Is There A Business Opportunity For Real Estate Photographers In Providing Matterport Tours?

June 2nd, 2015

matterportLast week several readers pointed out that Zillow is now allowing Matterport 3D models on listings. Dave asked the following:

This morning I got an email from Inman News about Zillow now serving up 3-D models on listings. The system in question is: Matterport.

The direction our business has been taking, as you’ve also mentioned, is getting away from 360-degree panos and immersive tours to quality stills and/or video. That being the case, I was curious as to your take on this latest 3-D model technology.

First of all, I think it is important to not confuse Matterport 3D models with 360 Images of past years. While viewing the fly through mode of Matterport 3D in many ways looks a little like 360 images they are fundamentally different. Matterport 3D models capture much more data about a space than the old 360 views did. The result is that the 3D models have 3 different renderings of the data: 1) Fly-through, 2) Dollhouse view and 3) Floorplan view. In addition, it takes less of a photographers time to shoot and process a 3D model than an old 360 view. Although the, less time is offset by an added expense. Probably only agents that list upper-end properties are going to be willing to pay for a 3D Matterport model.

The significance of a Matterport 3D model is that it is just another way that top listing agents can set themselves apart from their competition. Top listing agents are always looking for ways like this that demonstrates that they are using cutting edge technology to market their listings. So whether or not this new technology is a business opportunity for you depends on:

  1. Does the market you shoot in have upper end listing agents that are looking to use cutting edge technology?
  2. Do you shoot for these upper-end listing agents?

Last September we discussed the pros and cons of Matterport. Since that time, Matterport has clearly started to get some traction. I think the primary consideration for determining if you need to start supplying Matterport 3D models is, is there a significant demand in your market. Greg in Phoenix told me a few months ago that he lost a good customer because he couldn’t supply a Matterport model and Dan in New York was optimistic last September that his market would have a significant demand.

Is there a demand in your market?

 

 

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23 Responses to “Is There A Business Opportunity For Real Estate Photographers In Providing Matterport Tours?”

  • I’ve had exactly 3 people (one of them a friend, not a realtor nor photographer) ask me about it in Seattle. The overwhelming sense that I’m getting is that it’s cool technology but not likely to be a long term trend. Of course being a video provider maybe they’re just not bringing it up with me…?

  • Two shoe salesmen from competing companies are sent to the jungles of South America in search of new customers.

    The first salesman returns and reports to his boss: “There’s no market for us here. Nobody wears shoes.”
    The second salesman returns and reports to his boss: “There’s a HUGE market for us here. Nobody wears shoes!!”

  • I see this as an upgrade to the old 360’s. At the time they were the rage but got old. A video allows a Google flydown, exterior clips of front and backyard, clips of the town and parks, dynamic music and more artistic touch. As a listing agent on an interview I always show our photography and a live video of one of our currrent listing and most sellers are impressesed. Don’t see this being superior.

  • They’re being used around here quite a bit, but mostly by realtors. I see agents and offices buying these cameras more than tour providers. I’ve been asked what I think by several people, but I’ve never had any one want to know if I provided that service.

    I did look into it when Matterport first started… I showed it to many of my sellers (who are also buyers) as well as agents – just to see what they thought. The overwhelming response was lukewarm at best. They thought the dollhouse was “cool”, but couldn’t figure out how to work it, but felt the overall feel was a throwback to the old spin around tours of 10 years ago which buyers HATED (but that was all that was available at the time). After 30 seconds of ‘mousing around”, most people found it frustrating to look at.

    I see it as the shiny new toy for Realtors… THEY love it, but I find most consumers don’t particularly care for it. With nearly 50% of buyers accessing listing info on mobile devices, the experience on mobile is pretty awful. Annoying actually. Most people don’t understand what it is or how to make it work, and that’s also a problem. People want simple, they don’t want to have to read instructions. Try using it on a phone – you’ll want to throw your phone against the wall…..

    Other negatives: You can’t do any exteriors. So it’s not a complete solution. The imagery is OK at best (photographed with an iPad). And most agents that I speak to that ARE using it tell me it takes a LONG time to shoot. As a provider, I don’t think agents will pay the price of a technology that takes 90 minutes or an hour PLUS on site for a very average house. That would be on top of taking standard photos, video, etc.

    My biggest issue is this company is a year old. Putting MY eggs in someone else’s basket does not sit well with me. Will they be around in a year? Will they be sold? You have buy THEIR camera for $4500, then you need to subscribe to THEIR processing and hosting plans on a monthly basis. If they go belly up, then what happens? I’ve been screwed royally by putting my business in the hands of third parties, and I can tell you it’s a nightmare scrambling around trying to move everything over somewhere else, especially when you’re very busy.

