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3D Real Estate Photography Is Now A Reality - And A Must-Have

A rendering of a light-filled unit at the Hub, the 600-unit luxury rental complex at 333 Schermerhorn Street in Brooklyn. Steiner NYC

A rendering of a light-filled unit at the Hub, the 600-unit luxury rental complex at 333 Schermerhorn Street in Brooklyn. Steiner NYC

Tech disruption of the real estate industry shows no sign of slowing. From Zillow attempting inroads into agent-less offers to multiple players upending traditional broker-agent and agent-client relationships, real estate professionals ignore the changing business landscape at their own peril.

Another level of disruption has come in how clients discover and get to know properties. Until recently, online photos and video tours have been the gateway for potential buyers to narrow down the field of options for their new home. Google Earth and drone video allow us to get to know the neighborhood and the look and feel of the home itself, without the need to schlep across town or across the country to gather that crucial information.

But static photos and videos paint an incomplete picture. When a client arrives to tour the actual home, pictures often, one way or the other, don’t quite do a property justice.

Three-dimensional virtual reality (VR) is becoming one of the latest tech disruptors and Springs Homes, where I run sales and marketing, has embraced the disruptive capacity of this increasingly crucial tool. Here's how it works and some ideas for leveraging it in your own brokerage.

How To Use 3D VR As A Full-Service Brokerage

The visually all-encompassing nature of 3D VR has been a benefit in several ways: First, clients can see our listings in an immersive way, experiencing the home or apartment as if they are there. But 3D can also provide a valuable record of the condition of a property at a given point in time.

For a brokerage or property management team, this is a great way to head off potential conflict around condition before it starts. By creating a full record of the condition of a property, managers can go back and look at the data, account for normal wear and tear and make clearer decisions when a lease expires and new potential renters are exploring option. Buyers and renters appreciate knowing there is a record of what they are signing on to as well, so what is promised is what is delivered. We also use it for tradespeople who have visual confirmation of what needs fixing and where — the less guesswork in these situations, the better.

One benefit we didn't think of at first: for sight unseen leases, or when one spouse is not available to walk through the property, 3D VR is a great tool to expedite decision-making so the client doesn’t lose out on the opportunity to someone else.

Unsurprisingly, 3D VR can give your firm a competitive edge, from the listing appointment through the whole customer experience of the brand and level of service. In a 3D virtual tour, that pile of boxes, that hole in the drywall, has nowhere to hide. It encourages sellers to put their best foot forward and gives buyers and property managers the “same page” to work from in terms of the condition of the property.

New construction is another area a full-service brokerage will benefit from 3D VR. We use the 3D camera to take pictures and do virtual walk-throughs for clients in the building process. When a homebuyer or builder is relocating, the search, the purchase and the build process can be a logistical challenge. With a virtual walk-through, instead of the client needing to make multiple trips, they can simply take a 3D tour at major milestone points. This way, they can look at every nook and cranny on their own terms. Buyers also send these tours out to their friends and family to show progress, which is a special bonus. Our client feedback on this service is overwhelmingly positive, and it demonstrates to the builder that they are a true partner in the transaction.

My firm is now exploring the idea of using this technology to showcase what’s interesting and inspiring about a given neighborhood. The idea is to scan, say, an area rec center or club house, and offer the organization a link to the content created by us that they can share. At the end of the day, we want to be disruptive in the most positive ways possible.

Like any real estate brokerage should, we are keeping our eyes open for the next disruptor on the horizon — perhaps the “Smellovision Open House” app is coming next, with the scent of baking bread wafting through your VR home tour! For now, 3D VR can give your brokerage an edge and added confidence in your work and reputation as a trusted resource in any real estate transaction.

Originally written by Joe Boylan for Forbes

Select agents offering 3D views

Craig Neil

Craig Neil

Real-estate marketing continues to evolve exponentially. For decades, agents looking to advertise homes for sale had one option, besides planting signs in front yards: the print media. Then, in the mid-1990s, the advent of the internet shook the status quo. But that only offered a wider, and cheaper, exposure for Realtors’ still photographs. It took almost another two decades for dramatic advances to appear. Now Realtors are expanding their presentations with drone photography, virtual staging, and 3D tours.

The best 3D tours are a real step up from the “virtual tours” that appeared a few years ago. Those either seem stilted or tacky in comparison to the 3D tour, and sometimes turn out to be simply slide shows with music. The more naturalistic 3D tour allows you to move around in the room, and among the rooms, and zoom in to inspect details.

You either navigate with the computer mouse or arrow keys, or your finger with touch screens. Moving through a property on the smartphone can be more fun than on the computer, although you’re limited by the smaller screen size.

For a more immersive experience, you can get a pair of Google Cardboard goggles for $10 and view these house galleries in a realistic dimensionality.

