Is Matterport An Important Tool For Real Estate Photography?

September 23rd, 2014

MatterPortSeveral readers have asked me what I think about Matterport because they just raised $16M in venture capital funding and there have been several articles in the real estate press this last week. Also, Redfin is using Matterport to create 3D walkthroughs. In Seattle apparently you get a free Matterport tour if you list with Redfin.

Observations:

  1. The effects shown on the Matterport site are indeed flashy.
  2. Remember that this device was launched about 2 years ago. Here is my post about it then. It hasn’t taken off probably because of the cost.
  3. Here is the only 3D Matterport tour I can find. There’s a link to it in the Redfin article.
    • I can view this on my laptop and desktop machine, but it crashes on my iPad with Chrome or Safari. Apparently is not intended to run on the iPhone (Redfin site does not even try to display it).
    • The walk through feature looks quite good on my desktop/laptop… very much like 360 images with Google Street View navigation.
    • I don’t see the point of the Dollhouse view.
    • The floorplan view works but to me is not impressive because of all the unfinished edges. It’s not as easy to get a feel of the layout as well as a plain black and white floorplan.
  4. To create these tours you need a $4500 scanner and Matterport is the only one that can turn the results into a tour. That tour service cost from $99/mo to $199/mo.

Conclusions:

  1. My general feeling is that this it too expensive for what you get. You really only get a 360 walkthrough and a weak floorplan.
  2. Top end agents are frequently dazzled by this kind of new technology, but I wouldn’t jump on this technology until we see how popular it is. Matterport is probably subsidizing the Redfin usage in some way to promote the product.
  3. Any real estate tour that doesn’t work WELL on SmartPhones and tablets these days is dead on arrival. Perhaps their iPad and iPhone issue can be quickly fixed. Otherwise, this in it self will kill the product.
  4. Updated 9/24: Christian’s observation below is important. “Biggest con of all is investing all that money and relying on 1 company for the processed product, you are screwed if they go down for a day or for good… you have ZERO control over anything other than shooting the images, which are useless without the editing/processing. Putting your entire business in the hands of a startup company is a HUGE risk and in this case has little reward.”

What do you think? Is anyone using this yet? What do you charge for Matterport tours?

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31 Responses to “Is Matterport An Important Tool For Real Estate Photography?”

  • Larry,
    I have been using the Matterport system through beta testing and now in live accounts. With iOS 8 on an iPad or iPhone, and on any current Android tablet, I haven’t managed to make Safari crash, but we’re really talking about something only a few days old in the mobile environment.
    For any current browser (especially IE), age is deadly. My current tours run well on my iPads, and have no issues on a Galaxy S4, but choke the GN-II.

    Within the past couple of weeks, the tours began loading much faster on all devices. Not sure what changed server side, but it was a substantial difference.

    The ROI is another issue. My market is an easy one to pin down. Everyone wants to capture the NYC transplants, and they require a visual representation of the space. The Matterport tours offer that in a format familiar to the 30-something buyer. When buyers can play the listing like a video game, there’s reason to take notice.

    My fees run between $250-$450 for most tours, slightly more money than a simple floor plan in this market. Adding luxury photo work during the same visit (additional people required) still makes the numbers work.

    Is it right for everyone? Well, no. It can’t be, and it’s certainly not perfect.
    Is it a killer app in some markets? Yes. Hell, yes. In my market, it’s a decent value for what I charge, and well received so far.

  • I should have posted a link to a screen cap of a recent tour.
    Quick and silent, this one shows the dollhouse view first, then some of the new interior 3D Showcase tour.
    https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10152336774576914&set=vb.78146216913&type=2&theater

  • @Dan – Thanks for the example, numbers and insights. Your’s looks better than the Redfin example.

  • Dang, I should hope so. Time will tell how this does in my local market, but I’m not worried about my investment.
    Like any other photo tool (it’s a photo offshoot), there are skills required, and a bit of an art involved in making a good model/tour. It’s easy, but not automatic.

  • The cost of the hardware is a major concern, but the fact that it also requires a monthly subscription of $99-$199 is a big negative. The hardware is only usable with Matterport’s online processing and hosting. If they go out of business, there is no way to use the camera. They could also raise subscription prices or charge for firmware updates and owners would have no alternative but to pony up or be saddled with a heap of useless camera.

    For a new product put out by a new company without a solid track record, it’s a risky investment from my standpoint. I don’t see it replacing traditional photography so Daniel’s estimate of $250-$450 for just the tour created by the Matterport is going to turn off many agents. While it might be hot in a few markets, Matterport is going to need a broad customer base to support the company. My service area is a tough nut for just getting agents to employ professional photography. Anything other visual marketing products aren’t very unlikely to get anywhere.

