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The Idea (1994)
In June 1994, while on a layover in the San Francisco airport, Dr. Steve Simmons cam...

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05/31/2004 - Home Debut Pioneers Virtual Real Estate

Home Debut, Inc. is a Spokane grown real estate industry trail blazer. The company started with an idea in 1995, and opened its doors, physically and virtually, in 1996. The Home Debut idea was to provide a national presentation service for on-line real estate tours. They had to create the technology, known as tourfactory, to make the Internet tours possible. Home Debut, Inc. dba TourFactory.com outgrew other Terabyte Triangle locations before finally settling into a spacious suite in the Fernwell Building.

The TourFactory Internet tours include photographs of the inside and exterior of the property --- most commonly of houses, but also some apartments, vacation rentals, or commercial property. Each tour has text identifying a room and explaining the amenities and attributes of each room. If desired, audio is available including background music --- legally provided --- and vocals explaining the attributes of the property. Links to the Realtor's e-mail and Web site as well as telephone contact information is included. "We are always trying to make it more intuitive," says Dave Gay, Home Debut COO. Home Debut's technical guru, Herb Dierks, is the brains behind the technology.

Each tour contains a wealth of information. Auxiliary information can include a printable flyer of the property, a map showing the exact location, school information, and even a mortgage calculator. The purpose is to help buyers who are looking for real estate. By using TourFactory, the buyer can narrow the search to only those properties of interest, and then make site visits to only those locations. This saves time for both the buyer and the realtor.

TourFactory's options for realtors wanting to create tours include scalable do-it-yourself services all the way to full service; "we build it for you" options. The realtor starts by signing up and selecting the level of service desired. TourFactory supplies all the automated on-line templates and tools needed to build the tour, and TourFactory coaches will train by telephone or by e-mail. The agent can upload photographs that the realtor supplies, as many photos as wanted, and create all the text information. When the agent wants professional audio, the text is typed into the TourFactory form, at a click of a button, the order is sent to a studio in Nashville, Tennessee. Within a few hours, a professional audio clip is sent back, and it is put into the tour automatically.

Or the realtor can contract with Home Debut to create the entire tour including taking the photos, creating the text, and ordering the audio. Home Debut has contract real estate photographers in most of the United States' major markets. When the tour is completed, it is hosted on the Home Debut server, and Home Debut maintains the tour.

According to Gay, Home Debut can stay in Spokane and prosper because the technology support here is excellent. The connectivity in the Fernwell Building, including the high speed, broadband connectivity through 180 Networks, makes it possible for TourFactory to succeed. "Working with 180 Networks has been wonderful," says Gay.

Home Debut has thirteen employees locally, and about eight-five contract photographers in other cities. Photography service has been an unexpected outgrowth and is increasing business according to Gay. "There is a serious need for reliable photographers for Internet content," says Gay. Home Debut is providing a photo service that is not necessarily all for virtual tours in cities across the country. "TourFactory had an unexpected but positive use," says Gay. In New Jersey, a home burned not long after new owners purchased it. The home owners wanted to rebuild the Victorian era home to resemble the original as much as possible. Through TourFactory, they obtained a CD of the tour photographs, which they then used for both insurance purposes and to rebuild the house. Without the TourFactory tour, they would have had to rely on memory alone. "TourFactory can burn CD's of any tour, and make it available to the owner," says Gay.

"It's been a fun ride," says Gay, "and the best part is that we can grow and prosper without ever having to leave Spokane."

For more information about TourFactory, visit http://www.tourfactory.com/Default.asp. To go on the tour of your choice, visit http://www.homedebut.com/.

Billie Moreland
 
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