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360/3D: Fad or Future?

Published: 15/04/2020

Author: Tacey Jungmann

As Covid-19 forces most of us to reassess both our products and business models, 360/3D images and tours are definitely a hot topic. Should we jump in if we never have before? Should we upgrade our equipment? Or, should we just wait it out until things get back to normal?

The question has to be asked… is 360 here to stay? Will stills continue to be the primary viewing method in the future or will they be replaced with 360? Is 360 just a knee-jerk response to the current situation?

I believe there will be Realtors who thrive on more of a concierge model and will focus on 15-25 beautiful stills and cinematic video, combined with their expertise and willingness to do all the legwork for their clients. I don’t think the luxury market and high-end service expectations are going to change much. Video still works most effectively on social media and resonates with emotion.

But, for the mere mortals out there… What I believe will change is “the rest” of the market. 360 of some kind will be expected, at least initially, on every shoot. Sellers will want an option that keeps strangers out of their homes. They will look for agents who can provide all the possible media and strategies to market their homes. There will be some Realtors who only want to pay for the cheapest option, and others who value and are willing to pay for a more premium product (sound familiar?). Buyers will realize that they CAN view a home without all the work of previewing in-person. I also think we’re going to see a backlash against still images that distort and enhance the space so much that potential buyers feel frustration and disappointment when they actually visit the home. 360 may well be seen as more “honest”.

If you’ve already made the decision to go for it and are looking for some basic information to guide your decisions, I’ve tried to lay out the basics. For the sake of this article, I’m using the terms 360 and 3D interchangeably. I’m also aiming this specifically at real estate. My goal is to outline some options that are available at different price, quality, and effort points. This is by no means intended to be an all-inclusive list, but rather a starting point for those deciding to throw their hats into the 360 ring.

There are a myriad of choices and combinations for 360 shooting and delivery, but for the sake of simplicity I’ve bundled them into 3 different categories. BASIC, INTERMEDIATE, and ADVANCED.

BASIC: APP-BASED

ZILLOW 3D HOME: The absolute minimum is to use the Zillow 3D Home app with either an iPhone or a Theta V or Z1 camera. The cheapest option is to use your iPhone, but it takes longer; the stitching is inconsistent, and the overall quality is low. Next up the ladder is the Theta V: It’s fast, stitching is solid, and the overall quality is low-medium. The top-end option for shooting through Zillow 3D Home is with the Theta Z1; it’s fast, stitching is very good, and the overall the quality is medium. Zillow 3D Home allows for rearrangement of images, connections, and flow of the tour, but doesn’t allow you to edit or improve the fundamental quality of the images. It does embed into the listing immediately upon publication and provides a URL that can be used on other platforms as well as the MLS. Cost to upload/host is free. Major benefit: the Zillow “boost.” However--caveat emptor--you are feeding the Zillow beast and all your tours are now theirs. A common question that’s asked: "Does Zillow integrate any other 3D tours?" Yes, but they’re only embedded deep in the details of the listing.

MATTERPORT CAPTURE - Matterport Capture supports Insta ONE X, Theta Z1, and Theta V cameras using iPhone 6S or newer, or the iPad Pro 6th generation or newer. It’s easy to use. Quality output and time on site is similar to Zillow but creates a doll-house product as well as a 360 tour. Floor plans cannot be created through the app. Cost to upload/host is $9/month. Redfin integrates Matterport captures into their listings.

INTERMEDIATE: 360 TOUR PLATFORM COMBINED WITH YOUR “ONE-CLICK” 360 CAMERA OF CHOICE:

Once you step away from Apps, you now have the ability to edit the images and enhance their quality. But that adds time, perhaps not on-site, but definitely in post-production. These platforms can be simple or complex. You can integrate video, stills, lead generation, and branding. Floor plans aren’t created through these cameras, but most platforms support externally created floor plans such as those from CubiCasa. You’re also going to start paying subscriptions in order to host the tours you’ve created. Whether it’s $12/month for Kuula, or $787 for a lifetime subscription to CloudPano, there are lots of different price points and levels of commitment. As the 360 market heats up, many of these providers are adding features to make their platform the most attractive. Ultimately, you have to run the numbers for your business.

INTERMEDIATE: PROPRIETARY CAMERA AND PLATFORM COMBINED

Matterport and Iguide are the big guns here. Both are expensive initial investments and tied to proprietary systems. Matterport is subscription-based and can get very expensive month-to-month. Iguide is pay-per-tour. Quality is really good and both systems allow for the CREATION of floor plans and other features. Both have a smooth feel to navigation. Time on site is high, but post-processing is minimal. Iguide is much faster on-site than Matterport but Matterport has the distinctive “doll house” that many Realtors think of when they think of 360.

ADVANCED: 360 TOUR PLATFORM COMBINED WITH YOUR DSLR.