  • Of course, the Google Street view walk through idea is great and familiar to many. It should be noted that you can start a subscription for $49/mo and that will host 100 3d models and the first 3 scans per month are included ($19 each after). I feel if you actually have 100 3d walk through models on line, the cost is very reasonable per model, especially if you sold them at $400/model.

    I’m relocating my business and will seriously give this a thought for the over 1M $ homes on the water. I see that as the starting break in market, 1M and up, not the $200k 2500 sq ft average home. Homes that attract out of town (or even country) buyers.

    Perhaps setting up a camera rental service is an idea (much like Borrow Lenses/Lens Rentals). Rent the camera for say $100 for three days (more than enough time). Then all you need invest is $500/yr and you can sell/host 100 customers one 3d walk through each and host it for a year. That math make sense to me at $400 per tour.

    Once they get the tours to run successfully on all smart phones and tablets, I think it will succeed. But only time will tell.

  • Just wait till Google’s Project Tango with their dedicated 3D scanning phone/tablet hit production next year, perhaps it will provide an alternative solution for achieving similar results for RE-shooters:
    http://www.theverge.com/2014/2/20/5430784/project-tango-google-prototype-smartphone-announced

  • Isn’t this kind of a glorified “Virtual Tour?” Just looking at it on their website this is pretty cool, but “virtual tours” seem to have such a negative reputation, I’m not sure of anyone using virtual tours in my area.

    I can certainly see the appeal for this if its done well. Is there an alternative way to do this?

    This is a bit like asking how long a piece of string is but @Daniel, how long does it take to shoot a $450 project? Is this something that realtors would be will to pay more for in addition to what they might already paying for still and video or is it something that they seem to be willing to pay for instead of one of the other services?

    Is it a hard sell?

  • Pros:

    – Different product that “could” (see cons*) set you apart from your competition
    – Seems very easy to do and the processing is all done through them
    – could be good for those who dont want to learn video and cant handle the editing aspect (or just dont have the time)

    Cons:

    – insane startup cost and then monthly fees for a product you are not even sure will sell
    – trying to convince agents to use this over video will be tough, especially with the Brushless Gimbals out now like the MoVI etc.
    – *quality is lacking, some might think you are offering something based of 15 year old pano technology
    – mobile compatibility is a must, nothing worse than a client calling asking why it isnt playing properly on their device.
    – dont have the files of the final processed product, its entirely run from their system (see below*)

    *Biggest con of all is investing all that money and relying on 1 company for the processed product, you are screwed if they go down for a day or for good….you have ZERO control over anything other than shooting the images, which are useless without the editing/processing. Putting your entire business in the hands of a startup company is a HUGE risk and in this case has little reward. You are basically a guinea pig helping them get this product off the ground.

  • Christian’s point about depending on one company is key! And the company you are depending on does not have a stellar record or a great deal of depth… and, as Reza points out above, will likely be going up against Google.

  • Doesn’t seem like an insane startup cost to me. Not much more than the replacement camera every photographer needs every few years. If you’re in the $99/shoot category, then yeah…this is not for you. But for anyone with a viable business plan, $4500 down and $199/month for something that will generate 8% to 10% of that cost EVERY TIME YOU USE IT is a smokin’ deal.

  • Insane not in terms of monetary value, but in the fact that you are buying something that is for an unproven product that you are not even sure that you will be able to sell. Can’t really compare it to a camera body every couple of years as most people buying a camera body because their old camera is reaching the end of it’s life (shutter count, wear&tear, etc) or their business is expanding. They know they are going to get the full use of the camera or else they would not be upgrading.

    Even more insane, is the fact that the start up cost is not only linking you to this company, but you are relying on them for the processing and the finished files have to be used with their system. Therefore, without them, that piece of equipment is useless. That’s like buying a Canon camera, but the files can only be uploaded and edited by Canon themselves…

  • Well, what one person considers an “insane” idea is a calculated risk to others. I know Daniel Milstein well, and he is certainly insane, but not because he sees an opportunity here. Daniel needs to sell 10 to 15 tours to break even on the hardware, before Matterport goes belly up. That doesn’t seem like a very scary prospect, to me.

    But when you said, as the first line item under ‘Cons’, “insane startup cost and then monthly fees”, I just thought you were referring to the cost, and the fees.

  • @Chuck Spaulding: about four hours for up to 10k ft, and it has no post production, and it can be done with far less training and experience than any decent photography. As long as we coordinate carefully, we can shoot stills in one part of the house while the Matterport operator is in another area. Speed and producing good tours takes some practice, but it’s far from Olympic training.

    @Scott Hargis: Well, yeah. I’m definitely a little on the other side of the line!

    Having played the beta test game with the company, I’m comfortable with the short term play, and have reasonable hopes for the long term. In my market, the value of getting in first with something my clients want far exceeds any potential loss, even if things go foul.

