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How Many Real Estate Photographers Offer 360 Virtual Tours?

Published: 03/08/2016

SpinatticPeter in Calgary asked the following:

I am curious as to how many Real Estate Photographers offers 360 Virtual Tours to their clients. I'd love to learn more about how to do this (even though I'm not a big fan of it), any suggestions?

The term "360 Virtual Tours" has become a bit fuzzy because there are several different flavors of 360 images:

  1. Just a few years ago the term 360 Virtual Tours had a fairly specific meaning. It meant you shoot a series of wide angle or fisheye shots and stitched them together and displayed them as a spherical image like this. And then you can put them together in a home tour like this. This kind of 360 virtual tour is fairly labor intensive and used to be much more popular than it is now. Its popularity is very localized and related to where there have been big tour companies promoting this media for a long time. Back in 2012 we did a poll that showed that this traditional type of 360-tour was on the decline back then. There are now 360 cameras that eliminate the need for stitching but the demand is still very localized.
  2. In the last couple of years, some new technologies have appeared that can be referred to as 360 tours but are actually quite different than #1.
    • MatterPort: This is a very specific hardware device use in many upper-end markets. We've talked about it here on the blog specifically several times (here) and while it is popular in many upper-end markets only about 27% of users indicated that it was paying for the high investment it requires. It produces a combination floorplan and 360 tour.
    • 360 Video: recently shooting 360 video has become possible and not hugely expensive. We did a post on it here. While this is interesting I don't anticipate it becoming wildly popular. It is sort of gimmicky.

The use of 360 imagery has been driven mostly by real estate agents tending to be attracted by the latest technology gimmicks. I think professionally produced video does a much better job of marketing property than any of the 360 technologies. You just can't beat a well-produced video (like this) for marketing a upper-end property.

So my advice on 360 tours (as someone who has done them for 10 years) is;

  1. If you are going to invest in any of the 360 technologies do it because your clients are requesting it and it's popular in your market. Also, be careful to price so you recover you time and investment.
  2. In general, I think it's a better investment to invest in video than most of the 360 technologies. But be careful, video is much more difficult than still photos or 360 images but in the long run I think it is a more valuable skill for real estate photographers to have.
Larry Lohrman

14 comments on “How Many Real Estate Photographers Offer 360 Virtual Tours?”

  1. Starting out in this field many years ago, before the depression, I did several thousand of these "360" tours as it was all the rage. Once the crash hit, agents dumped this gimmick and focused on stills only. Now with Matterport, and others trying to make a comeback in this type of marketing, all I hear from seasoned agents is "Not that again".

    As Larry indicated, make sure you have a profitable market before you invest in this type of marketing product.

    Honestly, now that the Feds have some standards toward drones, I would go in that direction. Either one is not going to be enough to earn a living, but as a add on product, could be something that adds another 10-20% to your gross

  2. It's becoming easier, faster and more affordable to offer 360º spherical images with the introduction of low cost, 1-click 360º cameras (such as Ricoh Theta S, Samsung Gear 360, Panono, Giroptic, Bublcam, 360cam and still more coming soon).

    We write about these various 360º spherical cameras in the Matterport User Group Forum as an optional extra or solution to bundle with other visual storytelling solutions.

    The Ricoh Theta S (under $350), for example, is a great way to test and learn. With the latest Ricoh Theta S firmware update that includes HDR, the quality comes close to the "old school" fish-eye lens with a rotator head.

    I have been testing various 360º spherical 1-click cameras this week in San Francisco ...

    These were taken with the Ricoh Theta S ...

    These were taken with the Panono ...

    By the end of 2017, expect to see 360º camera solutions that also include a sensor for depth data collection (for creating floor plans, for example).



  3. I'm offering both Real estate photo and 360 Virtual Tours. It has taken a while before the RE agents here in Belgium became interested in 360 VT's. But now with the upcoming 360's VR hype, interest is growing. Here one of my latest tours...

    I keep my tours clear and simple, but normally they work on all browsers, Mobiles (android and Ios) and Tablets. When viewed on mobile, there's a build in VR function (fullscreen button) to see the tour on cardboard or other VR viewer.