This option delivers the highest quality, and the most control over your images, but it can take a lot of time on site and in post. You can bracket multiple frames, and add flash for even higher quality imagery. If you’re efficient, it’s probably close to the same time investment on site as Matterport. DSLR is much higher resolution but this only matters if you host on a platform that can handle the higher resolution. For retailers and commercial real estate, the higher resolution and allowing the viewer to zoom in is important. A typical equipment set up could include: full frame DSLR with Nikon 8-15mm fisheye set at 12mm, or crop sensor DSLR with Nikon 8-15mm fisheye lens set at 8mm; or Sigma 8mm pano head, Nodal Ninja R1 OR R10/20 with lens ring; solid tripod with gear head or nodal ninja; EZ-leveler to get to a level setup; Yongnuo RF-603NII-N3 wireless flash trigger.

360 TOUR PLATFORMS ACCORDING TO BEN CLAREMONT: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKkQQ0aHRSc
Beginner (Free): Google Tour Creator, Veer Experience, Marzipano, Orbix360, Theasys
Beginner: Matterport, CloudPano, Kuula
Intermediate: Cupix, Panoskin, Gothru, My360
Advanced: Pano2VR, KrPano, 3DVista

ARTICLE BY IGUIDE THAT COMPARES TECHNOLOGY: https://goiguide.com/3d-tour-technology

My take on this is that 360 is here to stay. I use Zillow 3D Home, shoot with the Z1, and have invested in CloudPano Lifetime to enable me to offer a higher end product. What’s your take on it? Should we all be jumping on this bandwagon? If you’re already “all-in”, what’s your recommendation for camera and platform?

31 comments on “360/3D: Fad or Future?”

  1. The majority of Realtors on my 5 years in business don’t want to spend money on listings. Unless it’s a luxury property you’re not doing even premium photos in under 400k listings unless it’s a nice Miami condo.

  2. Wow, you must have been reading my emails! I just received an email from one of my top clients asking if I ever did 360's, and what I thought about them. I told her that I don't currently offer them and I'm not real impressed with the quality. I was expressing to her exactly what you said about the emotional connection with photos and video. I explained that if enough of my clients start requesting 360's I'll look into it but as of right now it's not something I'm interested in. I will say that the number of clients who are now wanting video has gone way up! I do a full length video, including drone for properties that warrant it, and then I make a highlight video as well that they can use on social media. If the photos and video are done correctly the potential homebuyers should have a very good idea of layout and space.

    After I sent my reply she emailed back and told me that she is approached all the time by people wanting her to use their 360 services but she doesn't like the quality and she wasn't real impressed with the product. She also told me that when she used the 360's on her phone she thought it was cumbersome and not very user friendly on that small of a screen, which I hadn't thought of before. I guess I can see them becoming more popular but I still like a good video better.

  3. I'd like to find an editor who can take brackets and turn them into a panoramic walk through. I want to host it myself and embed it into my proprietary slideshow.

  4. I had similar thoughts.... I used to do 360 tours when I started (hence my business name) and I kept doing it only to realize that I kept doing something that was WAY to heavy to load (internet wise). I was delivering something that was no longer cared for so I quit offering it and no one has asked for it until last December. So I got the Richoh Theta and tried their approach only to be disgusted by the quality. I ended up returning it after 2 weeks.

    I am currently experimenting with to use interactive floor plans (I use CubiCasa's floor plans) with my photos. Not only can I provide a Covid-19 appealing approach. I can retain my high end quality and get a good end user experience. I can also completely stay away from the 360/3d fad (I have to remove the 360 from my business name...I just called myself a fad). We have all seen the 360/3D come and go and once C-19 is gone...I anticipate much of the hype with 360/3d will as well.

    Ironically, I came across Richoh has an interactive floor plan option. You have to provide the floorplan though.

    Someone will say Matterport now, I have had free access to for 3 years...they have some of the solutions...however it is to gimmicky. I feel the C-19 jumped start them again but I really do not see them to be around in 10 years. I do not care for them at all. I hear my client saying that too.

    HDPhotoHub
    They have an interactive floorplan with hotspots. I feel like I am clicking around too much though. Still checking out their options. Solid delivery platform for us photographers too.

    MapsAlive.com
    Closest to what I want but.... not very sexy.
    http://samples.mapsalive.com/20088/page1.htm

    Just my thoughts... now I want to read yours!

  5. Does anyone here use their DSLR and 3dVista? What is the actual time it takes both shooting and processing for an avg 2500sqft house? Are there 3rd party companies who will create it for you?

  6. 360's have been around for years. Agents (and the public) appetite for them has been poor. Gimmicky, not necessary, expensive, too far back from the front line, easily lose interest in etc. Along comes Covid 19 and suddenly agents show an interest.. they have little else available. My guess, once lock down is over they will revert back.
    Would I invest in doing them again ? nope.

