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Many Claim that 3D Is a Buzz-Kill

Several readers pointed out a recent article in titled Why 3D Is a Buzzkill.

The article's primary assertion is that "Through it all, quality real estate photography has triumphed over the short-term lure of novelty technologies."

I find the most interesting part of the article as follows:

If no one is buying 3D tours, why do we hear so much about them? The answer is venture capital. Since 2012, the leader in real estate 3D technology has raised more than $66 million in seed money. With that type of cash, it hasn’t been difficult for them to flood marketing channels.

My general feeling has always been that the importance of 3D tours has always been a bit over-hyped but I know from first-hand experience that upper-end listing agents can easily become infatuated with novelty technologies so I've always advised real estate photographers to be careful to analyze their market and competition, and to make sure adequate demand exists in their market before jumping into these new technologies.


25 comments on “Many Claim that 3D Is a Buzz-Kill”

  1. I have owned a matterport camera for over 4 years and I now own a second one. Even if it doesn't bring a ton of business in as far as matterport goes, I get a lot of people that come to me BECAUSE I offer more then one service. I'm a one stop shop and that keeps clients coming even if they dont use all my services they love the fact that if they get a seller who wants matterport, they know immediately who to call.

  2. It would be nice if we could either respond to the post or at the very least, support one another in this group.

    Desmond, I found your comment was rather rude. Aubrey is a very good photographer and is looking out for the client's interest by offering a variety of services. I see nothing wrong with that and know other photographers do the same.

    Please offer constructive feedback or your experience with the topic rather than trying to demean another photographer. We all have different ways of doing things and I believe we are here to learn and share our experiences.

  3. I have to agree with Carolyn ... Desmond's comment was rude. Unfortunately, as women in a male-dominated field, we've come to expect such comments on a regular basis. It's one of the reasons we have a women-only RE Photography group on FB.

    Back to the original topic, I've been doing Matterport tours for over 4 years also. While it's not a huge part of my business, it opens other doors for me since it can be used for far more than just real estate. So it's not for the one-trick ponies out there ... 😉

  4. This article gets several facts flat out wrong. You will need to read the article before reading these comments for them to make sense.

    A realtor client actually sent this to me. I read it with an open mind, but there were several comments that didn't ring true with me. So I decided to do a little digging. I found the following - These comments are posted on the RIS article and are copied from there.

    There are several "challenges" with this article that need to be considered.

    1) 3D movies are an immersive experience that involve distorting the eye's perception to trick the mind. 3D tours are an interactive experience that for most viewers are conducted in 2D on a computer screen. Also, the Science Daily article seems to indicate 21% of participants reported symptoms, not 66%, at least according to my reading:

    "Twenty-one percent of participants reported symptoms while watching the movie in 3D, compared to twelve percent with 2D viewing."

    2) Brokerage ad budgets generally don't include marketing costs for individual homes. Those costs, in my market at least, are born by the agents. While I think the 5% cost might be slightly light, I think the important thing to consider is that the agents usually contract ALL imaging services out to a professional. It's then a value proposition - if I can afford $250 for visual assets in marketing this home, how do I spend the money? If I can get additional services beyond photography, will I invest? (And you CAN get a 3D tour and photos for less than $250)

    3) "Gimmick" or not, 3D tours can be very useful. It's the only medium that allows you to capture content for the tour itself, photos, video, panoramas, and floorplans.

    4) For a listing agent who competes for listings, this can be a powerful technology that helps tham capture the contract. I have several customers that purchase tours because they leverage them on the listing side as part of their comprehensive marketing plan. They pay for themselves on the next sale, not the last.