    Here an example of a more complex Virtual Tour for a 'to build' hotel complex, with a combination of real world 360's and Computer rendered images:


  4. I have found that the term "360 Virtual Tour" had a bad reputation when I started my business. After looking at a few hundred of the current (at the time) tours, I understood why! My objective has always been to provide my clients with a valuable service, or one that adds value to their business! I studied the market and found that by providing excellent service and excellent products, my customers appreciate me by awarding me their business. I have incorporated panoramas, stills, video, and aerials, into the tours I produce. Today, most of my clients are happy with a standard tour consisting of panoramas and stills at a reasonable fee. I feel that more and more will be moving to drone photography in the near future and I make sure they know I can provide it, (through a private arrangement with a drone operator)!

  5. A well produced video will create an emotional connection with the buyer. This is how we sell homes. As Scott Hargis says, communicate what the property feels like. Matterport and 360 tours are really cool, and you get to see all of the details but I believe a well produced video will actually generate showings (and seller satisfaction). It's like comparing a glamour photo with an X-ray.

  6. I've done Matterport, which is easy to use, but requires about 1hr per 1000sq ft to use. Takes literally no time to post-process. A trained monkey can do it.

    However, the client that was using that service recently passed away, and I'm not interested in doing it any more. Not because it didn't make money, it's just too far under my interests and skill level to have any appeal to me. I did it because he wanted it, not because I wanted to.

    He did get a lot of great comments on it though.

    Make me an offer 🙂

  7. I will be offering this one the Nikon Key mission 360 becomes available in October. I think this is going to be disrupter in the 360 arena. The footage is interactive and will work on Facebook and Youtube.

  8. I got my start in real estate marketing doing 360 degree "virtual tours." I even named my business Three Sixty Images and still use the name today. I primarily focus on stills and video today, but keep a very close eye on the 360 degree video market. I truly believe the market for 360 video will grow very quickly over the next decade. There is a generation of teens and young adults becoming more and more comfortable with VR goggles and that comfort will only grow as the technology gets better. These kids will become real estate buyers some day and will likely have no problem slapping on a pair of goggles to take a "virtual tour" of a home. I'm not saying we should all dive right in, but I think it is important to be able to evolve as technology progresses. I'm excited to see where it goes.

  9. A virtual walk-through of a home with VR goggles would be a cool thing, but without format standards, will all goggles work with all presentations? Or, will several companies try to hold all the cards from production to viewing hardware/software and not interoperate? Something of a down side to any of the current or proposed technologies is that lighting becomes a problem. The entire room needs to be within the dynamic range of the sensor or the images may suffer from the same problems that show up when agents try to use their cells phones or "professional quality" cameras in auto mode; dark interiors and blown out windows.

    I see visual marketing as starting with quality stills, adding video and then adding other types of images (3D, 360, aerial). Most of the aerial stuff that I see suffers from being used on everything whether it adds value or not. Agents will only benefit from going with more than professional still photography when a majority of the listings in their area have quality stills. It's always a balance to use the marketing budget in the most optimum way and if all it takes to gain a client is to offer to bring in a professional photographer, there is no need to also bring in a videographer, aerial platform, add twilight photos and 3D too.

  10. My opinion: Spherical walk throughs (360's, 3D's) should be a standard. Those musical virtual tours (video's, slideshows) are separate marketing tools not to be compared to the walk-throughs.

    Anyway, just following this post.

  11. Does anyone review the Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers Report produced annually by NAR? This report prepared by interviewing thousands of buyers and sellers asks buyers what information is most important when shopping for a home. Number One has always been photos. The top spot is now shared with detailed property information. Virtual Tours have consistently been number two / three for the past 5 years. Video has consistently been number eight / nine on the list. The study does not define Virtual Tour but does indicate that this portion of the property presentation is important to buyers.

  12. It's hard for me to accept the idea that 360 is a new technology, as it was used some decades ago and was, in my experience, loathed by agents. Today it feels like you've pulled out your 3D ViewMasters to see some Disney scenes, a bit tired and at best nostalgic and still loathed.

    Matterport is quite far removed from the static 360 inasmuch as you can move through an entire space seamlessly, unlike the 360 views. A world of difference in my experience. It's difficult for agents to understand the difference in these technologies until they have seen a Matterport demonstration, so it can still be a tough sell to established agents.

    Videos are great, but time consuming to create and produce and often too expensive outside the luxury market, assuming we're not talking about just a walkabout video.

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