  7. As the founder of a community of 27,000 3D/360 virtual tour service providers in 135 countries - and long-time fan of Photography for Real Estate – I have noticed the PFRE story arc on 3D/360 has gone from total skepticism to oh my gosh, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused real estate agents to ask for / demand 24/7 Open House Virtual Tours.

    Even if you decide to pull the trigger on buying a 3D or 360 camera, it may be helpful to know that your camera of choice may be as hard to find as a 30 pack of Charmin Ultra Soft. For example, you may be hard pressed to find a new RICOH Theta Z1. And, Matterport has a two week backlog in the United States and longer in Europe and Asia (as of 15 April 2020).

    Real estate agents will likely always want/afford photos and video before considering a virtual tour. That said, it’s likely – during the pandemic – some of your real estate agent clients are desperate for a virtual tour and you may still be hesitant to put your toe in the water.

    Before investing in the gear and time that it takes to get up to speed – because you still believe 3D/360 is a fad – you might consider partnering with a Matterport Service Provider that does not shoot photos or video. You will know when the number of referrals that you make to a Service Provider justify the investment.

    You can find a Matterport Service Provider using the locator map in our Community (www.WGANForum.com). If you are ready to Add On virtual tours, here are three suggestions:

    1) pick the 3D/360 platform first. If your clients are asking for Zillow 3D Home, iGuide or Matterport, that’s an easier decision than researching the 130+ 3D/360 virtual tour hosting software/platforms;
    2) then pick the camera. The platform that you choose may narrow down the camera options from the more than 50 3D/360 cameras; and
    3) look for a camera that has an API as a feature because hosting platforms such as Zillow 3D Home, RICOH Tours and Matterport use the API to make the workflow easier, faster and seamless.

    In her post, Tracy asks the question, “... should we just wait out until things get back to normal?” And, concludes with, “My take on this is that 360 is here to stay.”

    As a result of the pandemic, some real estate agents that we all thought would never in a million years embrace new technology – have! And, enough real estate agents and brokers will continue to seek 24/7 Open House Virtual Tours for professional real estate photographers to justify offering this Add On.

    The train is leaving the station. Will you be on it?

    Here are some additional resources to help you with your research.

    List of 130+ 3D/360 virtual tour hosting software/platforms
    https://forum.we-get-around.com/topic/10110/page/1/wgan-list-of-50-3d-and-360-hosting-platforms/

    List of 50+ 3D/360 cameras
    https://forum.we-get-around.com/topic/10212/page/1/wgan-list-of-nearly-50-3d360-cameras-for-virtual-toursgoogle-street-view/#1

    Find a 3D/360 24/7 Virtual Tour Service Providers
    https://forum.we-get-around.com/matterport-referral-network-map.php

  8. In 2014 I wanted to buy in to Matterport, but my wife and a friend got motion sickness from the demo ><. So I shelved the idea, and since then have been pushing video and the advantages of it to my clients. But with the current climate (covid) I bought a Insta 360 one X and lifetime membership to Cloud Pano which is fairly good. It's a little clunky and the quality of the camera isn't as good as the Matterport / iGuide. So I'll probably order one of those cameras so I can offer a good / better option tomorrow. I'm probably 65% sure it will still be used post Covid. But what both the better options have is upload to Google Street View - and that I think will be a great tool to target other businesses. And I reckon that will 100% be used post covid.

  9. I agree that the current quality of the 360 cameras is less than ideal....that's why my personal preference is to offer video. That said, if my clients are ok with the quality, and with the cost of entry to providing this service being so low, it seems like meeting their needs is better than saying no and "encouraging" them to look for another imaging provider.

    The quality of 360 cameras will continue to improve as well the options available from tour providers. I agree with Tacey that 360's will still be a thing after the current covid-19 situation is resolved. Not all agents will want it but I see no reason not to add it to the arsenal of service options I have available.

  10. I feel plagued at times with the 360 vendors. Seems to come in waves.

    For me, this is similar to how I approached bringing aerials into my business. First year, I just had occasional questions. Second year, more questions, only one actually paid, which I sub'd out. Seeing interest slowly growing, I decided to get trained, licensed, insured, in time for the next season. Timing couldn't have better. Licensed, insured, ready to go end of March, that April started having paying customers.

    For 3D and 360, I think the last time a client asked me about it was 2 years ago. Most of the homes I shoot are in the 400-750K range. Zero requests or interest. Even for the 8-figure listing I was asked to quote pre-shutdown, there was no interest. Only in quality stills and aerials.

    For now, for my market, I see it as primarily a gimmick w/o traction. Not sure I see any difference just because of COVID, other than as with other businesses, they're stepping up marketing and sales outreach. I don't know how PFRE feels about posting links here, so unless asked I won't. I will mention that HubSpot has started a post, updated weekly, about the effectiveness of marketing vs. sales outreaches (marketing, really high open rates, sales calls/email, very low) that's packed with useful data written at a consumable level. Its based on aggregated data from their global 70,000 customer base.