All of these options are available for a few home listings at homesantafe.com, the website of Realtor Paul McDonald (Sotheby’s International Realty). “I do think there is an issue with the users’ familiarity with technology and their desire to do something like this, so it would seem to me to appeal to the younger of mind,” he said. “It’s pretty rare that someone has said they want to buy a house as a result of just seeing the 3D tour. Like other technologies that are tiptoeing in these waters, it’s more about the selection process.

“I think like any technology it’s kind of clunky at first; whether it ever gets to critical mass I don’t know. I have a good friend in business who said, ‘The problem with your industry is the delivery of your product: you have to get in your car and go out and see it.’ This gets us one step closer.”

McDonald has his own Matterport 3D camera. The Matterport has nine lenses: three down, three straight ahead, and three up. The photographer attaches it precisely level on a tripod, then makes a series of exposures in a circle, repeating the process at 30 or 40 locations in the house. When you later view the 3D imaging, there is a circular figure at each location and you can progress from one to the next to move wherever you want in the home.

The Realtor has heard that Zillow is testing a similar technology that would allow the average real-estate agent to assemble a dimensional home tour using an iPhone. “The other part of this technology is looking at it in terms of the three mantras of business — faster, better and cheaper — and if the Zillow model works, you don’t have to go buy a Matterport camera [for about $3,000] and it doesn’t take you a couple hours to do a house.”

The Matterport facility also offers viewers another perspective, focusing on the plan view, looking down on the room layout from above.

Check out the Tesuque Creek property listed on McDonald’s website and you see an example of virtual staging. “This is another technical aspect of marketing a home that’s not real, if you will. They take a CAD drawing, they select things they want to dress it up with [furniture, rugs, paintings on the walls], and then send it ovenight to India, using massive computing power, and when it comes back... you’re not going to believe it’s not really staged when you look at the image.

“I feel like these two technologies are competing in this arena. We see this virtual staging assisting new-construction projects. I’ve used it on a home that was empty and I wanted to get going on the marketing. I think these are both tools that we didn’t have a couple of years ago that are going to be with us forever.”

Another Realtor using the Matterport system is Craig Neil with Keller Williams Santa Fe Realty. He said the resolution of the Matterport pictures has improved to the point that the agent can often use captures from a 3D tour of a house for websites and even brochures. “You’re saving money because you don’t have to do both 3D and regular photography.”

Neil and his business partner Sarah Said own their own camera. “Sarah has been a Realtor for more than two decades but I’ve just been in real estate for two years,” he said. “I come from the tech side; I worked for Apple for three years and I worked with Google doing Google ‘business view’ shooting, which is linked to Google Street View. I used my Nikon D7000 with a wide-angle lens and I’d take three different exposures at four angles of a circle, then composite those 12 images together to make a circle and then connect them to other circles.”

Neil said he agrees with McDonald that the 3D technology appeals more to a younger audience. “I would guess 5 to 10 percent of people use this.

“The two things I think are of the most benefit to me as a Realtor is that for people from out of town who have seen the 3D tours, they’ve already walked through the houses and they know which properties they want to see. And most important, if they were here and walked through the actual house and later they can’t recall where the kitchen was. They contact me and I give them the link and they just go online and they can see it all.

“The market is so competitive right now that people want to get a head start. They see the listing come up and say, ‘We’re thinking of coming to Santa Fe in three weeks,’ and I have to tell them, ‘Well, that house is going to be gone in three days.’”

By Paul Weideman

Take a 3-D Apartment Tour to See the Real Estate Listing of the Future

333 East 91st St Teaser Video

MANHATTAN — Real estate broker Bianca D'Alessio was taken by surprise when a woman relocating from Boston to New York called last week with an offer on a new condo in an Upper East Side building, saying she had already done a “walk through.”

D'Alessio never took the woman on a tour of the model apartment at the Gianna, at 184 E. 64th St., but the buyer felt as if she had already seen enough of space, since there’s a 3-D model of it on the building’s website.

“I received an offer based on a visual tour,” said D'Alessio, of Nest Seekers. “You can zoom in on the quality of the finishes and see the magnificent fixtures. As you’re ‘walking through,’ you can see the detailing on the closets. You can zoom in and see there’s a Toto toilet and a Sub-zero refrigerator and Wolf range.”

Offering 360-degree three-dimensional tours is taking the presentation of real estate listings to the next level, brokers said. The tours will soon become more commonplace as technology has made creating such virtual tours cheaper than ever, many believe. 

3-D listing (Image courtesy of GeoCV.)

"For your client [who is selling], you want to be getting the right people through the door," said Alessio, who began incorporating 3-D listings in June. "I think it even weeds some people out. When you have this tool, it's almost their second showing, and you know they're interested as soon as they walk through."