    5) The 8 second rule. First of all, the "Microsoft Study" was not produced by Microsoft. In Microsoft's consumer behavior presentation, from which this is quoted, they cite a group called "Statistic Brain." This appears to be a fee-based research website. Statistic Brain took their data from a study in 2008 that measured how long people viewed a web page before moving to another. ONLY 25 PEOPLE participated. The median viewing time was 9 seconds. 25% of pages were viewed less, 25% were viewed longer. The import of the study was that if marketers find ways to engage a viewer, they had better do it quickly, but if they do, people will engage longer. It's not that people will only look at your content for 8 seconds. You can find an excellent summary here:

    6) "3D Tours" do not appear to have been included in the NAR buyer survey. The question "in question" appears on page 62 of the survey, and is, paraphrased. "Which of these website features do you find very useful?" Respondents could select as many as they like. Again, "3D Tours" is not on the list (so they couldn't be selected). However "Virtual Tour" finished 4th, in a statistical tie with floor plans. #1 was photos, #2 was written details. In my market, virtual tours and 3D tours are often commingled in MLS listings.

    For the record, I am a real estate photographer. I offer all the sevices discussed in the article, as well as Matterport tours. I think each service has its place, and no one service is always the answer to every problem. However, to dismiss a tool out of hand, or based on "variable" assumptions, Is worth reconsidering.

  5. Wow. It's sad that Desmond feels "a bit confused" by Aubrey's well constructed feedback. Perhaps it would be helpful to point out to Desmond that chipping away at your fellow photographers to protect your own insecurities only results in a public response that may further damage his already fragile ego.

  6. @Glenda - How the heck do you know the sex of either of the posters or if it was related to Aubrey presumed sex???? Get the chip off your shoulder.

    Back on subject, all of us offer at least 2 services to the real estate agents. The first is photographing the homes, the second is helping the agents sell themselves. I believe that The 3D work is more for the latter than the former. When one agent or photographer offers it, if helps them standout. When most of the agent offer it, it is almost worthless. This is all part of marketing, finding what will help you and your clients stand out.

  7. While I don’t use it, I sub my Matterport jobs out to a local mortgage company. Why does a mortgage company have a Matterport? Because they like to be able to offer their agents more than one service because it is attractive. And get this - they don’t charge their agents for it. Why? Because the process takes hours on site, and that is hours of one-on-one time with a seller (who will be buying and will probably need financing) and an agent where they can casually talk and build a relationship to sell their main services. I think it’s really smart, valuable marketing. If someone can afford the camera and make a little money off of it while selling their main services, good for them. Like any good tool it doesn’t matter how you use it as long as it’s working for you!

  8. We just purchased the iGuide System from Canada. I have been waiting for a system that was not Matterport and not a "dollhouse" view but more of what a new home sales would use to showcase their floor plan while viewing the space. We are a team of videographers, FAA Drone pilots, other team photographers and myself where I mainly do the photos and video. Photography to me comes first, but in my region of the Greater Washington DC area there is a ton of competition and all the Big Box Firms have everything, so us smaller folks also need a level playing field and offer the same products as the big firms. One reason I decided to go with iGuide for 3D and Floorpans is that the time is site is cut in half from the Matterport system of scanning the space and time on site is everything. I keep two websites running, one of just my work as myself and a team website that is completely geared for iGuide and the other products we offer. What's nice is that iGuide gives you a template to assist you in converting your website to showcase their system while allowing you to customize the template completely. Their will always be new products and new techie things out there to assist REALTORS in selling their homes, I just want my team to offer the same options as the BIG folks so that we also can grow our business and offer options!

  9. Let me start with this..... Remember when digital photography was a "novelty?"

    This article is rife with some mischaracterizations - 3D movie technologies are not anywhere near the same tech as 3D tours. The "8 second" rule actually indicates how much time you have to CAPTURE attention, not how long someone will look at something, (the actual survey in question involved 25 PARTICIPANTS - not exactly the holy grail of the scientific method.)

    And my favorite -- the NAR survey DIDN'T OFFER 3D tours as a choice in the question referenced in the article. Talking goldfish baking cookies also received zero votes, as it wasn't offered either.

