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New Strategic Partnership Aims to Enhance Real Estate Marketing

Published: 19/02/2020
By: Brandon

Given the seemingly increasing numbers in our community offering tours and floor plans as part of their service offering mix, I thought you might be interested in a recent announcement stating the partnership between RICOH Tours and CubiCasa.

Some of you may know that RICOH Tours offers “mobile-first” virtual tours and that Cubicasa is a real estate data and technology company specializing in floor plans. The press release highlights a recent finding from the National Association of Realtors survey, stating that “90% of home buyers searching online for properties, rank floor plans and virtual tours highest as the 'very useful' features.”

This post is not an endorsement of either organization of course; it simply marks a desire to share industry-related news that has the potential to impact our community.

20 comments on “New Strategic Partnership Aims to Enhance Real Estate Marketing”

  1. I'd believe that statement. Floorplans allow buyers to know the flow of a home before they see it in person. If you have a young family you want the master bedroom near the others. And if you have teenage kids you want them far away. It also allows you to easily see how you can renovate a home to better suit the buyer eg adding a lift, or opening up a home. My agents love floor plans because it significantly reduces people walking in a home and walking out in 2 minutes because the home wasn't suitable (mainly for the reasons above).

  2. I believe the statement. I have researched the report from NAR, actual home buyers were given a survey after their purchase and floor plans ranked #3 right before virtual tours (360) at #4. The only things that out ranked them were picture at #1 and the property description at #2. I am a licensed real estate broker but I don't sell anymore, my wife however is an active real estate agent and she agrees also.

  3. I agree with Jerry on this. I closely follow industry analytics and statistics. Virtual tours are on a slow decline and Matterport is nearly finished. None of my 300 clients have ever asked for floor plans. The market is hot right now, so this type of marketing isn't required to get the home sold. Photos and Video are the leading marketing tools at the moment.

  4. Ricoh also has “relationship” with Zillow. If we include a Zillow 3D tour with our listing, it gets top ranking on their site when buyers search for homes. I’ve been a Matterport user since the beta days...and we still get excellent feedback from sellers during a listing presentation. In fact, it’s one reason many of them were referred to us. While I agree that photo/video still dominates the media assets for marketing, it would be wise not to ignore the development of 360/VR/AR.

  5. Jerry and CA, keep in mind that the photographers here are from markets all over the world. In the New York City floor plans are all but required. In the 30-50 mile radius around NYC, floor plans have become more popular than ever before. While your local markets may not call for plans, many do.

  6. Full disclosure here, I work for FloorPlanOnline so you know where I'm coming from but I'll try not to be too self serving 🙂

    I'm pretty confident people who are shopping for homes would like to see a floor plan in addition to photos... In the Zillow study, 84% of consumers ranked floor plans extremely or somewhat important, professional photography was 77% and video 51%. Not sure what they would have ranked photographs since the question was posed as "professional photography" but lets apply some common sense here and assume photos would have ranked higher since you really can't screen a home without them. The NAR report proves that out since 87% of consumers ranked photos important and 52% for floor plans, they did not ask about video so we'll have to go with the Zillow numbers.

    No denying that video is hot right now and lots of agents asking for them but as a consumer and someone who is currently on the market for a home the survey results make sense to me. I don't have the patience to sit through a video... In this instantaneous society of ours, consumers want to be able to see what they want to see and do it quickly and it's hard to do that with a video. Photos and floor plans gives you a pretty quick indication if a home is right for you... Photos get you part way there but after looking at the photos the next thing you try to do is figure out what rooms are where and the lay out of the home. After that will they watch a video? Yes but you want to scratch their basic itches first.

  7. Interesting read! I have been working with Full Frame recently and one of their services is custom property websites with the option to embed any virtual tour, 3D tours, floor plans, etc. There has definitely been an increase in agents utilizing this option, so I can absolutely get behind the claims that the article is making!

  8. While the tech around floor plans and 3d tours is neat, I have the same objection to both. That is, when I provide a set of photos or a cinematic video to the agent, that agent and I effectively curate the potential buyer's experience of the home in a way that will lead to more showings. Have you ever seen a detail shot of a toilet?...nether have I. However, with 3D tours you can walk right up to it and give it a good once over. Not the experience I want potential buyers to have. This argument is less powerful against floor plans, but still pertains.

    Let's not forget that we are sales people as much as we are photographers. Portrait photographers need to satisfy the client and that's typically sufficient. We however regularly have millions of dollars riding on our photos being able to get warm bodies through the door to smell the garden, experience the neighborhood, see the morning light come across the breakfast room, ect. I, for one, am not going to show people toilets.

