both the real estate industry and consumers. It noted that the association admitted no wrongdoing and paid no fines or damages as part of the deal.

Laurie Janik, the association’s general counsel, said in a telephone interview that the settlement would have no real impact on home buyers or sellers.

“I don’t think they’ll see anything different,” she said. “This lawsuit never had anything to do with commission rates, or discount brokerages.”

She added that the lawsuit and the settlement arose from misunderstandings about the way the Realtors’ association works. “This was a five-year education of the Department of Justice, unfortunately, and the real estate industry had to pay for that education,” she said.

Since the 1990s, online real estate brokers have offered a popular and cheaper alternative to the bricks-and-mortar variety. But such brokers, known in the industry as “virtual office Web sites,” complain that the industry’s practices have denied them the chance to make full use of the multiple listing services to determine what homes are for sale.

The agreement between the Justice Department and the Realtors’ association must be approved by a federal judge, probably this summer. As now structured, the deal bans the Realtors’ association from treating online brokers as different from traditional brokers or discriminating against them, and it ensures that they will not be excluded from membership in the listing service based on their business model.

In one instance, the Justice Department said an unnamed online broker was forced to shut down its Web site because all the traditional brokers on the local listing service, in response to the national association’s policy, had withheld their listings from the online broker.

After the Justice Department sued the Realtors’ association in 2005, the group suspended the exclusionary policy. Officials said the settlement would ensure that online brokers are given full access and that its policies are made uniform.

“For us, it’s a great result,” said Pat Lashinsky, chief executive of ZipRealty in Emeryville, Calif., which offers online users rebates of up to 20 percent off standard sales commissions. “We think it’s a great result for consumers.”

Norman Hawker, a business professor at Western Michigan University who organized a symposium on the Justice Department litigation as a senior fellow for the American Antitrust Institute, predicted that the settlement would ultimately mean a drop in sales commissions of 25 percent to 50 percent as a result of increased competition.

“It’s pretty clear that there was an enormous amount of discrimination against brokers who were trying to use innovative business models,” including discounted fees and virtual offices on the Internet, he said. “There are lots of entrepreneurs who have been looking for a green light in the form of this order to begin offering discounted rates. It has the potential to be a big step forward for consumers.”

More People Shop for Housing Online

Nearly 40 percent of Americans with Internet access go online when they are seeking a place to rent or buy, according to a study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Overall, more than 27 percent of all adults in the United States have looked online for information about housing, more than double the 13 percent of Americans who had done so in 2000.

About 51 percent of the youngest adult American Internet users, 18 to 29 years old, have searched online for housing information, compared with 43 percent of 30- to 49-year-old Internet users, 27 percent of 50- to 64-year olds; and 15 percent of Internet users age 65 and older.

Money is also a factor. 45 percent of Internet users whose household income is $75,000 or more have sought a home online.

Pew previously found that about half of Internet users have taken virtual tours, including checking out a home available for rent or for sale, nearly one-third have used an online classified service to search for housing.

The study supports data from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® that shows 77 percent of home buyers had used the Internet to help in their home search in 2005.

Source: Associated Press, Anick Jesdanun 12/13/06

Creative Practitioners Turn to Popular YouTube

A growing number of real estate brokers and associates are targeting younger home buyers and hoping to get an edge on their competitors in a slowing market by posting video walk-throughs of properties on YouTube.

This method of marketing has even caught the attention of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® , which addressed the topic in its 2006 technology report.

YouTube enables practitioners to advertise for free, rather than spend hundreds of dollars on Web listings, virtual tours, and professionally produced videos. They need only use the video recording feature on their digital cameras and walk through the home just like a buyer would when taking an in-person tour.

"The real estate agent that can say, 'I can send you 20 (video walking tours),' is going to have a competitive advantage," says Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy Director Stephen Levy. However, experts note that some older practitioners, many of whom do not even have e-mail access, might hesitate to embrace such technology.

Source: Inside Bay Area Barbara Hernandez 12/12/06

Study: Growth in Net for home research

NEW YORK - A new study finds that more Americans are using the Internet to find a place to live, thanks to the greater wealth of home listings and other real-estate information online.

The Pew Internet and American Life Project said Wednesday that 39 percent of online Americans have gone online in search of a place to buy or rent. That's an increase from 34 percent in 2004 and 27 percent in 2000.

More than half of online adults under 30 have done so, possibly reflecting the fact that they are typically more transient. Nine percent of the Internet users ages 18-29 said they looked for housing information on a typical day, compared with 4 percent two years earlier.

Home listings, once printed out in books available only to real-estate agents, are now obtainable by anyone online, accompanied by increasingly sophisticated photographs and virtual tours.

Services like Zillow.com also are cropping up to help people judge house prices, survey neighborhoods and evaluate school districts, long before they ever snap the seat belt in their agents' cars.

Pew previously found that about half of Internet users have taken virtual tours, including checking out a home available for rent or for sale. And nearly a third have used an online classified service like Craigslist, where housing information is circulated.

The telephone survey on real estate was conducted in August with 972 Internet users and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Source: Associated Press, Anick Jesdanun

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