    Aside from the value proposition for individual photographers already mentioned (cost/revenue), I think there's one more aspect overlooked.

    From my perspective, the videos and photographs are intended to whet the buyers' appetite. Get them interested. Show them enough to do so. You don't want to document the house so fully they don't -need- to see it. That's important for overseas buyers, purchasing site unseen, but that's an infinitesimally small segment for most of us.

    At least in the SE Michigan area, I'm finding house sales have collapsed. Talking with my key customers, they've worked the last of their closings and are dead in the water now. Some deals failed due to loss of employment, others because buyers needed a sale of stock to fund down payments. In these conditions, spending 1,000s on 3D/360 equipment isn't going to achieve anything. Except you're out thousands right when you need it most.

  11. "Fad or Future"? 360 Virtual Tours (btw, rarely true 3D) have always had a place and always will. At a minimum they serve consumers that are out-of-town or unable to view a property inside.

    I've done these for residential and commercial clients (hotels, businesses, etc) for about five years. I find polarized opinions... some clients like them others can't stand them because of the "fussiness" of the technology. I suspect that the demand ("fad") in residential real estate will simmer down once we get beyond Covid-19, but I don't think the normal demand for this technology will ever go away. This technology serves a very useful purpose for many different types of clients and their customers.

  12. I think it's just a fad.

    Since this started, I have gotten several inquiries about video, which I do not do. The agents are having "virtual" open houses and such, but I have no idea of the traffic that generates. One of my regular clients was texting me about it while she was watching a webinar/sales pitch about video, but did agree with me for reasons stated below.

    In my experience as a realtor, deals rarely close if the buyer has not set foot in the house, the matterport 3D is too difficult for the general public to operate and most videos do not give a real sense of the flow of the home, although floor plans can help. This is in addition to the current issues mentioned by JT Pedersen, like financing, income stress, etc.

    I'm getting (a few) shoots for vacant homes, which of course is my most favored type of shoot, but most sellers are on the sidelines at this point.

    Right now, I know I am losing some business because I don't do video, but I have confidence in my product and believe it will be in demand again very soon and the video demand will drop off to previous levels and continue to decline as newer add-on technologies emerge. But IMHO, nothing can replace professional still images. You can't print or frame a video. And you need stills for MLS.

  13. The reason for the uptick in 360 inquires is because the sales force at Zillow has been aggressively marketing all of your realtors. They recognized a marketing niche within the Covid situation, but... it's not cheap IMO, for realtors. I think the minimum investment is around $500mo, and I'm not sure what they offer for that. Either way, it still has that non-stylish lack-of-craft, generic look to it.

    I prefer videos over 360. Pretty much the same visual info, but presented with selectivity and style. So for me, the key is to offer a competitive visual video tour that doesn't require realtors to contract a monthly fee, they choose the offering as its suits their various listings. A better product, produced on demand. Right now I'm doing a very concise straight forward video tour that takes me 15minutes to shoot. A series of maybe 15-20 clips, branded with the realtor's info. I can edit & render that in 45minutes, so 1 hr total time, and no travel since I'm already at the home shooting stills anyway. An add-on. The clips go into a template in Premier that I've built, and only require minor tweaking.

  14. Continuous 360 photo quality like Matterport definitely has it's short comings compared to the flexibility you have with shooting and editing methods with DSLR. So the windows maybe a little blown out and the images are not as crisp. It does however serve a totally different purpose since it allows the consumer the ability to walk through the home as if they were doing it in person... The benefit to buyers is they now have the ability to view a home without having to step foot in it and for the sellers, it reduces the number of unnecessary showings and the home is show ready 24 x 7.

    There's obviously a heightened awareness as a result of Covid 19 and I'd bet you a buck in the last 30 days, the people with a 360 cameras are a lot busier than the people without. The question is what happens post Covid 19?

    As mentioned above, when things get back to normal, there will still be many agents who won't want to spend the money or, they'll reserve it only for their higher end listings.... You can't however deny there is a heightened awareness among agents as well as buyers and sellers and at the end of the day, it's consumer expectations that drives the bus, not what an agent is or isn't willing to spend. They may have to spend it to meet seller expectations if they want the listing...

    There's no doubt in my mind that even with all the shortcomings, 360 services will be requested more coming out of this period of time than they were going into it. Having said that, your mileage may vary since each market is different as are it's agents.. If you want to make an educated decision, poll some of your agents and you'll find the answer for you and your business..

  15. Stills will be king for the long term. The images are readily viewable on any device and it doesn't take a load of bandwidth. Video is a near second. Right now, video is even more of a marketing tool for agents due to sellers not wanting them to do showings if they are still occupying the home and open houses in most areas aren't recommended or allowed. Between video and stills, you have given a very good look of the home. I don't see how 360's really add to that.