  9. If you show the potential buyer too much of the property, they have no reason to contact a Realtor and schedule a showing. Getting the potential buyer into the property with the Realtor is what we should all be trying to achieve.

    I do have some rental/VRBO/Airbnb clients that request floorplans and I'll give FloorPlanOnline an upvote.

  10. Our job is to give the agent what they want. How many homes have you gone photographed that a floor plan would help a potential buyer better understand the home? There are other reasons why an agent would want a floor plan also. IMO, if you don't offer them, it's because you don't want to do them. Just another chance for your competition to steal a client of yours.

  11. Caveat emptor: Floor plans are a great marketing tool, make sure you can get them where they need to be, in the hands of buyers. I'm a big fan of both Ricoh's one-click 306° cameras and love Cubicasa's service and product. The tours need syndication via MLS to be viable, verify your market's MLS path requirements! iGuide and Matterport tours and the wealth of other tour providers support 360 and Floorplans.

  12. Daniel is right about different market areas going for different marketing tools. I put floor plans as a service on my website some years ago and didn't get any bites. Agents aren't asking me about them and I don't see any on local listings. I see Matterport being used, but it makes no sense for me to offer it. I wouldn't be bringing anything to the process over what a staffer at a real estate office can do.

    I purchased a laser measuring device and looked into floor plan software at one point even going as far as getting some demo copies to mess with. I don't think it would take me much to get up to speed on making floorplans if an agent was willing to pay for them. I have years of CAD experience, which helps. My house is fully mapped. When I get to the point where I'm remodeling the kitchen, I'm all set with accurate measurements.

    @Brian Roberts, I see detail shots of toilets, water heaters, thermostats, water softeners, you name it. All of those images have zero value and I will argue that they have negative value in most cases through wasting potentials buyer's attention span. The focus should be on getting people to contact the listing agent, or calling their agent to get a showing to justify the expense of making the photos from the "buy" side of the deal. The eighth photo featuring a big white garage door isn't going to do that.

    Any sort of marketing needs to have ROI for the agent and the supplier. It's hard to justify buying thousands of dollars worth of equipment and paying a monthly hosting subscription if you aren't only making $2/hour providing the service. Even if "you have to do this to get the stills work". It would make much more sense to get a van and travel around the US visiting real estate associations and making agent portraits. There is a couple doing that and they make bucks. She does the styling (hair, makeup, wardrobe) and he shoots the portraits. I'm so tempted......

    Is there a good enough ROI on the gear and time investment to offer a service? Is there enough of a barrier of entry where you can develop the expertise to be measurably better at it than somebody else with one day of training? Can you outsource a service and bundle it with what you do? I'd hate to introduce something that generates $10/hour right now because I have time where I'm not earning anything and then have to drop it due to being busy doing things that generate real income.

  13. Brian Roberts, you raise an interesting point. The following remarks are not a direct response to your comments, but you did get me thinking.

    I spend a good deal of time helping clients avoid showing anything they might give a potential buyer a reason to not visit a property with a salesperson (yes, a Realtor). Toilets are a trigger for me. I have no idea how anyone thinks that showing a bathroom with the toilet in the photo might help bring someone to see the house. That said, it’s not really a challenge in markets where floor plans are common, and should not be an issue for any Matterport tour creator.
    While floor plans are almost a requirement in parts of my market area, Matterport tours died off quickly in part due to the concern that the tours would give buyers way too much access.
    If your clients want tours, but would rather not provide close-up views of toilets, closets, etc, you can easily create the tours to prevent walk-through access to whichever areas you decide to keep out of the tour. Scanning an entire property provides the data to create the 3D model and floor plans, but each scan node can be disabled for the 3D tour.
    A few agents locally discussed the possibility of offering Matterport tours only through agents. By keeping the your out of the listing, but making it available to agents for virtual showings, a listing agent could actually increase traffic by making it easy for a buyer’s agent to “show” the listing. Better still, the tour could be from a day with pretty weather during the best season for the area.
    I was part of the early “public” testing with Matterport, using camera A027, and four more over a few years. I still believe it’s a solid product if applied correctly, but it’s somewhat of a commodity. That’s not my market, so I got out a while back. It is not viable in every market, but it’s hardly the demon some make it out to be.