GeoCV has been offering its services — including the 3-D tour, high-quality photos and a dollhouse-like floor plan — to brokers like D'Alessio since June. It plans to unveil a do-it-yourself kit at the end of the year for brokers to rent or buy, with a special 3-D camera that attaches to a smartphone using the company’s custom-made rotation device, explained Anton Yakubenko, GeoCV's CEO and co-founder.

It takes about an hour per 1,000 square feet to do a photo scan of an apartment and two days to turn around the finished product. The company currently charges 10 cents per square foot for its services, with a minimum of $199 per listing.

“It’s really a disruptive price for the market. It costs two or three times more from others,” Yakubenko said about other companies offering 3-D services.

His company uses "new generation" smartphones with 3-D cameras, he said, and is moving toward using a regular smartphone with a special attachment. Other companies tend to use pricey special cameras rather than smartphones.

His company is also developing an application to create virtual-reality tours of real estate listings, which new developments are increasingly using to give potential tenants a better feel for how the spaces will look when finished.

The demand for VR, Yakubenko noted, is less than the 3-D model right now, since few people have VR headsets at home to view listings. But he envisions a future where brokers have headsets in their office or can bring them to clients’ homes.

“It’s time-saving for agents and clients,” he said of the tools that can cut down on unnecessary trips to open houses.

The 3-D tours even help apartments that may need work and don’t show well in photos, he said.

“An agent was selling a townhouse needing significant renovation. He wanted buyers to understand the work involved,” Yakubenko said.

While some homes in similar condition often languish on the market, this particular townhouse, in Crown Heights, sold in a couple of weeks, he added.

D'Alessio agreed that more transparency can help apartments with potential pitfalls.

“It’s better to know what you’re walking into than be surprised,” she said.

Originally written by Amy Zimmer dnainfo.com

3D videos: A new way to tour NYC real estate up for sale

Home hunting is no game, but some real estate agents say virtual reality can curb the back-and-forth of the chase and make the pursuit more manageable.

After toying with the technology for years, many New York agents use 3-D video tours to showcase condos and other homes available for purchase.

But a number of agents said crafting full-scale presentations for forthcoming residences remains risky.

Many noted virtual reality videos can help agents narrow down where to take clients, particularly international buyers. The technology allows viewers to enter a simulated three-dimensional environment, where, in many cases, they can get a sense of how things would look as they walk through a home and turn their head in various directions.

VR tours can be simple, online presentations that anyone can access, models that require just a downloadable smartphone app and a cardboard case for the phone, and more intricate tours that rely on special headgear or goggles. When such high-tech gear is needed, agents often offer their clients virtual viewings in their offices.

“In VR video you can’t hide wires, and you can’t hide lights, so everything is as it is,” said Randy Baruh, a real estate agent with Corcoran. “You see a lot of photos ... and everything is perfect, and it’s not really exactly what it’s going to look like.”

Halstead hired staff to create 360-degree videos for about four to five homes a week that may then be viewed on the firm’s website.

But Halstead’s chief marketing officer Matt Leone said it has only worked with a few clients interested in creating a virtual tour for not-yet-complete residential projects, which Halstead is not set up to do in-house.

“That expense is probably not worth it at this juncture, based on the development cost, unless it’s a very expensive space,” Leone said.

Eydie Saleh, a salesperson at Mirador Real Estate, argues the costs have already dropped enough to make it economical, as long as developers view the virtual tours as the primary marketing tool, and not a bonus tactic.

She persuaded a development firm planning condos in Park Slope to avoid the common tactic of renting space where prospective buyers are invited to tour a model unit.

Instead, Saleh will send floor plans to a tech company that will create a remote-control navigable virtual tour, which Saleh says will appeal to the millennial generation that grew up playing video games.

“It saves an enormous amount of money — like hundreds of thousands,” said Saleh, who plans to show samples of materials available in condo bathrooms and kitchens alongside the VR tour in her office.

For not-yet-built projects, virtual reality services at Anyworld start at $3,000 for a condo and vary, depending on whether the virtual reality agency is showing the exterior as well as the interior, or adding furniture and making other staging decisions.

By contrast, Anyworld’s founder Filip Baba said the company charges 25 cents per square foot for videos of existing homes, which means a typical, 1,000-square-foot condo can be done for just under $300 — or about the cost of hiring a professional photographer.

He said VR technology is not yet cost-effective for many rentals, but that may soon change.

“If you study the history of even regular real estate listings, photos were even a big deal and it took a while to even roll that out,” Baba said. “I predict the consumer market will demand [virtual reality] more within a couple of years.”

Originally written by Sarina Trangle for amNewYork

4 Ways Virtual and Augmented Reality Can Reshape Real Estate

Jessica Lee Star/Digital Trends

Jessica Lee Star/Digital Trends

VR and AR technologies can help real estate agents save time and deliver a more alluring experience for clients.