    Like JT, I started getting inquiries about drone photos before the Part 107 licensing was put in place. At the time, agents weren't willing to pay more than $20-$30 and wanted 6-12 photos. Some even expected that they would be included in a photo package so I held out. Early last year I got licensed and bought a drone and it hasn't been break even yet. The two biggest housing markets around me are under controlled airspace that's both commercial and military with no automated clearances. Turn around time is about a week if I'm requesting an altitude under the number on the map's grid square. That's too long for most agents and I'm doing pole aerial photos as I've done for years instead. The question is if the agents are willing to pay for 360's and will there be enough demand to get a ROI on the gear and time spent getting proficient?

    It may gain some traction right now as agents are trying anything to bring in customers. In my area, most agents would be better off investing in having professional photos made. They'll pay for a "virtual tour" slide show of their cell phone images, but they won't hire a photographer.

    Video is generating a lot of attention for me. I'm concentrating on very simple walkthrough videos that I can shoot and edit quickly so I can keep the price low while still having some of the revenue left over to spend on supplies when I go out foraging (used to be called shopping six weeks ago). I'm even including drone footage if I don't have to get an authorization. An orbit, a front exterior drive by, a crane down/dolly in to the front and a rising spiral for the outro. It takes me about 10 minutes or so. The interior footage takes about 45-60 minutes for a basic 3/2. That time includes setting up and balancing the gimbal.

    I believe that professional visual marketing is mostly a great way for agents to build their brand with far less value in the actual sale. Agents are mostly correct when they say that a home will still sell with crappy photos if the price is right. Not all of them realize that having good looking listings is key to getting the next one. I'll go along with a shift right now to favor the sale of the home pictured since more people are going to do more winnowing of possibilities online rather than going to lots of homes in person.

    Are 360 images making the agent look any better? Are buyers going to look at them? Does it have a chance at all of getting somebody interested in calling an agent about the home or is it more likely to do the opposite? When I was shopping for a home I watched a few videos. They were shot by the agent on a cell phone and made me seasick so I stopped wasting my time clicking on links and waiting for them to load/buffer. If I'm presented with still, video, 3D and 360's, 97% of the time I'm not going to look at anything but the stills (I'm an old guy so shiny new tech fails to impress me anymore). If I were really interested in what the stills were showing, I might look at a video. If the video was really bad, I wouldn't even watch the whole thing. At that point, I'm either going to take the next step or move on. Downloading an app, signing up at a website or waiting for data to download isn't an option.

  16. @Pamela, You may want to look into video. As most still cameras will shoot video at this point, it's not a big investment in a few accessories and software to do simple productions. I prefer stills myself, but video had started gaining in popularity and if you can get stills and photos, it's more income and less travel. Since you are on site longer, you may have more opportunities to capture images in certain rooms at better times.

    Right now, by offering both, I am much more of a value to agents. I'm not even very good at the videos yet, but everybody is happy so far. Part of that could be it's one call to get it all done. It's also being done by just one person in one appointment.

    I'm going to see if video is something I offer long term. I was planning on spending the season learning and formally offering it late in the year, but the world changed and it made sense to me to jump in and paddle like crazy if I have to.

  17. Don't mean to rain on the video parade but buyers want to see what they want to see when they want to see it and many don't want to sift through a video to only see the things you want to show them...

    This is evidenced by the fact that buyers consistently ranked video a lot lower than photos, floor plans and 3D tours. ...

    Some key stats from various research studies:

    84% of Buyers think floor plans are important
    58% of Buyers think floor plans are extremely or very important – 2x more than video
    Over half of Millennial Buyers want more listings to have 3D tours
    77% of Sellers find it very important that their agent uses virtual tours for marketing
    Homes with Matterport have 95% higher call volume and 3X more time on site
    90% of agents using Matterport say it helps them build a stronger market presence

    Here is some more info from Zillow for you to check out https://www.zillow.com/research/3d-home-tours-coronavirus-26794/

    But hey, if agents want video and they are willing to pay for it by all means we should be scratching that itch. However video is not a replacement for 360 tours since 360s serve a different purpose.

  18. For those who tried the Theta, you might want to try the Z1.
    Much better quality (but much more expensive)
    This is the link to an example: https://360tours.betterrealestatephotos.com/tours/lTSL98LmRJ
    Not the best quality but very decent for a 360 IMO. You would have to take 7-9 brackets and then enfuse them and do a bit of post-processing in Lightroom.

    I am sorry but I cannot agree with the folks who are mentioning that video is better in this regard (to try to more thoroughly describe a home). A video is showing what the videographer is showing and is typically pretty limited. That's why we call them at times teaser video. We know after a min or so of video, folks are going to drop like flies so we keep video typically below 2 min or so...

    The purpose of videos and 360 are completely different. Video = teaser and 360 = best format to completely show a home (space, flow, rooms, etc...). I am not saying that one is better than the other. I am just saying that they are different marketing and advertising tools.

