Virtual tours marketing company slammed by agent for introducing ‘scandalous’ charge

Virtual tours marketing company slammed by agent for introducing ‘scandalous’ charge

Published on the 27th of July, 2022.

EYE has been contacted by an unhappy customer of marketing materials supplier, Spec, which provides estate agents and developers with packages of photography, floorplan and virtual tours.

According to the agent, for a number of years Spec has provided the packages at a one-off cost of around £49 to £130 depending on the size of the property. Agents could download the photos and floorplans and the virtual tours were accessible via a weblink to the hosting server maintained by Spec.

Agents were able to access the virtual tours at any time, without limit, or additional charge. But apparently that has now changed.

As of last week virtual tours older than six months have been deactivated and are not viewable. In order to re-activate the tours Spec will charge the customer £49 + VAT, per property, for 180 days access.

Our source says that the first they knew of the change was a pop-up message when they logged in to the Spec site. No direct communication had been made by Spec to the customer to inform them of the introduction of the charges.

Sales agents may not be much affected by the charges since most properties will sell within the initial marketing period of 180 days – which is covered under the one-off charge per property for the marketing package of photos, floorplan and tour.

But for letting agents who may wish to re-use a virtual tour on repeated occasions as tenancies change, the charge could be considerable. An agency with say 100 virtual tours would be facing a bill of nearly £10,000 a year just to maintain their access.

As Spec’s website shows it is, ‘proud to partner with over 500 leading agents’ and that they include the likes of Belvoir, haart, Martin & Co, Barnard Marcus, Winkworth, Ellis & Co, Hunters, Keller Williams and John D Wood it is reasonable to assume that many of these companies may now be facing a substantial cost increase in order to maintain their access to their portfolio of tours.

Our source told us:

“Their [Spec] reasoning behind this change is that beyond 180 days they cannot verify the accuracy of the asset and it affects their liability. This doesn’t make sense, as they are happy for us to keep using the photos and floorplans if we’ve downloaded them to our own servers, and for £49 + VAT they’ll happily reactivate the link to the virtual tour so this excuse just doesn’t stack up. It’s purely about money.

“The main issue here, is that Spec sold a service for a number of years and have almost overnight rescinded on the agreed terms and have given us no notice or any other option whatsoever, other than to pay £49 + VAT every 180 days for continued access to the virtual tours we already have.

“It’s worth noting these terms are not just for new properties going forward, these are new terms being applied retrospectively for all properties done since day one.”

EYE asked Spec for a statement. They said:

Our terms and conditions have always stated that Spec assets are licenced for the period in which the property is being marketed, until it is sold/rented or withdrawn from the market. The capturing of the property, publishing and hosting of assets for this period has not changed and is all included in the initial cost.

The updated time frame enables us to ensure that virtual tours of properties do not remain online unnecessarily beyond this marketing period, which would raise concerns over privacy and security for new owners/tenants. It also ensures that we can maintain our Spec Verified accuracy guarantee.

We understand that there may be a requirement for the extended use of assets or a virtual tour in exceptional circumstances. In this instance, once we have confirmation that the property has not changed or been altered, customers can pay to have the assets republished for a further period of 180 days.

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