Imagine being able to take an open-house tour of a home for sale in your town without actually driving to the property; or, while walking your dog, taking a photo of a house in a nearby neighborhood and finding out how much it last sold for. These kinds of experiences are coming from a real estate agent near you, if they haven’t already.

Virtual and augmented reality are poised to grow in all kinds of industries in the years ahead, from manufacturing and logistics to healthcare. IDC predicts that worldwide revenues for the VR/AR market will reach $13.9 billion in 2017, which would be an increase of 130.5 percent over the $6.1 billion spent in 2016. The research firm expects to the market to then explode over the next few years, reaching $143.3 billion in 2020.

While VR produces a computer-generated reality that users can interact with (usually via a headset), augmented reality involves digital information being brought into a user’s field of view and overlaid onto the real world, which they observe usually through a smartphone’s camera.

One industry that VR and AR have already started to transform is the real estate business. Long associated with in-person tours and the enticement of empty apartments or houses (preferable to those filled with the current owners’ furniture), house hunting stands to gain as AR and VR make the process more convenient for real estate agents. The technologies can also deliver a more engaging experience for potential buyers and lead to increased sales.

Here is a quick primer on the ways in which VR and AR can reshape the real estate market.

1. 3D Tours Offer an Immersive Experience

Virtual reality allows real estate companies to provide prospective buyers with immersive, 3D tours of propertiesMatterport, a 3D camera technology company, is working with web-based real estate firm Redfin to provide 3D walkthroughs.

“We’re making a digital copy of the inside of the world,” Marc Rehberger, Matterport’s director of commercial real estate, told Forbes. “It increases the amount of time spent on an ad between three to six times when there’s a Matterport model on that ad. ... It’s very, very sticky.”

Matterport has scanned more than 550,000 properties since it started in 2011, and the company, according to Rehberger, is “supplying a dimensionally accurate model of the space exactly how the human eye would see it. People who are investing, people who are using [and] people who are buying love the ability to understand the space because it’s natural. It’s exactly the way it is.”

Prospective renters in Arlington, Va., can now tour apartments using VR. Developer CRC is partnering with Immerse Virtual Reality Nation to create a VR tour of a new apartment building still under construction, according to an ARLNow report. “Using an HTC Vive headset with two motion sensors, residents can experience a realistic, 360-degree home tour of what their apartment will look like after construction,” the site reports.

Such tours cans save real estate agents time. “Ask any agent about the time suck involved in showing clients houses,” John Mazur, CEO of real estate app Homesnaptold Forbes. “VR/AR is going to change the game here and allow potential buyers to ‘experience a home’ at another level and better filter out homes they do/don't like, saving agents time.”

2. Digital Furniture Lets Buyers Make a Space Their Own

Open houses often mean that potential homebuyers are walking through a house fully furnished by the owner who is selling. AR allows potential buyers to see the home with their own furniture or styles in mind.

Virtual staging technology company roOomy allows buyers to visualize any apartment or room in a house in the way they would want to decorate it.

“Drawing from a catalog of more than 100,000 furniture and household items, roOomy allows you to upload a picture of a room and virtually decorate it to reflect your personal tastes,” Forbes reports. “Agents, investors and buyers alike can take advantage of these amazing tools.” RoOomy works in concert with Google’s Tango, an AR technology.

3. Virtual Walkthroughs Sell Buyers on an Unbuilt Location

VR can also help backers of a real estate project visualize the property for potential buyers before construction even starts.

One company, Virtual Xperience, uses 3D modeling to let users wearing VR headsets access full walkthroughs of properties that are in development or under construction.

Developers can use the company’s technology to create customized color palettes, materials, furnishing and lighting conditions, to help buyers personalize and visualize the unbuilt properties, Forbes reports. The company offers 2D images, 3D walkthroughs and a 3D flythrough video experience.

“As a developer, it's often hard to have a prospective buyer visualize the end product. This causes longer sales times, reduces the ability to pre-sell projects, leaves funds stuck in projects longer and delays the cycle,” Ridaa Murad, founder of Breakform Realty Ventures, told Forbes. “With VR/AR, you can now show prospective buyers what the end product will be, adding a concrete level of tangibility and increasing the ability to pre-sell projects.”

4. Gets Details on a House While Walking Your Dog

Want to get the details on a house you like in the neighborhood without looking up the listing? Realtor.com’s updated Android application now has a feature called Street Peek that uses AR to display details about a home when users point their phone's camera at it. “Even if the house isn't for sale, you'll still see all the important details from the real estate website's database,” Engadget reports. The app offers details like listing or rental price, recently sold price, estimated value and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms in the house, and can even deliver that info on groups of houses at the same time.

Originally written by Phil Goldstein for BizTech