    @Christian: I absolutely rolled the dice. Of course, that put me first to market, and I already have the client base to use the product. Three tours booked between tomorrow, Friday, and Monday. (knock a few off the list, Scott)

    There ARE risks, but there are no blanket statements about where this service will be a hit. One thing is for sure though – at the moment, not even Google has anything to offer. They may change the market suddenly, but I’ll happily review things then, and do what I have to do in order to keep my clients happy. For now, that means offering Matterport tours.

  • Hey Larry … Always interesting to hear how other photographers and people in the real estate space react to new technology, so thanks for sharing your perspective on Matterport. In the last two months, I have used the Matterport Pro 3D Camera to create nearly 200,000 square feet of 3D Showcase ‘Walk-Around’ virtual tours of $1+ million houses and commercial real estate. See the Samples tab at http://www.We-Get-Around.com … If you would like to chat with ‘Matterporters’ about their experience with the camera, app, hosting, etc., or see samples of their work from three continents … you can find them in the Matterport User Group forum. Simply select the Forum tab at the same link. Best, Dan

  • No, this is not the magic bullet you are looking for.
    Quality, quality, quality! PFRE has always been about quality. I just don’t see the “quality”.
    I see the “Gee Whiz” but I don’t see the quality. ???
    Tell me what I’m missing.
    Thanks!

  • Ok – I’ll weigh in. I’m far too “green” to even consider this product for the time-being. However, it reminds me of an experience I had in my past life as a biomedical researcher. I think its an apt analogy…so please be patient.

    In the mid-90s I was a lab manager and digital photography was in its infancy. The Principle Investigator of our lab was getting itchy to employ digital technology to cut back on the use of Kodak X-Ray film for autoradiographs (process using radioactive labels on solid or gel supports). So he bought one of the original “phosphoimagers” with another investigator. I think he laid out $10k for this thing. Yes, it would save money – if it worked.

    Problems immediately surfaced:

    You could only develop about 1-3 images at a time depending on the size of the images and the ability of 20 independent investigators to coordinate their efforts. Kind of like herding cats. The backlog created serious issues.

    The quality was such that about 75% of the time you STILL needed X-Ray film to fully resolve the images.

    It was time-consuming and no one wanted to be bothered. It was far easier to slap the blot or gel on an X-ray film and develop. No coordination, no scheduling computer time, no running around to make sure a unit was available, no backlog.

    There were wars over this. My PI was furious that people defying him and using film. He even hid the film in his office so junior investigators had to beg for X-Ray film. However, in a competitive field like this with people working 60-80 hours a week, wasting 2 extra hours a day on faulty technology wasn’t happening.

    Today this type of technology is used all the time. It just wasn’t ready for the rigors of a working lab back then. I don’t think that imager ever produced a publishable image before it was relegated to the scrap-heap.

    That’s what I see here. Matterport has a few incarnations left before it is ready for prime time. I was very underwhelmed by the quality. I can’t control the finished product and I’m depending on one company to stay afloat or I’ve got a very large, very expensive toy on my hands.

    I’d rather save my money and make other investments. Some higher quality lenses and moving more into video are higher priorities for me. I’ll be moving into drone technology as soon as the FAA gets its act together. Everyone has to pick their battles.

  • I am always interested in new technology – but that doesn’t mean that it is always great or that you automatically have to love it. If found this a little uninspiring. For the time being continuing to develop great videos, with good technique, is still a good option.

  • Hey Larry … look like your coverage of Matterport is generating a lot of “I’ll wait” comments. Today we launched a Network of Matterport photographers on three continents. Obviously some of us think that three-dimensional walk-arounds are the next big thing in real estate meets photography meets Steroids 😉 Network: http://www.we-get-around.com/wegetaround-atlanta-our-blog/2014/9/11/we-get-around-network-of-matterport-pro-3d-camera-photographers If nothing else, it may help you reach-out to ‘Matterporters’ if you do a follow-up … Best, Dan

  • A local pro has one now. I’m taking it for a test drive this weekend. At $400-$450 per tour, a pro gets their capital investment back quick. Not sure what the ‘con’ fuss is about. It’s a tool. And the subscription model is never going to go away, for any company providing this type of service. The backend tech that goes into getting the finished (and it will get more polished) product created will never be an end user scenario. This is not like editing a video.
    I hope my test drive wows me.

  • I’m going to play devil’s advocate here. Let’s assume that the cost/entry barrier goes away, or will go away as technology progresses. A virtual tour is a very immersive experience. It’s information dense and is dynamic. It’s positioned somewhere in between video and photography. Just like the fact that video has not pushed photography to obsolescence, this technology will not displace the need for photography. It may further stratify the market demand, in special needs/top tier sector. The still image is a robust medium, not computationally demanding. This allows it to pervasive throughout all economic applications. Even if holographic projectors become viable, they would not displace the still image. It is the only medium in which a representation can be displayed without electronic devices (with the exception of actual models).