    I am also saying that in our current situation, a good quality 360 for most homes is a very appropriate marketing and advertising tools.

  19. Left off two companies of great importance that we love: Tour Tracks and Real Tour Vision.
    We find that people don't really need the expense of 3D, but love the skins that create a single website look using video/and stills.
    We have been a leader in 360 with nodal ninja since the product was first produced.
    We love the idea that it is coming back into fashion!

  20. As the founder of a community of 27,000 3D/360 virtual tour service providers in 135 countries - and long-time fan of Photography for Real Estate – I have noticed the PFRE story arc on 3D/360 has gone from total skepticism to oh my gosh, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused real estate agents to ask for / demand 24/7 Open House Virtual Tours.

    Even if you decide to pull the trigger on buying a 3D or 360 camera, it may be helpful to know that your camera of choice may be as hard to find as a 30 pack of Charmin Ultra Soft. For example, you may be hard pressed to find a new RICOH Theta Z1. And, Matterport has a two week backlog in the United States and longer in Europe and Asia (as of 15 April 2020).

    Real estate agents will likely always want/afford photos and video before considering a virtual tour. That said, it’s likely – during the pandemic – some of your real estate agent clients are desperate for a virtual tour and you may still be hesitant to put your toe in the water.

    Before investing in the gear and time that it takes to get up to speed – because you still believe 3D/360 is a fad – you might consider partnering with a Matterport Service Provider that does not shoot photos or video. You will know when the number of referrals that you make to a Service Provider justify the investment.

    You can find a Matterport Service Provider using the locator map in our Community. If you are ready to Add On virtual tours, here are three suggestions:

    1) pick the 3D/360 platform first. If your clients are asking for Zillow 3D Home, iGuide or Matterport, that’s an easier decision than researching the 130+ 3D/360 virtual tour hosting software/platforms;
    2) then pick the camera. The platform that you choose may narrow down the camera options from the more than 50 3D/360 cameras; and
    3) look for a camera that has an API as a feature because hosting platforms such as Zillow 3D Home, RICOH Tours and Matterport use the API to make the workflow easier, faster and seamless.

    In her post, Tracy asks the question, “... should we just wait out until things get back to normal?” And, concludes with, “My take on this is that 360 is here to stay.”

    As a result of the pandemic, some real estate agents that we all thought would never in a million years embrace new technology – have! And, enough real estate agents and brokers will continue to seek 24/7 Open House Virtual Tours for professional real estate photographers to justify offering this Add On.

    The train is leaving the station. Will you be on it?

  21. I wasn't a fan of 3D tours previously, but this last month has changed everything. Looking at current samples at Matterport's site, I see pretty good color and decent dynamic range, for these window views. Definitely better than DSLR video done with no accessory lighting. Yes, it doesn't rely on traditional photography skills, but that's beside the point.

    It's all about competing with the two biggest tour operations in my city, both of which offer five or six tech options to display a house, including stills, drone, floorplans, video and 3D. Imagine being an agent who has to explain to a nervous seller that he doesn't offer this, or that, or that new 3D thing they've been hearing about. At worst, the agent loses that listing... or he has to call in another provider after you've come by for your high-quality stills.

    As for those who think this will all blow over and the business will go back to normal, what exactly would make that happen? We need some combination of mass testing and a vaccine or successful treatments before there's a reason to move freely again, and none of those things seem fast in coming. By then, 3D tours will be as common as video, and there will be no reason to abandon them.

  22. One other thing to consider is the sudden popularity of cellphone video, shot by the agent in real time. I've seen this mentioned at least twice in my usual sources (NYT, Wash Post). Buyers enjoy the interactivity of it, instructing them to go back, show that room again, etcetera. This costs the agents nothing. If the quality isn't up to our professional levels, that might not matter. Look at cable TV's perennial favorite, "House Hunters." Their video quality is horrible, but folks watch it happily.

    If that's so, then I have my doubts that professional video will be so competitive, especially during a recession. But 3D tours require specialized equipment and some training. Someday it will probably be just a phone app, but not yet! Therefore, I'm leaning towards 3D over video.

  23. This has been a great discussion regarding what to do during this phase of your business due to COVID. I don't find some of the platforms listed desirable as the comparable quality is unbalanced between what I produce and what Matterport produces as an example. I like the idea of creating the images I normally produce so it gets a buyer interested in further investigation into the property. This will then tee up the agents to do the live walkthroughs with their phones etc. What better way to create stronger relationships and discuss the sales points in person? Every photographer has their own skills and expertise so there really is no one solution.

    Stay safe and healthy everyone!

    Ethan

  24. Obviously like many others here I have been thinking about this lately... Regarding 360 technique using a DSLR—has anyone tried using the 17mm TS-E for 360's? I'd need to buy something to get it to the nodal point, but I would rather not spend money on a fisheye lens. If not 17mm, what would be a good focal length to use? Can rectilinear lenses be used?

