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Creating 360 Images and Walk-Throughs is Far Easier than It’s Ever Been Before

October 26th, 2017

Phil in South Carolina said:

I just came across this site that appears to make hosting and embedding 360 Panos FAR easier than ever before.  I am so tempted to dive in since now Photoshop makes creating these 360 images a painless process.

Yes, there are a number of companies (from EU & AU) like this that have features that allow you to create 360 walk-throughs. The two I know of are Vizor.io and Cupix.com.

Certainly this new technology makes it much easier than it’s ever been before to create 360 images and assemble them into walk-throughs. Cameras like the Rico Theta V create 360 images quickly and easily.

But as this relates to real estate there are many unanswered questions and things to be cautious about:

  1. There is a clear demand in upper-end markets for Matterport due to a strong marketing campaign by Matterport but does this popularity extend to other forms of 360s in other markets?
  2. Is there a high demand for 360 walk-throughs in real estate marketing in general? I’m skeptical. I did the old-fashioned 360 walk-throughs for 10 years in the early 2000s for all our listings and about a third of buyers and sellers hated them because they didn’t like what they called the “spinning” media.
  3. There is a general enthusiasm for the face mask kind of 360 VR among young people that is important to separate from use in real estate marketing.

I wouldn’t jump into 360 walk-throughs unless it is very clear that there is a demand for them in your market. Don’t just start doing them because you think they are cool!

Update 10/28: I’m looking for someone to make a case that there is market demand for 360s someplace. I doubt that there is!!

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19 Responses to “Creating 360 Images and Walk-Throughs is Far Easier than It’s Ever Been Before”

  • I use Roundme.com to host my 360s. They have it setup so you can have walk-throughs and a lot of other extras like being able to view through a VR headset. Tourbuzz.net let’s you use 360s for the virtual tours and Facebook takes 360s to. I use my DSLR camera with a fisheye lens to take the photos and stitch them together. I don’t get many people asking for 360s. It’s mainly asked for when shooting commercial buildings. I do offer the first 5 360s for free when a realtor hires me, but it seems to be a wild shot if they hire me because of that or not.

  • I have a different opinion. I’m jumping in both feet. The cost to get in is minimal. The price of a Theta. I suspect if we look forward 5 years we will find it to be the standard that a professional real estate photographer provides some type of 360 photo support. Google is adding it to all the maps and street views and it’s just a matter of time before it’s an automated add feature to Realtor.com and Zillow.
    The cost of early adoption is limited to the cost of a Theta.
    All that said, forget the residential real estate on this one. I believe the easiest converts will be hotel room photos. You will start to see the embed’s in the sites. A lifetime of hosting is 15 bucks. I don’t think there is much risk of being an early adopter here. I do believe after the seed money runs out Matterport is done because their model can’t compete with a few hundered dollar camera and a 15 dollar host. I am in both feet and a few fingers as well.

  • The thing about Matterport vs video is that the latter creates an emotional connection between the buyer and the property. ESPECIALLY if the music on the video is well-matched. I see Matterport as a tool that a Realtor could use in a listing presentation to “wow” a seller and set the Realtor apart from the competition. But I can’t see it stirring a buyer to action. I can see super-analytical buyers loving this because of the detail, but I can also see them using that detail to talk themselves out of buying it. They could easily pick the place apart. I can see where people would think Matterport would generate more sight-unseen offers from non-local buyers, but in my experience, professional photos and video generate those types of offers. May be more, because pics and video — good ones — make buyers drool and swoon and get that “gotta have it” urge.

    Matterport provides almost too much info. Why schedule a showing if you already know everything about the property? This is the same reason I don’t use sign riders. I want the phone to ring, not answer every question at the curb so they don’t call!

  • @Steven – Yes, the cost is minimal if all you do with 360s is host single images but the sites that do real walk-throughs ( like the on ones I referred to) have a fairly high monthly cost. You are not really using the potential of the new 360 technology if you are not using 360 walk-throughs.

