I've had several recent conversations with real estate photographers about using 360s to market real estate. Some of the conversations came from asking if pfretour.com will be supporting 360 images. Others are photographers wanting to get into shooting 360s.
First I want to point out that I'm making these observations coming from a background of doing 6 to 8 - 360 views for every listing that my wife and I have had over the last 10 years. During that time I talked to virtually every seller and buyer we did transactions with asking them what they thought about the 360s I did for marketing our listings. So, on balance I probably tend to be overly enthusiastic about using 360 images.
Here are my observations:
- To me when I say 360s tours I mean ones like Mario Restrepo's tour that I've featured before. Full spherical 360s and tours that have many spherical 360s that have the capability of being viewed in fullscreen mode. To me this kind of cylindrical 360 is not worth the effort. I don't consider this a 360 tour.
- Shooting these kind of spherical 360s takes a significant amount of practice and some specialized equipment like a panoramic head and a fisheye lens. The 360 parabolic mirrors that are mounted on a camera lens and shoot the whole 360 in one shot are of inferior quality in my experience. Don't bother with them.
- Real spherical, fullscreen 360 tours are very dramatic and do a great job of showing off a upper-end properties.
- 360s like Mario's are time consuming to shoot and to stitch and to show off to best advantage you need to host them yourself like Mario does.
- These kind of 360s are time consuming enough to shoot, stitch and host you need to charge many times what you would charge for a normal non-360 shoot. You have to be very careful that you charge enough to cover your time.
- I just did a survey of the tours currently being used on the Seattle area NWMLS and wasn't able to find and any spherical 360s being used on any currently active listings on NWMLS. There were many video tours and a lot of tourfactory.com tours and tons of Flash slideshows but no real spherical 360s.
- According to google search trend results Seattle is second only behind Brisbane, AU in the amount of interest (based on the number of searches for "real estate photography") in real estate photography. The implication is that Brisbane and Seattle are the most sophisticated, progressive real estate photography markets.
- The implication of #6 is that agents are currently not willing to pay the price for good 360 photography and very few real estate photographers are offering them (at least in Seattle, one of the most progressive markets).
- In talking to real estate photographers all over the world, it is clear that buyer and seller interest in 360s is very localized. That is, they are popular in some locations and not in others.
- Our Buyers and sellers opinions are very mixed on the subject of 360s. High tech oriented sellers and buyers tend to be enthusiastic. About 10% of our listing customers are not impressed. Several sellers told me they make them sick and they plain don't like them.
Conclusion: I think real estate photographers need to be very careful before they invest in the time and equipment to include 360s as part of their services. Do your market home work and get your pricing high enough to cover your time investment.