  25. "Buyers enjoy the interactivity of it, instructing them to go back, show that room again, etcetera. This costs the agents nothing."

    The agent still has to go to the house to be there to send the images/video and if the home is occupied, they have to make arrangements with the people there. Any recorded medium means only one visit to capture the media. Most people would feel better if they weren't having somebody else coming and going. They don't know how serious that person is being about hygiene and healthly practices.

    Some areas are completely locked down so virtual video tours aren't an option.

  26. Dan Smigold,

    I just read, in Inman News, that Matterport just had a round of layoffs. Is Matterport growing in popularity?

  27. Virtual tours were a thing years ago but were expensive and cumbersome (Pano2VR etc) and not many realtors would pay for the cost. Then Google made them a commodity, and now inexpensive gear and hosting sites coupled with easy to use apps allow photogs to add 3D to the shoot at minimal cost and time.
    Seems to be the way of the drone. At the start drones were not that common or easy to use. Now DJI has made them a commodity, and realtors don't care if the pilot has a 107 or not. Heck many agents have there own pocket drone! It is easy for the photog to add a few quick aerial stills to the shoot for minimal cost and time. (yes I have a 107 - am a licensed pilot, not looking for a 107 debate here.)
    Funny, have not had a 3D request for years until Covid, but these new requests are not for houses, they are for retail storefronts who want to have a walk through video. To be honest I knew nothing about the Ricoh cameras or Kuula-like hosting sites prior to these requests. I purchased a Theta V and will add to my list of services. Will upgrade to Z or whatever is next if I see the demand.
    Amazing for less than $400 I can add easy 3D to my services!

  28. It took watching the PFRE Cares webinar as well as a fair amount of discussion with a few other photogs I respect to get me to add 360 to my order form.

    I feel that video is superior, but ultimately, what I think... that doesn’t matter.

    There will be customers that you can get all their future business (photos/video/drone/etc) simply because you make it known that you do 360 tours and they want that. Right now. Today. Maybe more important though...offerimg 360 services may PROTECT one of your current customers from LEAVING you because they are looking for 360 and end up landing with a competitor who offers it when you don’t.

    A customer that “only” spends $1,000 with you in a year’s time has a $20,000 lifetime customer value over 20 years of serving them. So a Theta Z1, stand, portable USB charger/cable, and lifetime Cloudpano subscription will be less than $2,000. So if you lose ONE customer because you refuse to offer 360 services and they want it....

    ....you just lost 10x the amount of money it would have cost to buy the kit. If you lose two customers over it? ***Ouch!***

    That being said, I just did my first project with the Theta Z and Cloud Pano and I found it to be majorly frustrating.

    It took hours to export the DNG raw files and then edit and export them. Then it took a mind-numbingly long time to set up the tour in Cloudpano. The problem is that you have to connect every room to all the other adjacent spaces the viewer could click on. Manually. For every single position where you put the camera to do a capture. In fact...it’s very easy to make a mistake and create a situation where a viewer clicks and ends up IN a room...but you failed to put a clickable hot spot so they can get out. Now they are trapped!!!

    And Zillow 3d? Same problem. I get the notice that it’s in the cloud and go check it out and the rooms are not properly connected. So you got to reconnect them all again. Every room to every adjacent room and back again. So nobody gets trapped.

    God help us if we ever think we can do this long term.

    I am training my wife to do the editing of my stills as we speak. I realized I was spending more on off-shore editing than she was making at her teaching job. So time to train her up, bring her home, and fix that. Naturally then my thought was...

    “Just shove this 360 tour creation busy work off onto her.”

    But I am actually going to pay her the same money I am paying my Vietnam editor. And at that point it all clicks together...

    Once you realize you are going to pay SOMEONE to do the post processing of your 360 tours...then question becomes “WHO is the best choice for that?”

    I honestly don’t think having my wife do it is the best plan. It will melt her brain just as much as mine. Ultimately I think that the best long-term solution is...

    iGuide

    It’s fast on-site. They don’t have stupidly oppressive policies of how many “active” 3d tours you can have up and running (who has time to check to see if homes sold so you can archive them in Matterport’s control panel?). The quality is top notch. And you get all the extra goodies like a floor plan to hand to agents and upgrading your 360 tour to have a floor plan running while people View the tour online.

    That seems to be the best choice right now. I just don’t have $3,700 to buy in at the moment. So I’m going to use my current Theta Z1 setup until I have the coin to buy the expensive iGuide camera and then will likely make the switch.

    As to customers? I think that there are enough in most major metro areas to support as many photogs as want to go through the trouble and expense of firing 360 up in their business. Because not everyone will. We can see that here. Lots of people not “catching the vision”.