    @Mark – Why would you shoot 360s with a DSLR/Fisheye and stitch them together. That’s a big time investment when for a few hundred dollars you can use a 360 camera that produces the same thing with no investment in stitching time?

  • My wife and I have been shopping for a new home for about 3 months. Time and time again, we look at the photos and decide to visit the home. We walk in and go “Oh!? So THAT’S how the floor plan works. No. This isn’t what we want at all!”

    360 degree tours are THE future of this business. It’s now very cheap to do and the results are FAR SUPERIOR to still images.

    Why?

    Because I can actually tell how the rooms are connected and I have nearly an infinite number of still images. I find it very frustrating to look at photos in listings and get confused as to the layout of the home. Sure, I see a fabulous kitchen and a dining room, but where exactly is the front door? Wait, how is this large bonus room connected to the other rooms in the house? And the hall closet? Oh, that’s not even shown.

    It will take some time for old real estate agents to adopt something new. But my prediction is that 5-7 years from now, 95% of the homes for sale will have 360 degree tours and possibly NO still photos.

  • I may have to re-visit the 360 issue. About a year ago, researched the cameras and overall the Theta S was the best. Purchased one but returned it to Best Buy. The quality just wasn’t something I would want to put my name after. Also researched buying a fisheye lens and special tripod mount (and dedicated tripod) for existing DSLR where quality would improve exponentially, time required plus more complex hosting kept me from purchasing – even for a trial. Just noticed where the Theta V was announced and began selling last month with notable improvements over the S model. May be time for another trial, but hosting always an issue with any setup.

    While I am both a Realtor and photographer, there is another issue as a photographer’s offering. With the lower IQ of the camera, photographer’s skills will not improve the output that much on a product designed for DIY. It is actually with my Realtor hat on that I am thinking of it, not my photographer hat other than the total package reflecting on me as a photographer. Currently, none of my panos are 360 but partial 160-220 degrees. The 360 camera issue was brought to my attention by a Realtor client as I was shooting a home, and the question wasn’t “Do you do…” but “What do you think of…” That is an important distinction as it leans to the DIY side … not future business add-on side. Apparently the client, the Realtor/Broker of a small boutique, had become aware of a competitor using the Theta S as a unique prospecting tool for FSBOs (For Sale By Owner). In a nutshell, offer free tour (which got him past the front door), deactivate tour link after 2 weeks and need to list if want longer. As a Realtor, that really got me to thinking as I already offer FSBO’s full photo package (no tour or other add-ons) at full price, reimbursed if I later list as none of my other listings pay for photos. That gives me an hour in the house with them to schmooze, note additional I can do if they list, and how to dissect competitors typical sales lines, etc. 360s would give me an additional tool for prospecting and appeal to those who don’t want to fork out a couple hundred for photos. All the is the Realtor in me, not the photographer.

  • OOPS, should have added… Today checked the Realtor’s website that was prospecting with the Theta S. Every listing has a tour. Hosted by Feelestate.com Also, still photos appear professional, but I don’t know his skill. At any rate, corrected verticals, clear windows, excellent exposure and white balance. May be HDR – certainly not single direct flash as no shadows/reflections.

  • What an interesting thread! Looks like some folks here that have jumped into 360 for sure. Very helpful.

    I’ve come across something just in the past couple of days that is really intriguing and mystifying as to how it is done, and maybe someone can chime-in to enlighten on the technique. (I have Google the pudding out of it and come up with nothing). Here is the observation and the question….please follow me here.

    You can apparently shoot a STILL 360 pano of a room or space (via 360 camera or regular DSLR), stitch it together into the proper aspect, drag it into a timeline in your video editor, and then create an MP4 video clip for YT or FB. Okay, I “get” that part. Apparently, now you can stitch a video frame into the stills somewhere along the process and by doing so have someone standing in one spot, speaking to introduce the highlights of the space or introduce themselves or whatever. In other words, you can apparently create a hybrid of a video within a 360 still of a room. I have seen a couple of examples of this (and actually tried to get info from the creators/even suggest they write an ebook — which I’d buy immediately) and they are stunning. And mystifying as to technique. Here is an example https://youtu.be/TCEV5tmcfio . Amazing.