    I see this as mostly a tool geeky agents or offices will buy for their agents to use. I just haven’t had the feeling that CONSUMERS find this technology helpful, and that’s really the bottom line.

  • To piggy back on Fred….

    Matterport leaves a “black void” in areas that the camera can’t see. For example, behind a couch. You then have to reposition your tripod behind the couch so that Mattaport sees the “data” (information behind the couch) and can record it. You then view the data on your ipad and if you see any more “black data” you have to take the Mattaport unit to that area where you noted the black data and have the camera re-shoot this information. Do this a few times more per room multiplied by the number of rooms in a house and you could easily spend 5 hours in a house capturing 3-D image. Bottom line? I think it is the flavor of the month and could die out. However, if Mattaport can figure out the black data dilemma, then they could be on to something. I prefer to stick with floor plans and crisp photos. Video walk-thrus are also nice.

    Fred is also spot-on about serving the information on a cloud system by Mattaport. Only they can host the tour. And the monthly fee is steep. Eggs in one basket is correct…reminds me of the computer 1980’s war – MS vs. Apple. Different platforms. No one played together nicely on the playground. You can only use Mattaport with their stuff….Spooky if you pony up the money and to only learn that they went belly-up and you therefore can’t serve your clients because no one can host your product.

    Potential here…glass half-full now for me….but could be big if some more bugs can be worked out with the system. I say contract with someone who has a unit and see what happens. If it takes off, then jump on the bandwagon.

  • Yes. There is a business opportunity for real estate photographers to provide Matterport tours because this solution helps agents:

    1. Win more listings – by differentiating their marketing plan to have a competitive advantage when competing for listings
    2. Get more seller leads – everyone looking at a listing with a Matterport 3D Showcase tour has a house to sell too
    3. Get more buyer leads – buyers that see an agent’s listings with 3D tours want to work with that agent

    To chat with Matterport Pro 3D Camera photographers – or to learn more about the Matterport platform – join the free Matterport User Group. The Forum’s nearly 300 members have posted nearly 4,000 times. The Matterport resource thread, for example, has 38 links for more info.

    About Al’s comment, I am the second …

    1. The first salesman returns and reports to his boss: “There’s no market for us here. Nobody wears shoes.”
    2. The second salesman returns and reports to his boss: “There’s a HUGE market for us here. Nobody wears shoes!!”

    Which are you?

    Best,

    Dan
    Founder, Matterport User Group Forum

  • I do some work for an agent who has bought one of these and now has an employee do the tours for every house they list. He’s typically there when I photograph the houses so I’ve gotten to see how the process works. At least while it’s being shot. Boy, it takes a LONG time to do a whole house and that’s just a regular sized home. He’s there typically 3-4 hrs. I’ve seen these tours and they just make me dizzy. I also shoot a lot of high-end homes and no one has ever asked me for this service. They rather have real video.

  • From a realtor who does actual video (still learning), I find this 3D product kind of gimmicky. However, it is really being pushed by Inman News as a new technology agents can use to distinguish themselves. I find it kind of funny that there is some believe that agents who would not adopt video are suddenly going to jump to Matterport. Video provides so many more options to present a home, a neighborhood and a community. It can give personality to a property, especially if they are augmented with music, voice-over, or in our case an agent waking through the property explaining its highlights. Zillow is also pushing this technology because they are trying to be relevant to consumers….trying to prove they are the guys with the best technology.

  • We have been thinking about Matterport, or the like, for some time. We have talked to them and they seem like nice people. The problem for us, a virtual tour provider doing floor plans with 40+ people + resellers is not only the cost, but the KEY issue is Matterport will not “share” any of the data the camera creates. There is no way to get the xml or OBJ file (without yet another cost, if they even allow for this)…..So we spend $5000 for the camera+iPad, we spend the time to market the service and the time to shoot the home (which I understand does take a long time), send the info to them, and all we get is the viewer we can embed. That is it. This is fundamentally a problem for us, and it should be for other people if you really understand what is happening.

    For us, we are working on a whole new 3D floor plan system and to be able to import and use data in our own system, and use it in any way we see fit, is critical. We can import XML data from FloorPlanner and other systems. Why can’t we do that with data we created our self with our own people and own money? Not cool.

    We are looking elsewhere to a solution that can help us map the house and get data we can use to create clean, usable 2D floor plans via our own tools and then have manipulatable 3D plans. The solution is in the works.

    Plus, Google and others are working on mobile solutions to do the exact same thing Matterport does right now, but in your mobile device. See projectTango. Matterport is involved in that, but the cost of devices is going to come down and the capability of those devices to map a space in 3D will be there, eventually (who knows when…). That is why Matterport is not willing to share their data of the models as their future viability is going to lie with using and reusing that data, not selling cameras…if they let people have the data, their business model goes away (or it is not as viable to sustain their funding path).

