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Are 3D Virtual Reality Tours Practical for Real Estate?

Published: 28/07/2017

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Dave in California says: (RTV) is now into offering 3D Virtual Reality Tours. I bought approx. $450 worth of software to do the same thing called 3D Vista before I did a survey of approximately 25 agents. None of them would purchase the tours based on not wanting to subject their clients to wearing headsets, the cost of headsets, or taking them to their office to view them. Sanitary concerns were also brought up about wearing the headset. They did not want to mail a cheap or otherwise headsets to out of town clients and links to these 3d tours.

This is not saying no one will ever buy them but those whom I've talked to could not be talked into letting me do the first tours FREE. It all comes down to the headsets even though there are so many styles that can be offered. Perhaps mini sunglasses size might help.

Several clients said what about a male agent handing a female buyer a head set that will block her ability of seeing what the male agent was looking at or doing. It is frightening to ladies to make themselves vulnerable by wearing the headsets.

I am very interested if any of your readers have broken the barrier that I ran into while offering Virtual Reality Tours.

There have been people talking about and promoting the idea of 3D virtual reality tours for a long time. I've always thought it was a ridiculous idea for all the reasons your clients raise. This is just not going to be a useful technology for real estate. Gaming yes. Real estate no! In the past, it has always been considered "cool new technology" but this technology is just not practical for real estate.

Update 7/29: This post is referring to home tours that require virtual reality goggles to view.

Larry Lohrman

27 comments on “Are 3D Virtual Reality Tours Practical for Real Estate?”

  1. I'm not surprised with Dave's experience. Realtors want to be up to date - but don't want to use/offer anything complicated.

    Last week I had a long term busy client ask me about Matterport (I've been dreading this). I'd rather keep improving my videos and add some voice overs and walk-through video and other upgrades so clients can personalize
    them and promote themselves. Videos are more pleasing to watch vs 3D tours, show the buyer everything they need to know, and are quick to view without spinning and clicking the 'show' - same reason I dropped 360's and promote video.

    I told this very nice client that the one function Matterport camera is 5k, plus hosting, take 45 min per scan, and most of my clients don't want to pay for the service.
    The bottom line for most clients is they are fun to watch/use the first time and after that to slow/too much work to view.

    The client is stuck on trying it for a few to see if listings sell faster - so he will get someone in just for the Matterport scans. I'm hoping our long and excellent working relationship will not end due to Matterport (after shoots he always calls or texts to tell me how great the stills and video are. He does market his Vancouver listings to some foreign investors so I understand his thinking on VR.

    Is anyone losing clients to others that offer Matterport and other 3D tours?

  2. I understand the issue with wearing headsets and the pros/cons of VR in general, but it has it's uses (especially overseas buyers as mentioned).
    A reasonable compromise is to view the VR tour on a smartphone or iPad - they can turn themselves/the smartphone around to view different directions etc, choose which room to fly into, but are not closed-off/blind to current environment nor vulnerable.
    Others who do have headsets themselves can watch at home - the headsets or glasses will likely become much more common in households, much as computers/iPads etc are...
    I also prefer normal video, but still think this will become a common tool for certain situations.

  3. I work with several builders and architects who love love love the Matterport VR Experience. They still do not use it to it's full potential but I am working with them. It may be to blaze to trail for my next competitor. My Real Estate agents have been a bit slower to adapt though a few always want to be on the cutting edge no one wanted to use the headsets (rubs off ladies make up) UNTIL I got rid of the head straps. They hold the viewer in place.

  4. I have had great success with 3D. I am shooting about 5 per week which adds another $1000 - $1500 to my bottom line each week. I am offering Planitar iGuide 3D tours. which also include a 2D floorpan so that the agents no longer need to get out their tape measures. I looked at Matterport first and saw it was way too expensive and didn't leave enough profit on the bone after you consider the time it takes to scan and the fees they charge for hosting, they are advertising that it is a replacement for professional photographers and selling straight to realtors and for the most part the end users really don't like the interface.

    To be profitable in this industry I have found the best way is offer more choices in products. This is working out great for us. We have upped the price of our shoots by adding things like 3D. Here are the extra things we have added to our menu and the results have been great:

    Unique property URL
    additional photo packages (we don't shoot unlimited photos...if you want more than a package we will sell those to you)
    house preparation (houses are either shoot ready when we get there now or they pay for us to rearrange and move things around)
    teaser social videos
    agent narrated videos
    script writing for video
    curb appeal video
    premium lifestyle video
    zillow walkthrough video
    Facebook property post
    Facebook monthly posts
    facebook page setup
    instagram page setup
    home staging
    home design assessment
    home decorating
    photo retouching (beyond the regular no more "can't you just photoshop the cat out of the photos)
    over a certain milage drive time fees
    MLS upload service
    weekend fee

    these are all on our order form and you would be surprised how many of these the agents click and pay for. we sold almost none of these until we put them in a click to add situation on our site and for whatever reason they feel more likely to order if they are making that choice rather than being sold on it.

  5. Most of these 3D tours have viewers for your computer and mobile devises so a VR headset is not needed. I know that's the case for Matterport, not sure about RTV...