    Does anyone here who I haven’t completely confused — or shown my ignorance — know how this is done? How do you stitch a video into a large still pano?

  • @Trevor – 360s are as old as the hills!! I started doing them in 1999 in the Seattle market and I did 8 to 10 360s per listings. As I said about 1/3 of buyer and sellers hated them. And nowadays it is my perception that 360s are effectively DEAD in the Seattle market (BTW it is one of the hottest markets in the US).

    Yea, they are as entertaining to make but no one has convinced me that there is market demand for them anywhere!

  • I completely disagree. The hills are as old as the hills but everything in the internet world is still new. Google was founded in 1998 and You Tube was founded in 2005. How were you delivering all these tours, on dial up? Today we have Theta cameras that deliver 360 in one shot and now Theta’s that deliver the street noise to go with with the shot. It’s a whole new era and truly a new product.
    In an era when my photo revenue faces pressure from a Nikon kit sold at Sam’s club, I think offering 360 tours hosted on sites like Full Frame offer the agent more product, more exposure that has a value. Quite frankly, I like them. I think they give the end user more visual information that they can use to make choices to go in person. If an agent get’s more showing they hire the photographer again. If they offer the seller something they like they get more listings. I think photographers need to achieve a net listing gain or they are not going to hire and pay us, they will just buy the Nikon kit on sale at Sam’s club.

  • @Steven – The point is it doesn’t matter if we photographers like 360s or don’t like them what matters is are you selling any? Is there a demand for them in your market? Sure they are fun, interesting to make. Matterport is selling. I get that but beyond that everyone is just talking about how cool 360s are and how easy they are to make.

  • @Steven – you stated “If an agent get’s more showing they hire the photographer again.” While technically correct, 360 tours may have the exact opposite effect – fewer showings. That is the number one reason I hear from Realtors of, while intrigued with Matterport and it’s novelty, they don’t use it, not due to cost they don’t want to show everything. Photography (and video) is to build intrigue and have people show up with the failure to attract people raises the cost significantly. That is why Larry’s updated question is probably correct – there is no market to be shown. Think about it, the original person asking the question, while I understand the frustration, clearly stated would not have gone to the property if knew more. Now multiply that by everyone making desktop determinations ruling out properties with show all 360’s. Even on still photos my clients don’t use all provided or even the max MLS 25 as basic marketing demands creating the interest…not answering the questions. The cost goes well beyond the 360’s and has to include the cost of fewer showings run off by too much information. Sellers interpret fewer showings as the Realtor being ineffective and wouldn’t extend an expiring contract or refer their friends for future business. Likewise, when a buyer determines that the home doesn’t meet their need…they are still in the market for a home in the same price range that the listing agent (assuming buyer not currently represented) can help them find. Mathematically, it is like getting both sides of a deal but involves 2 properties. So just why would they want to show everything. And perhaps you would be hired as a photographer as they list that buyer’s home.

  • While I shot a lot of 360 spins in the early and mid 2000s, I haven’t had a request for one in over 5 years.

  • You know what? I don’t want to shoot myself in the foot here, but on a little more research in my moderately sized marketplace (mid and coastal SC and NC), I think I’ll confine the 360 offerings to high-end listings and commercial work — especially commercial. The reasons are as stated above, especially as it relates to (1) possibly providing “too much information” rather than a taste of the offering for the online buyer, and (2) because buyers and their agents in search of moderately priced/average homes are simply not going to invest the time to look into the nooks and crannys of a property. To be clear, ONE or TWO 180º or 360º x 90º panos may prove helpful for large rooms or amazing views, but the thorough hot spot approach or especially the Matterport style is just “too much” for my base. They will not take advantage of it nor spend the time on their desktops to drill down into that much detail; they’ll just go see the property if interested. I suspect metro areas, ski resorts, and the beaches (etc) may be quite different.