    In the meantime, yea, it is cool. But does it let the average browsing user “quickly” see the house to make that key decision to invest more time into it, or not? After the 30 to 45 second load, you still have to click around and spend a lot of time to screen a property. Time on site because someone is interested is one thing. Time on site because it just takes time and effort to view something is another. I have always been told you have 5 seconds or less to capture the online viewer. How many people are willing to wait for something like this to load….Sometimes, a tool that lets you see nice big photos and maybe the floor plan with point and click speed and simplicity is all you need. Of course, getting Realtors to pay for that can also be a challenge at times!

    Matterport does have the PR machine well at work so they have excelled in that area. Good luck to all that venture down this path. It will be an interesting journey.
    Cheers,
    Kris

  • Hi Kris,

    Matterport makes it easy, fast and free to download the objective file (.obj) in their Content Management System, Matterport 3D Workshop.

    For examples of how our architect team uses the Matterport .obj to create 2D (.png, .pdf) and 3D (.rvt, .dwg, .dwf) floor plans – and a Dropbox containing an .obj to play with – please google: FloorMe with Matterport.

    For a list of floor plan service providers that can use the Matterport .obj to create plans, please google: Matterport Photographers: CMS, Videos, Floor Plans and Training Services

    I am interested in your new 3D floor plan system, when ready.

    Best,

    Dan

  • Although I do video walkthrough’s (alot of them) and dont plan on moving away from that, I was contacted by a Matterport competitor called Tourster, which pointed out several advantages over Matterport. Ill post the main part of the email below for anyone thinking about a system like this. What stood out to me to see how Toursler provides the interactive panos, floorplans/dimensions and photos all out of a regular camera (I believe he said the Canon 6d was used), compared to the matterport camera that costs $4500 and simply offers panos and something resembling a floorplan that unfortunately looks incomplete .

    The email showed the same house, shot by each platform:

    Shot using Matterport: https://my.matterport.com/show/?m=BjE2BcXDcFh

    Shot using Toursler: http://tour.architech3di.com/minneapolis-bungalow

    They pointed out the following, with the first being the most important:

    – coverage of exteriors
    – load speed
    – image quality
    – navigation features
    – mobile optimization

    It also pointed out the following regarding the hardware etc and how everything is extracted from the camera:

    – There is no proprietary camera or devices. All the required equipment is readily available for purchase online (B and H, Amazon etc).
    – Images are uploaded straight from the camera into our cloud processing system.
    – you will receive links to the 3D tour (including exterior coverage), architectural style floor plans with dimensions, and high quality still photos (MLS and full resolution).
    – You will not be doing any measuring when on-site for the floor plan. You will not need to do any post processing such as image stitching. (There have been frequent misconceptions about these two points.)

  • Hi Dan.

    Thanks…maybe they changed their mind on the OBJ file since we last talked. I think they wanted to charge $50 just for that. What about the underlying data itself though? I see on your site a redraw service…are you tracing over the top view and getting the plans that way? We have our own inhouse production team and we did do that with this sample tour. http://www.floorplanonline.com/134590. The photos are screen shots from the scan too…so not the best quality but gives you an idea. The Roomplanner there right now is floorplanner’s….but we are working on our own version. So getting a complete end to end solution we can control is our goal.

    Cheers.

  • Hi Dan.

    Thanks…maybe they changed their mind on the file since we last talked. I think they wanted to charge $50 just for that. What about the underlying data itself though? I see on your site a redraw service…are you tracing over the top view and getting the plans that way? We have our own inhouse production team and we did do that with this sample tour. http://www.floorplanonline.com/134590. The photos are screen shots from the scan too…so not the best quality but gives you an idea. The Roomplanner there right now is what we are working to replace with our own version. So getting a complete end to end solution we can control is our goal.

    Cheers.

  • Fred Light, Matterport has been around for at least two years, not one. I was demo-ing an early version of the hardware in April of 2013.
    They’re serious folks and all of their eggs are not in the PFRE basket, so I don’t think I’d discount their viability.

  • We were in the Matterport pilot program at Alain Pinel Realtors. I noticed a huge spike in page retention for listings that had the tour embedded. We have a partnership with Tour Factory and they have purchased a few Matterport cameras and have added the media to their services. There is a real business opportunity here in the Bay Area.

  • @ Chris…I looked at both examples,
    Both tours remind me of the first wolfenstein 3d games that was making folks sick..The ability to pan from floor to ceiling quickly is going to adversely affect a number of folks. Maybe not on mobile devices, but definitely on larger computer screens. After only a few minutes, I had to stop using them…now, if that happens to other folks, imagine how quickly interest will be lost in wanting to see other tours…

  • One intriguing element of the Matterport system for RE photographers, is that there’s virtually no post processing. Upload the collected data/images to the site that generates the 3D tour and you’re done.