    Some really big players getting into the 3D space, Google just to name one and they have a viewer for computer and mobile as well.

    At the end of the day I think it comes down to price and right now 3D is on the pricey side... Like everything else in technology, 3D over time will become cheaper, faster and smaller so the price barrier will go away. Most agents will not only do a 3D tour, they are going to need professional photography as well so they can effectively market their listings on the MLS and other real estate portals, which are all photo based. In this instantaneous society of ours, people go online and want to screen homes quickly, they do so by rifling through photos.. So, they still need professional photography to grab the attention of a potential buyer and once interested they will take the time to go through a 3D tour.

    Having said all this there are a few things we need to keep in mind.
    - Some agents looking to land higher end listings are going to promise all sorts of things to the seller to get the listing. If they offer Matterport or any other 3D product and you can't provide it you might be left out in the cold. That will likely not be in case in lower priced home markets but it will be in places like Seattle and NYC where homes are going for $1.0M plus..
    - What if you can get good quality stills out of a 3D scan? That could change the game and I would bet as 3D cameras improve that gap will get filled too. Now you get 3D and stills in one package at the same price.
    - There are some agents out there who have purchased these 3D cameras and do the work themselves or have someone on staff who does. Since these are basically set and move it cameras they don't require a particular eye or skills set and this becomes a threat as well... There will however always be agents who can't be bothered and want it done for them.

    Bottom line in my mind is 3D is something that will likely not go away and is going to be less expensive over time... The adoption curve for higher price markets will come sooner and the lower priced markets later.
    The million dollar question is when do you get in and that depends on what agents and consumers in your given markets expect and what agents are willing to pay for.

    Going to be interesting to see how all this plays out but if I were a photographer in a high end market, I'd be keeping a close eye on it right about now and jump in when your market and agents start asking. The longer you can wait the better since this technology is still improving and the price point for cameras and hosting services will move down in time as well.

  6. @gerry - I agree with this and to add to it...I am on the advisory board for Zillow's photography/videography program and without reviewing too much, you will see something new from the big player in this 3D world as well. You will see this being tested within the next couple of weeks.

  7. The advantage that the 3d/ headset is having it at open houses. Our agents have them on site and say a customer walks through and they are looking for something that has different features than the house they are in, they can put on the headset and be inside the other properties they have listed immediately. This is working great for them. Also, as I said earlier, when Zillow releases a new product in the near future, they are banking on people using the VR headsets as well. The younger agents/buyers are taking to this technology faster than the ones that are older.

  8. Just another gimmick. Can anyone show us where the profit will be for business? The math just does not add up for RE business. The amount of time, effort, expense and training would make this an expensive option. Can anyone see an agent paying the amount it would take for you to make a profit?

    Sharing head gear? Just like sharing used socks.....not going to do it.

  9. @Jerry, like i said I have added $1000 - $1500 per week profit to my bottom line. if that is a gimmick, please sign me up for more gimmicks. It took me 45 minutes to learn how to use the 3D camera. It takes 45 minutes to scan a property and it adds a ton of profit and increases margins a ton.

  10. 3D and 360 are two different things. 3D requires a headset and 360 doesn't. 360 has a much broader application due to the reasons stated above, mostly that it doesn't require the use of goggles. In my opinion, 360 views tours are FAR superior to single view pictures! There is no question that one would have a better feel of the house if they are able to stand in a spot and dynamically change their view. I can get a better perspective as to the layout of the kitchen and dining room and the flow of the floor plan. It's intuitive. For this reason, I think it's a matter of time before 360 views completely replace photos.

    With that being said, the real estate industry is extremely slow to change with times. I've seen a resistance to adopt 360 views because the agents in my area are cheap, as the real estate is cheap. The cost of these 360 degree tours isn't exactly a $40 add on, no matter which technology you use.

    Though a few people here have mentioned they do a lot of these, I'm sure they do them on fewer than 50% of the homes they are asked to photograph. Hence it is still an add on for most real estate agents.

  11. It's new and different and ultimately the seller will dictate it's future, if they like it everyone will request it. I've just started promoting these and I'm getting positive feedback from agents, sellers and buyers. And no complaints about using the same headset, they just hold them up and don't actually put them on. You can also buy cardboard vr headsets for 1.50 per and give them away instead of sharing. I see it as very affordable for the agent and a nice extra for me.

  12. While a lot of hoopla on 3D as the next big thing, there is a large of people who can't see in 3D. The effect becomes meaningless. We don't go to 3D movies and effect totally lost on her. Likewise, our one 3D TV, when she puts glasses on and notice the lack of programming, notice the lack of 3D features in current tvs as the industry has dropped it. The 2D vision limitation is not that unique as have met quite a few with the same problem.

  13. Every year NAR publishes a list of what marketing gimmicks work to sell houses. Every year Stills are at the top of the list, lots of the other stuff works it way down the list. Some faster than others. I don't expect, make that hope, it's gonna change too much of what I do, or will have to do.

  14. The question I would raise is how many jobs doing a 3D scan takes out of a typical day. Another hour on one site could mean not being able to book another job that day so the charge has to be enough to cover that opportunity. The cost of the equipment is another factor along with post processing.