  • @Darren Would love to see what you think about it.

  • Putting aside the financial aspect for a moment, I’m wondering how tedious and boring it would be to scan an entire home. One of my clients is trying it out for a 5,000 sq ft home and the Matterport guy said he needs 6 hours to scan it. I enjoy the creative process involved in photography and videography, but the 3D scanning process sounds really uninteresting to me. If anyone has tried it, would love to hear what you thought of the actual process. Do you just stand and let the camera do its thing, move a few feet and let the camera shoot again. Sounds pretty boring, especially for 6 hours at a time.

  • Hi Susan … I am a prolific and enthusiastic Matterport Pro 3D Camera Photographer (whom also owns a Canon 5D Mark III with various pro lenses, etc.) Since the Matterport 3D Showcase solution has been available (July 2015), I have created 3D Showcase models of nearly 400,000 square feet or the equivalent of about 125 homes. I view capturing luxury residential and commercial real estate as art (and I have mastered shooting outdoors and with people too; two uses that Matterport does not officially support). Much of my skills as a pro photographer applies to Matterport, including lighting. For example, I care about magic hour lighting and will wait for the light to be ‘right’ for best HDR results. Sometimes I will add a night view in a nearly all daylight 3D Showcase model. Yes. It takes me about an hour for every 1,000 sf. For my examples, please Google: 101 Examples of Matterport 3D Showcases To find other equally geeky 3D model photographers like me, Google: Matterport Forum 😉 Best, Dan

  • Yes, it looks promising but…5 HOURS to do a 5,000 square foot home? For $400? So, you can do 1 per day? I can (with my own proprietary tour solution) draw the floor plan of a 3,000 square foot home, take photos of every room, at least 2 photos of all main rooms, and process the tour. Plus, send in one email to the client, links to branded and unbranded tours, a download link to print quality photos, a download link to print quality floor plans for the home, a download link to print quality subdivision photos AND a link to a control panel showing the google analytics of a particular tour. I can do all this in less than 2 hours. How much do I charge?

  • Just got a Matterport camera. Here’a link to my first shoot. Time required took just over an hour. https://my.matterport.com/show/?m=rNgrGHRP9y9

    This week I’ve shown this to a couple developer clients I’ve done work for in the past (video & photos of model suites to be specific) and two of them immediately jumped on board. Pretty good for only having it for a week.

  • @Andre,

    Did you take stills also? Where do you operate? What does a tour like this cost…to the client?

  • @Tour Guide – yes I also did stills. The Matterport’s still shots are simply screen captures from the 3D walkthrough. Not nearly good enough for print and they don’t come close to what a dslr can produce.

    We operate in Toronto, Canada

    Still testing the market in regards to pricing, as we’re one of the first to offer this in Toronto, but we’re playing with $0.15-$0.30 per sqft, however, no agent is going to pay $0.30 per sqft. So we’re thinking maybe we’ll split the pricing according to property type and intended use of the 3d walkthrough, resale properties with a shelf life of 30-90 days vs commercial use for a longer period.

    Here’s another one I just did this week https://my.matterport.com/show/?m=D5nxnnqfMVP

  • I too have been thinking about making the big investment. Have any of you heard of Toursler ? I do think they offer a service that is much better than that of a matterport model. I’ve seen them use a regular dslr with an attachment do the entire tour, just not sure what software they are using on their end.

    http://toursler.com/#tour

  • @Frank and Andre

    These are really cool. As a user, I am finding it hard to get past the load times and the navigation. I just went to the Matterport website to view an example and gave up because it took so long to load. That is bad.

    Matterport and Tousler- You still have to take stills? The floor plan is without dimensions? How long does it take to do 2,000 square feet?

    Does Toursler use the same camera as Matterport? How much is it?

  • To shoot a Matterport 3D Showcase ‘WalkAround’ tour, we let our clients know 1.5 hours per 1,000 square feet. Under ideal conditions, our photo shoots can take 1 hour (or even less) per 1,000 square feet.

    The time variables are discussed in the We Get Around blog post: ‘How Long to Shoot a WalkAround’?
    http://www.we-get-around.com/wegetaround-atlanta-our-blog/2014/10/31/we-get-around-how-long-to-shoot-a-walk-around

    For those thinking about buying a Matterport Pro 3D Camera, you may find the Matterport User Group Forum helpful:
    http://forum.we-get-around.com
    More than 150+ threads / 1,500+ posts on all things Matterport

    Best,

    Dan

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