    That said, I believe I DO see a very good opportunity for business and commercial applications, such as restaurants, gyms or rec centers, hotels/rooms, yoga spas, school, and so on, especially with voiceover or talent. This should really open some doors to some added business. Real Estate isn’t everything, especially as the market slows in Winter here. Take a look at this example: https://youtu.be/VrFQmBJ_a4k Not bad, huh?

  • I agree with Michael. Some of my clients are using the Mattaport system but I personally don’t like it. It takes hours to shot a house and while I do think the value is there for people who want to see the layout of the home, I will leave it to the photographers that use Mattaport to shoot them. I have not had one agent ask me if I do 360’s in years.

  • Hi, I’ve been interested in thread this week. I’m curious to know what fees you all charge for a single 360* tour.

  • I might be the odd man out here but I think these tours are coming full force. Why else would You Tube go to the expense to make a their site fully VR360 Video compatible. Agents are going to want to give a guided tour while prospects look around. Here is a sample I found on You Tube. (so in summary, not just 360 tours but full 360 live action video)

  • To Phil’s comment: “Is there a case for demand for 360… and doubts there is.”

    ANSWER: There’s no argument there’s a big demand for high-end 360 AR, VR, and MR content out there. Goldman Sachs / DigiCapital and several PEW Internet Reports show the VR industry will be a $150 Billion market by 2020. And we’re not talking 360 port or 100% gaming, either. 360 is here and it’s needed by every company out there with a Website. The question is do you produce crap content with a Ricoh theta and slap it on your website, or do you hire a professional 360 photographer?

    Can photographers make (good) money in 360? Barbara Corcoran on GMA says to agents and the home owners directly: Spend the money you need on a professional photographer. Nobody buys a home with blown out windows, pinched virtual tour bottoms with blurry tripod legs.

    PROOF #1: Les Surface is one of our Rock Stars in Michigan we use quite often.
    He shoots with a Canon DSLR, the Sigma 8mm f/ 3.5 and the Nodal Ninja R1. He has over 10+ years of experience and is a true professional photographer.

    We wrote Les a check for $2,100 for shooting a Casino in Michigan just 3 weeks ago. Jon Eady processed the tours and made a few hundred bucks doing the bracketing, HDR and posting the tours to the Casino’s VPiX account online. And Les got a room free for the night at the Casino, too. A nice bonus we arranged for him. The client paid us an additional $495 a year for the tour to be hosted as it’s accelerated over Akamai’s CDN and Rackspace allows up to 100,000 visitors per hour, and is backed by a 100% network uptime guarantee. The sales rep that sold this tour (Dan) made $800 and the rest is just net-profit for the company.

    HISTORY: They called one of the national companies that is based in Michigan and they turned them down. The price was less than half what we charged. The Ad agency working for the Casino didn’t want a Volkswagen, regardless of the price. They wanted a Lexus, which resulted in us getting the deal and paying Les what he’s worth as a professional photographer.

    RULE of THUMB: If you focus on selling Volkswagens, then all you’re going to get is customers who want cheap cars. ” Change your focus, change what you sell and you will make more money. ” — Tony Robbins.

    Now to the Matterport topic. They were a good company with a cute 3D dollhouse idea… three years ago. It’s not today.

    REASON: Why buy a Matterport for $5k when you can buy a better 3D structure sensor scanner for $499 and attach it to your iPad?

    EXERCISE: Go to Occipital.com and watch the video.

  • @Bartley Wilson, Thank you, Sir. You have managed to add some really valuable perspective to the many great comments offered here. I think now I am a lot more sure of my direction at the beginning of this 360 journey which, in my case (this market) will be geared toward the high-end homes and business markets.

    Thanks to all.

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