    For anyone in our business, I would strongly caution against any absolute position unless they are willing to give up a chunk of revenue to the competition. While many here are photographers, and will not consider providing anything other than what they have always offered, most here are in the business of either licensing or selling real estate marketing photos. I spent years avoiding floor plans and video. I find video fascinating, and dove in head first to offer a premium product. I eventually brought in a contract vendor to create floor plans. CubiCasa May completely change that model.

    Each of us has the ability to decide what to offer clients, but none of us has the ability to dictate what the local buyers and sellers will expect their agents to provide.

  14. Full disclosure, we are a PFRE sponsor as well, but to expand on what Gerry said and clarify, Zillow's research found 84% of buyers thought floor plans were important as part of the home search, but 58% thought they were extremely or very important. They out ranked pro photos and were almost 2x more important than video. Why? The layout is the one thing that stays with the house when the buyer moves in. The photos and videos show all the sellers stuff. The floor plan, or layout, shows how the buyer and their family will live in the home.

    You can get a copy of our summary research on Zillow, NAR and more here: https://pro.homediary.com/the-power-of-plans
    The research was done in 2018 by Zillow of buyers on their website. Feel free to use as it benefits all of us the more this info gets out. In my personal discussions with people at Zillow, they are HIGHLY interested in floor plans, and if you noticed their embedded video going to the bottom of the photo gallery, this research is the reason why. They are very focused on showcasing content buyers want. The problem is, there is not enough listings with floor plans!

    The Cubicasa app is interesting but people need to know what they are getting. I think as a professional - meaning you get paid by an agent or homeowner, YOU need to know the accuracy of what you are providing.
    Many people do not and I can tell you baed on our tests, the error rate is anywhere from 5 to 15%. We are testing Cubicasa to see if it is a viable capture input for our own floor plan system, but its use should be dependent on what you are telling people they are getting. We have tested every capture method out there, from iGuide, Matterport (Pro 1, 2 and 360 cameras), Immoviewer, Cubicasa, Home Depot, county records, eyeSpy360. Yes I have had my pretty complicated house measured 20 times. You can see my house 's layout at our demo tour at 360walkthrough.us

    The result? The Matterport Pro2 camera OBJ file put into our system and drawn using our floor plan drawing tool was actually most accurate in terms of matching up individual room measurements with actual laser measurements. iGuide was close behind but it missed some areas that the Matterport exposed because it gives you a visual to build the plan on more than any other. Time wise, iGuide was about the same capture time as Matterport. Maybe it is my house that has lots of strange rooms and angles, but it was also about the same time the Home Depot guy spent with a laser and tablet. 90 minutes +/- 10 minutes for all 3. Home Depot was also accurate sq ft/room measurement wise but the layout was off when you compare to actual, which is what Matterport does give you. It also depends on who you get as all Home Depot measurement people are not alike. Ours was pretty good.

    Cubicasa does an ok job with the layout, but it was off for my house, again, probably because of the angles. For my house, the first floor was off 15% (that is 360 sq ft) using their plan and my known measurements.
    That is too big of a variance for us as a company. For a simple box or rectangular house, Cubicasa does a decent job with the layout. But the dimensions are also off, even with smaller, less complicated homes. In some cases more than a foot from reality for individual rooms, and when you add it up it can be anywhere from 5% to 15% off for a level square footage wise based on our tests so far. So from a liability perspective I would NOT market it's as a tool that is going to give a Realtor accurate dimensions or square footage. It probably is fine for the layout that just shows room names, but room dimensions are going to vary, at least based on our recent tests (which are as old as 1 day so far over 5 different houses). I am sure it will get better over time, and we are actually looking at it as a quick capture method for the just the layout as I said. But in markets where room dimensions and property size is important, in my opinion it should not be relied upon, at least at this point, and you as a professional need to market it and disclose the accuracy properly.

    I am not trying to poo-poo the app. It actually does a pretty good job considering the time and effort. It is just not going to give you an accurate floor plan and I think people need to know that. It can get you a pretty close footprint and basic plan. If you are interested I have all the research, just email me at kris@floorplanonline.com.

