Peter 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:
- 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.
- 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;
- 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.
- 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.