    Professional still photos are still not widely done in my area so any add on services do not deliver good value to my customers. Even several of the top agents rest on their laurels and just use a staffer to take photos with a cell phone. I've talked with them and they tell me they are too busy as it is and never seem to notice that the highest value properties are being represented by out of town agents that do use professional photography (with their own out of town photographers, dangit).

    If you are in a highly competitive RE market, immersive virtual tours might help bring in more customers and give your business an edge whether they are viewed or not if you might lose clients to somebody else that is offering the service. When I was home shopping, I quickly stopped clicking on videos. They were mostly slideshows of the stills (virtual tour) or nasty cell phone video walk throughs that made me sea sick. I might view a 3D virtual tour once for the novelty but I doubt that I would do it after that. For most markets the agents aren't going to be willing to pay enough to make it worthwhile. I continue to have the same experience with drone images. The agents would like me to offer the service, but they either want the images included or will only pay a very small price ($20-$30). Drone photos don't add a lot more time to a job, but it's still some and might mean dropping an appointment slot here and there to do it which is around $200.

    I rank advertising value as still photos first followed by aerials (where relevant), video, flyers and then everything else. When I do presentations I always emphasize this as I will see agents trying to offer stills, video and flyers that they do (or their staff does) very poorly to "save some money" where they would be much better off skipping the video and flyers and hiring a professional photographer for the stills.

  15. In my opinion, this (matterport) will be the new standard very soon and real estate photography will be a thing of the past. Their new camera, not great images, is a one stop shop. We can argue about it all we want. But, we know most agents are very frugal and it will simply be a race to the bottom on price.

  16. Yes, Matterport has a VR option. But while it's very cool and has a substantial "wow" factor, only a couple of my agents have ever brought a headset to show VR to prospective sellers. The Matterport 3D tour is a much, much bigger selling point. I have realtors who say it's helped them to dramatically increase their listings. I'm a big believer that VR will become a bigger deal down the road, but it's a few years off... at least.

  17. Gerry's correct, "Like everything else in technology, 3D over time will become cheaper, faster and smaller so the price barrier will go away." Whether/when it fits our niche is tbd. However I will point out that this Fall's major Windows update, the Creator release, has a number of modest improvements. The -main- feature is improving 3D support. 🙂

    I would dispute whether Matterport will become a de factor standard. They're enjoying first-comer position, but there are other solutions out there. Working with an engineering services organization, one of the services offered is 3D laser scanning of industrial facilities. A million-square foot facility, including everything in it, with a pleasing 'exposure' level, can be done in about 40-60 hours. The results are astounding: full color, incredible resolution. And, measurements can be taken that are accurate within thousandths of an inch.

    That capability isn't required for selling a home. Interestingly enough, the tools aren't that much more expensive than Matterport. This leads to my expectation that Matterport is a pricey first-comer and they face tremendous competitive pressures themselves.

    Regardless, in my market, there simply isn't demand for this. One niche customer I can see being interested though, are agents selling 7+-figure properties, sight unseen (pardon the pun), to foreign buyers. If I were looking to buy a $10M condo in NY, without visiting, I'd tolerate (ever improving) goggles to save me a 12 hr airplane trip. 🙂

  18. There is no strict requirement for VR headsets when you are talking about 360 VR tours or panoramas. It is very good to have a headset for a real immersion, but you can watch it on your tablet, desktop, phone.

    You can try it at and then you can share panoramas in 360 at facebook, include it (again in 360) on your own site.

  19. I have been playing around with inside maps, they do scans using an iphone and a motorized tripod head that takes pictures and stitches them together. Very time consuming to do but it does end up giving you a 2d floor plan and an interactive 3d tour. The quality is not great but I think it will improve. I'm also a top selling agent and hear a lot of feedback from consumers and the number one complaint I hear about real estate pictures is that you don't get a sense or feel for the layout of the house. I think as time progresses and 3d becomes better and cheaper it will absolutely be what consumers will want to use. We have a large military base here and I know they will love being able to virtually walk around a house before they come on their one week house hunting trip. I think things like Google Carboard will make it very easy for comsumers to use their phone instead of an expensive vr headset and they will be able to walk around houses from anywhere in the world. We are not there yet but it is coming. Here is the latest tour that we did it's embedded at the bottom of the listing:

  20. Matterport is awful and I would never use their "camera". The images are sub par and the technology is bulky, buggy and a fad. 3D never caught on in Hollywood so why do they think it would catch on in real estate? Realtors are looking for an edge to "win" more listings, but in reality the only thing that matters when purchasing a home is the price. You can have the best pictures, video, VR and 3D tour, but that will never sell an overpriced home.

    Matterport wants us to believe they are "filling" a need. They are not filling any need and only putting us out of business with a shitty product.


  21. Well, there is another side of the story - you still have to have pictures. And 360 panoramic pictures work great in small places when otherwise you have to shoot with very short focal. And it also works for 'getting feeling'.

    Why it did not fly for movies is not related to 360 panoramic for RE, IMO

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