    Regardless of the weakness of the article, 3D technology has the potential to vastly change the home buying experience. We are not too far removed from the day when an agent can log on with a buyer, and take them on several walk through tours at once without ever leaving the comfort of their home. No other tech has the potential to move the bar with regards to time saved and money made. (Yes, I acknowledge that comment is made about EVERY tech. ;))

    Finally, it wasn't until the late 1990's that real estate photography was even a thing. People still bought houses. People will with or without 3D. In a hot market, they will even buy them without pictures. If a tool will survive, it's the marketplace that decides. One way or another we all either get on the bus -- or don't.

  10. Frankly I really don't pay much attention to why something is either being pushed, sold or used. Like with all things to do with real estate photography, whatever works is good. If it doesn't, then don't bother with it. Different markets, different clients all play a factor as do the marketing tools that your clients like or want to use.

    So my feeling is that if it works for you then go for it. Real Estate photography is not a "one size fits all" market. Having added drone photography and video as well as RE video to my still photography, that is as much as my limited mental abilities can handle. I have looked into Matterport at the request of my major client and the one who has the largest turnover and budgets, but when I worked out what I would have to charge and how often it would be used, my client agreed with me that for the added value, it was not worth the cost for either him or me. But this is just my market. We do have agencies that are as far as 45 - 95 miles away who do offer the Matterport technology.

    So I think we should all keep open minds and realize that what might not work for one photographer may well work for another even if providing such offerings are more to please clients than actually sell more properties. Please the clients and allowing the client to gain listing by offering this in their marketing.

    Comes down to what works for you and brings in income.

  11. The buzz isn't/wasn't originating with realtors - it frankly started with Matterport's unrelenting campaign to sell their product. I, and other photographers, and all the realtors I know were BOMBARDED with solicitations from Matterport, daily, weekly, yearly... They seemed to have a goal that their 3D product should be presented as indispensable, and of course, as realtors are always looking the the next best way to get buzz, the math is there for that pursuit to come to fruition.

    But, as an early participant in the Matterport tours, I felt they were gimmicky and might be short-lived. I found it fascinating that a house could be scanned, but I also felt it was a cosmetically challenged process for obvious reasons - scans have limitations, even photography has limitations... it's why we come on here everyday to find solutions, why we blend ambient and flashed frames by hand... you can't get that from a scan. To inspire home sales, the presentation needs to be breathtaking, and 3D tours JUST AREN'T. They have actually outlived my projection.

  12. My wife is a RE/MAX broker...I do the media production. We've used Matterport since it was first introduced and I'm on my second camera now. It was a simple decision for us - sellers love the technology. Getting listings are the key to a successful RE brokerage business. Wish you could be in the room when I put a VR headset on a seller and tell them this is what we'll do when we market your home...

  13. While I don't think 3D technology will replace professional photography any time soon, it does have its place in Real Estate Marketing and to ignore it is a mistake. Yes, adoption is on the slow side compared to professional photography as a whole. However, in certain high priced markets where agents are competing for listings, they offer the 3D service to show additional value and get the listing. It is however in addition to, not in place of professional photography similar to drone and video.

    Part of the reason for slower adoption is the cost of the 3D service which is a direct result of the cost of the equipment and hosting. In the technology world of smaller, cheaper, faster that will change over time. As it does, you’ll see the service become more popular and move down market into lower priced homes.

    As far as Internet home shoppers having an 8 second attention span, I agree.... First they want to see photos and floor plans in order to screen through listings quickly… However, once interested, who wouldn’t want to see a detailed 3D tour of a prospective home? To that end, you'd also want to have all these different medias in one place under one link, like this

    For the reasons mentioned above, professional photography is here to stay and is no less important than it was 10 years ago. The question for all photographers wanting to offer one stop shopping to their agents is not if, but when they get in… For those of you serving agents in higher end real estate markets it’s now or soon and for those of you in middle tier markets, it might be closer then you think.