    So alternatives? For those interested, we do have an enterprise agreement with Matterport and we are leveraging their system and the Theta 360 cameras to create floor plans. Matterport does not offer floor plans with 360 camera scans, but we can make one, and it is pretty accurate, layout and dimension wise. Accuracy using our proprietary process and floor plan system is about 97-99% accurate, again based on our benchmark tests. We are live in Austin and San Antonio with 15 Theta Z1 cameras and so far the results have been really good performance wise. Plus, it is about 1/3 the time to capture a house than the larger Matterport cameras because each spot takes about 10 seconds. Cubicasa is about 1/3 to 1/2 the time than the 360, so it certainly has things beat time wise, and probably ease of use initially. But given Matterport 360 has is a smaller error rate AND you use the Matterport capture app (we are going to build our own with their future SDK), you see the floor plan layout build on your mobile device, so it is a bit more "idiot" proof and a sure thing. We just had one of our cubicasa tests get rejected because the video was not done right (granted it was a realtor that tested :). So you know before you leave what you have because you see the whole layout on your mobile device. For professionals, you do not want to have to go back to the house again. What is that potential cost?

    And, you always have the Matterport visual if you want to upsell it, which can be done at any time, or we are working to incorporate some of the visuals into our HomeDiary product, which opens up things well beyond the listing side of the transaction.

    We are looking to partner with local photographer groups in various markets, so if you have an interest in floor plans and what we have to offer through a business relationship leveraging our system, you can learn more here. http://floorplanonline.com/for-photographers/

    Cheers.

  15. I keep hearing of how these plans are great for realtors but I've never seen anyone actually use them or were that interested. Also if the app makes a mistake could that be grounds for a lawsuit? The floorplans are not "accurate" but more of a general sense/ overall plan.
    BUT with technology moving at such an alarming rate are we going to see the rise of the realtor/ photographer, using only their phone?

  16. @Daniel, the technical aspect of new camera gets better all of the time, but it takes interest and dedication to be a good photographer. A technically perfect picture of a ceiling fan isn't relevant to selling a home yet I see lots of that. There are listings I see where the gallery is a tour de force of examples of pointing the camera at the wrong things. 67 photos of a middle class 3/2 might be bright and in focus, but it's still massive overkill/boring and poor geometry diminishes the quality.

    I can trade in my middle of the road drum set and get a top of the line Drum Workshop kit that sounds far better but it won't make me a better drummer.

    Phone cameras are always going to have certain limitations. Ones that I see constantly are lens flare and issues due to scratches/dirty lenses.

    In some countries floor plans are mandatory and they have to be within a certain tolerance. I'm not aware of any such requirements in the US and I often see weasel-out statements on listings for all sorts of things such as if an addition is permitted or if utilities listed are actually as described. I expect that on a floor plan there will be a disclaimer that states the measurements are for reference only and a prospective buyer must verify them on their own. I wish I kept a link about the story where a photographer put a fire in a fireplace and it turns out the gas-only fireplace never had a gas line run to it and it didn't work. The buyers were not pleased.

  17. I remember 4 years ago when I stopped doing the 360 virtual tours since in all reality. No one really inquired about them I realized I had come in a habit to include them in the package. So I stopped. Since then I have had around 10 Matterport requests. I was not impressed. A month ago I did get a Ricoh Theta since a client wanted me to use it since it was something he used in his marketing efforts. The it was fast and simple but the quality was horrid. I did not want to be associated with it so I returned the equipment. Ironically.... my company name still has "360" in it from the virtual tour days. LOL!!! Ohh well!

    Cubicasa's floorplan is something that I will include in all the packages. I am born and raised in Sweden (been in the USA since the 90's) and with their listings almost always has a floor plan with it. I am in the Pacific North West (North of Seattle) and a floorplan would be rate here unless it is for new construction. The clients that I have included it with are all excited and really feel it will make a difference for them and their clients.

    @Daniel Beatty...you have an option to not show measurement on the floorplan. This is to prevent someone from using the floorplan to buy couches or fit their gigantic bed to a house. Nope, I put that responsibility back on the prospective buyer to go out there to measure it themselves. I inform the agent/broker as well that it is just a CYA so that they know that it is not included. Keep it easy!

    @Ken Brown...you gave me a chuckle about the gas-only fireplace...I have a similar story. Regardless, now I always ask the realtor and owner if the fireplace work since we do not want false advertisement coming back on us.

  18. What I find of more interest is Ricoh and their continued expansion into the real estate sector. They are being smart! They also have an alliance with Matterport (via their Ricoh Theta cameras) to provide low cost, 3D tours via the Matterport platform (see https://matterport.com/cameras/360-cameras/ricoh). It will be interesting to see how Matterport responds, but lower cost cameras are certainly a threat to them. Matterport may likely concentrate more on the industrial sectors rather than residential real estate.

  19. Most of the comments here are saying that videos and digital marketing are the latest trend and you don't need these floor plans anymore. How about combining these floor plans and the latest trends? I think it would give a much better results.

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