  • @Tim W

    Im not invested in either system so no worries, I shoot video and have been for 4 years and neither of these platforms can replace video. Im just passing on info that I was given to me showing one competitor who seems to offer a superior product.

    While both systems are based on 360’s, Toursler seems to be offering alot more features, better quality at a substantially cheaper price (for that type of platform).

    Looking back at that Sept blog and even further, one thing that I did notice is that Matterport has never really made any noticeable advancements over the least year or so, you still cant shoot outside, overall quality is still average, floor plan “thing” looks incomplete and mobile is still poor.

  • @Kris Cone

    Matterport does not charge for the .obj file. Our architecture team imports the .obj into SketchUp. For clients that want 3D floor plans (and more), it’s golden. Our solution does not make sense for residential real estate listings. (It’s a fire hose when agents just want a garden hose.)

    I like how you integrate the location of the photos into the floor plan. I can imagine that when the Matterport API is available, you could do the same thing with Matterport 3D Showcase tours.

    In the Matterport User Group Forum, it seems like every photographer is looking for a floor plan solution. I hope you join the discussion about .obj meets floor plans meets photos. The Forum is free.

    My takeaway from all the comments on this thread is that we agree to disagree. Still photographers want to shoot stills. Videographers want to shoot videos. And Matterport photographers want to shoot 3D tours (and we can’t imagine shooting stills or videos).

    We all should follow our passion and be the best that we possibly can be.

    Best,

    Dan

  • In my market area, professional stills are not widespread. I’ve had ONE inquiry about 3D virtual space and the agent, who didn’t know if if was Matterport or another device wasn’t willing to spend more than $50 on it since they were very unsure of how much of an increase in exposure they would get. This agent uses photos of her listings taken by an office boy provided by the broker. I’ve gently told her on a couple of occasions that she is getting what she pays for (free). The broker has all of the pictures taken at about doorknob level. If you’re 3’6″, that would be perfect, but for everybody else, it’s an odd perspective that we haven’t had since we were in grade school.

    I would rate professional stills a first priority followed by video and then 3D. It’s a matter of how far an agent has to go to stay competitive in their area to get listings. I would recommend to an agent to invest in advertising themselves over 3D. A home will sell with crappy cell phone pictures. I see that day in and out. Matterport or its competition are going to need lots of markets that are already using pro photos and video to get good penetration. A photographer has to ask themselves if they will earn a decent return on the equipment purchase and service subscription in their area.

    Let’s not forget that the FAA is going to finish drafting some UAV regulations at some point and that’s going to open the gates for a lot more aerial photography. We’ll finally be able to get insurance coverage (that actually does provide real coverage) at that point. Having the financial resources to buy the equipment when the time comes will be crucial. I mean real professional level equipment and not hobbyist/toy level aircraft/cameras, but systems that are far more robust with payload capabilities to carry a proper camera (still, video, interchangeable lenses, etc). I get people asking all of the time about UAV pictures. The perceived value for aerials is still too low where I am, unfortunately. I may have to gear up and fight uphill to sell the service when the time comes if agents show a willingness to pay a reasonable fee. Agents thus far have told me they will pay $25-$30 for 2-4 images and they’ll take the other pictures themselves. A $30 premium for a single aerial front exterior might make sense with a full session, but not as a stand alone order.

  • Just looking at that 3D tour posted above…maybe in addition to stills, but I couldn’t see the 3D tour getting too popular. Its just goofy feeling. Like I am trying to traverse through a level of the original Duke Nukem video game. People can’t get a sense of a room by rotating around in a circle and flying over the coach like Casper the friendly ghost. Cool technology, but for really representing a room or a house? no way.

  • Hey all,

    I can not lie that this is cool and a very neat marketing tool, but have you heard of iGuide by Planitar?
    From what some of the posts are saying, it sounds like iGuide would be a great option and alternative for you. The iGuide offers interactive floor plans with accurate measurements, 360 degree views of every room, panoramic video, a photo gallery plus the option for custom image capturing, neighbourhood maps and something I have never seen before; an amazing online measuring tool that buyers can interact with. On top of all that, it is very affordable. The iGuide not only helps you effectively market a property but it also saves time on the closing end and even after a sale is closed!
    check it out at;
    http://goiguide.com/

    and look at some of the properties that have an iGuide at;
    http://www.walk-inside.com/

  • I also forgot to mention that the iGuide loads quickly and is compatible on any mobile or tablet for everyone on the go!

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