  14. I bought the Matterport camera more as a defence mechanism than anything. Someone came in from out of market pushing this new technology and it got my clients excited so rather than them having to go elsewhere I made some calls and asked a few key clients if they would use the service and what they would be comfortable paying for it. The general consensus was that they wanted it so I bought the camera. Over three years it paid for itself almost tenfold and I was able to sell it for 60% of the original purchase price so it ended up being a very worthwhile venture. In the past year residential realtors lost interterest in it but the rental companies love matterport as it allows them to screen the tire kickers and save time showing rental units.

    As Cindy did, I'm looking at the iGUIDE system now to use in a commercial/industrial application as it has less limiting features on the size and type of property that can be scanned. If I move forward with iGUIDE I'll do a follow-up article detailing my experience.

  15. WOW! I LOVE any post about 360° It sets the board afire! I'd like to address two topics:

    Come on ya be nice! This is knowledge exchange. I want to learn about your business and what works for you. I love the generous gift a commenter shares when they take the time to post it here. Thank you, I appreciate you sharing your knowledge with me.

    Personally, I LOVE 360°s ANY platform, ANY CAMERA. I do admit to not enjoying the presentation where I cannot control movement it with my mouse or finger. However, it's about engagement, a memorable interaction with the product (your photography) and the home. We get positive feedback from

    Homeowners: it's just candy to them.

    Buyers: Level of engagement, they are captivated by the interaction!

    My Clients, Agents: The Immersive Virtual Tour lands on photos, menu click to load 360° slideshow and video; information all in one place. We provide Downloadable equirectangular images that can be natively uploaded to Facebook and "Spin". The impact is great on the feed.

    Here's a story: Home I shot wasn't getting much attention. Agent asked us to see what we could pull out of our bag of tricks to give her marketing a boost. We created an animated 360° virtual tour using theta and Pano2VR. She added the animated 360° Virtual tour to her Listing in the MLS and let it syndicate out to Zillow and In 24 hours she had 12 saves on Zillow, and the house sold shortly thereafter. She feels it was the 360 tour that did the trick.

    The 360 VT may be a buzzkill on some platforms. Try different platforms until you get what makes you and YOUR client happy. Key things to look for are:
    Fast loading images, easy to understand navigation, and MLS syndicatable paths.

    MLS photographs are the foundation of my business because they are ubiquitous, reproduced in all marketing materials my client uses - and I am in the business of marketing! 360s are a completely digital medium, they are not robbing a thing from my business or industry - I'm tickled by the technology. Imagine, in a few years we may be delivering holograms- now that's exciting. I'm not looking towards the day when a brokerage sends an automated drone over to scan a home, or uses a telepresence robot to show the home online to buyers in real-time.

  16. Yes, it reminds me of 3D movies, where we do see a flurry of them sometimes. Yet, even though the technology is there, the more time honored format of screening movies prevails, for whatever reason.

    Btw, I refer people with questions to Aubrey's Facebook and website all the time. Nobody runs a real estate photography business better in my opinion. Her success speaks for itself.

  17. @Andrew, you're truly one of a kind. I admire you and your dedication to your passion, your knowledge and skills are second to none.

    I wish you and every one else on this comment page (including desmond) a Happy Holidays!