    I think we’ll just see customers start self-assigning themselves into two groups. One group will be the customers who want all the shiny objects like video and/or 3d tours and will be willing to pay for it. These agents will almost surely be motivated PRIMARILY by using these as tools as “bullets in their marketing gun” to win more listings. They will care very VERY little if the video/360 tour will actually help get the home sold or not. They don’t buy it for that.

    They buy our premium services to win listings. Period. That’s the purpose of hiring us. We are their Death Star super laser that blows the competition away for them so that they can get listings. Sure, you could hyperspace all around the galaxy in the Death Star and tour the universe. But that wasn’t what it was built for. And agents who consistently pay for “everything and the kitchen sink” are happy for the fringe benefits they get from having photo/video. But that’s not what they are REALY spending the money for.

    Then, once they GET the listing....Then they are gonna sell the house. If NOBODY watches the video or ever clicks on the tour...they’re gonna “do whatever it takes” to sell the house anyway. Because that’s what they do. They’re good at it. Which is why in their mind they can afford to buy “all the bells and whistles” from you or me. Because they have money. That’s the first group. They’re the top 5% of agents. Maybe even 2% in less populated areas.

    The other group that agents will assign themselves to are those who do NOT see value in our premium services. They are the opposite of the Top Tier agents. Instead of seeing video/360 as a super-weapon to win listings....they look at it from a more base level. They actually think about whether it will help them sell the current house...or not.

    Most of the time these people will decide it will not lend them any SIGNIFICANT help in selling the current house. Since they are only focused on the short run, they talk themselves OUT of paying for extras like video or 360. Or heck...even pro-grade PHOTOS. After all....they sold 8 homes last year. With cell phone photos. Apparently paying for PHOTOS (must less video/360) isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, is it? Because they can sell homes without that stuff. They’ve done it just fine before.

    How can you argue with that?

    So these agents talk themselves OUT of paying for premium services. The other kind talk themselves INTO paying for those same services.

    I think the best plan is to choose to cater to one of these customer types or the other. Because both are “right”. They really are. Their approach works for them.

    If you are going to offer more services you need to have a plan to constantly market yourself. There’s not enough Top Tier customers out there willing to pay for more services. You need to fish them out of the (much larger) pool of agents who will NOT pay for video/360.

    On the flip side...if you recognize that there are far FAR more agents who will NOT pay for this stuff in the long run....then it likely is not worth the time or trouble or expense to add it to what you offer. If you lose a few customers to those of us who ARE offering that stuff...who cares? Another 200 agents will get their license this month. And next month. And the month after that. And a year or two after that they will be hiring a photog that is fast and CHEAP and delivers “good enough” quality. In fact...two years ago there was a class of 200 in your state who just got their license and just now...this month...they have “matured”. This will be the month they will realize they need to stop using g cell phone photos and hire someone. Someone like you.

    See? It’s a revolving door. Always people getting out of the business and always people getting in and always people hitting the 2-year mark and deciding that they need to “get serious” and start hiring a pro instead of using the cell phone.

    So for every one customer you lose because you do NOT offer premium video/360 services you could easily gain 2 or 3 new Realtor customers that just this month have crossed their 2-year mark in the business and finally can afford to use something other than cell phone photos.

    If you are trying to attract new customers anyway. Doing nothing and relying on word of mouth doesn’t qualify as “trying to get customers.” I know this from experience.

    So there’s plenty of money to be made selling “more” to a smaller group of customers who are willing to pay more for extra marketing goodies that help them win listings they otherwise would have lost at the kitchen table. Fewer customers...more money per customer. Good business model.

    But the flip side is true too. Tons of people working the low end slinging just run-n-gun photos fast and furious well under the $200 price point. They are making well over $100,000 a year too. So there’s money in selling at lower prices to the larger group of agents who are used to getting their photos for “free” with their cell phone. These people may pay for 360 now...but not for long. Choosing to add it is really more about preserving customer base on this side of the Covid-divide because it IS likely true that these agents will NOT continue to pay for 360 once we’re through all this and out the other side. So all money spent on gear/hosting should be seen as “protection money” to keep your current cards of cheap customers from straying and losing them for life...not so much about adding revenue in the long run.

    In conclusion, I think that the WORST thing any of us could do is to try and be all things to all people. That is where things would start to fall apart. Pick your customer base, pick your path on what you will offer, price accordingly, and go. But don’t waste your time trying to transform customers who are always going to do the mental gymnastics necessary to talk themselves OUT of spending money with you on extra services...don’t spend time trying to convert them. If you want multi-service customers find ways to reach out to them and spend time hunting down THAT kind of customer.

    While it’s true that you can drag a horse to water but not make him drink....it’s even MORE true that you can’t even drag a anti-spending Realtor into giving “serious” consideration to premium services. Much less get them to pay for them. In this business a better prospecting plan to get you in front of better customers will always trump having a great sales pitch and truckloads of enthusiasm to evangelize the army of penny-pinching customers. They simply do not respond to that gospel message in numbers great enough to make it worth your while.

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