  18. While the article is oversimplified, it does address issues of how transitive technology is. As reading it, couldn't help thinking of my Panasonic Plasma TV with 3D capability...and the glasses that are gathering dust due to lack of content. Plus my wife could never use them as she is part of the population that can only see in 2D which is one group that marketing excludes. While I review Matterports site from time to time, I will say they have improved in quality, but as a solo photographer, there is not the demand to justify, not only the camera cost, but the ongoing $49/mo for hosting. Essentially with only 1 enquiry every two to three months, it is not financially viable - but more important is the ability to reply to the enquiry using some of the issues addressed in the article but also what you offer and why superior. While I tent to push for true video (not mp4 slideshow) if insistent on Matterport, can offer similar with Roundme hosting of interlinked 360's creating walkthrough experience...but didn't renew my $99/yr Roundme account this year due to lack of demand. That lack of (or overestimating) demand also seems to be the issue with Matterport based on Ebay comments with most of the 13 cameras currently on sale and the 59 sold in the last 3 months. Offering 360's is really a business decision, but if they have the money for Matterport, that same money would buy a video. The advantage with video is that you (the Realtor) controls the message where the Matterport experience allows them to control, even to the point checking out the dust on the baseboard (and exaggeration). Not addressed in the article but a given is wanting the prospect to actually visit the property. Both video and Matterport take you past 1st base as the click on the link...but given the information presented, which is most likely to get you thrown out at 2nd base. Remember, people vising open houses, around 97% don't like it and part of the reason Realtor's with buyers will narrow down a search to 10 properties, figuring they will discard 90%. Matterport (and 360's in general) tell so much that they gain the information to discard without leaving their desk, if for no other reason than not liking the floorplan layout which is not that apparent in still photos or lifestyle video.

    Given the above, perhaps awkwardly, but Desmond actually asked a very valid question. "Are you a RE Photographer or a shop owner offering all and sundry?" The answer is BOTH, and those that hopped all over him need to take a step back and look around. Aubrey's initial post was in the context of a business person, but her business, and subsequent perspective, is significantly different from mine and other's business mode. All it takes is reviewing her website. In addition to being a photographer, she owns the company which employs 5 other photographers and 6 administrative/support including a person for staging and another for editing. Owning one or two Matterport cameras to share between herself and 5 photographers as required is a totally different economic model than that of the solo RE Photographer. Kudos to Aubrey for building that business, but there is the need to keep it in perspective as the application is not universal.

  19. Interesting comments here...
    I will say this- As the owner of what I like to think of as a "one stop shop", we do offer Matterport. I have found that new offerings need to be pushed to grab a toehold and that you have to be patient if you want your investment to bear fruit.

    In 2017 we did about 5.5 Matterports per month, this year it is up to 17 per month. Not bad, despite the fact that we have done a poor job of promoting it and informing agents about the benefits. Onward and upward.

  20. While I personally dislike 3D tours, I do see the value in some respects. If one is ONLY offering still photography, many, many buyers really want to see the flow and layout of the home, which still photos do NOT convey at all. 3D tours can fill that hole in that regard.

    My issue, from a video perspective, is that a walkthrough video can do EXACTLY the same thing. It costs the same or even less to the agent, it takes far less time on site than scanning a property, and it is a much nicer viewing experience for a buyer (press ONE button and sit back.... vs. press your mouse 4000 times to try and navigate through the property... and hope it works correctly or you'll end up in the basement bathroom accidentally with no way to return to where you thought you were.....)

    I have had very little problem convincing people to use video rather than Matterport when asked... Having said that, I am considering either Matterport or iGuide for the upcoming year JUST so I have it in my arsenal. I'm potentially bringing on someone who will ONLY do those jobs, as I personally do not have the time nor the desire to do it myself, in additional to just not liking the technology personally.

    The upside (and big downside) to this technology is it takes little to no skill on the part of the provider/ operator. It's easy to hire someone to do it, but also easy for ANYONE to do it, including agents whose office has purchased the camera and let agents use it for free. As a businessperson, that is NOT something I want to compete with. At least video takes more equipment, more skill and more knowledge, which eliminates much of the DIY competition out there.

  21. The best nuggget of info on this entire page is housed within Sharon’s comment. That application of the technology as a sales tool for mortgage brokers is gold. Every mortgage broker should be doing that exact same thing. It’s money in the bank.

  22. Larry,
    You can surely appreciate that Roundme does not produce the same “feeling” when navigating a space as compared to Matterport, iGuide, Google Street View Cars, or Cupix (my company) which match either scan data or pixels to provide “natural” 3D transitions. Manually placed 360 photos, like a Roundme tour, is not equivalent.

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