I always told my kids to beware of the latest fads. Still don’t know how much of that advice stuck but, with the latest real estate fad, I have taken my own advice and I’m dispensing it to our home sellers as well. That latest fad is the 3D virtual real estate tour that allows home buyers to sit at home in their underwear and “walk through” a home on their computer.
I believe the technology was pioneered by Matterport and, on the surface, it is exceptionally cool. It leaves you wondering “How do they do that”? Here is an example for a random listing that I found at 2045 W Cortez in my Ukrainian Village neighborhood.
Pretty slick, right? From a technology standpoint it gets high marks in terms of providing a pretty complete picture of the entire space, including floors, ceilings, stairs, and every other nook and cranny. You can step back and get a doll house view of the space, which looks like exactly what it sounds like, or you can get a top down view of each floor – the floorplan view. From either of these starting points you can click on a spot and enter the space and start moving around with your mouse.
The downside of the technology is that it takes a while to load, the experience can be a bit “jerky”, and it’s easy to end up in unexpected places – e.g. staring straight on at a bathroom door hinge. Like most things on the Web today it takes a bit of experimentation to learn how to navigate your way through the home. Given these technology drawbacks it does require a lot of patience, which many of today’s ADD Web users may lack.
However,from the buyer’s standpoint it can be great because, if you trust the experience and you have the patience, you can tour a home a lot faster than you can set up an appointment, drive in your car, walk around the property, and return home. And if you don’t have the patience you might want to really think about how long you are waiting for your computer to advance you through the house vs. the physical alternative. Of course, if you like what you see with the virtual tour you are going to set up a physical tour as well.
So you’ve got some really slick technology that makes a buyer’s life potentially easier and could also make real estate agents’ lives easier. And, in an industry where it’s hard for the home seller to tell the difference between one real estate agent and another, this offering becomes a point of potential differentiation. So real estate agents are starting to jump all over this technology.
However, I’m concerned that the 3D virtual real estate tour is not in the seller’s best interest and that’s why I offer it to home sellers, in order to be competitive, but always discourage it’s use. We prefer to use high dynamic range photography and carefully shoot the home from it’s best angles. Each shot is carefully staged and framed for the highest impact on the buyer. In order to give the buyer a better sense of the home the photos can be “plotted” on an interactive floor plan like we created for 1642 W Nelson in Lake View.
Our goal is to get as many showings as possible so that we have the opportunity to truly sell the home to the buyer while they are physically standing in it. Let them “walk” through the home on their computer and who knows what nook and cranny they are going to end up fixating on and then deciding not to view the property in person.
It would be interesting to know how long the average person spends on these virtual tours and if the use of this tool results in more or less showings. However, it would be damn near impossible to really know if
this results in more or less showings because you could never really do an apples and apples comparison – i.e. same house with two simultaneous listings using different virtual tours. And even if it did result in fewer showings you would never know if the lost showings would have just been a waste of time anyway.
As a home seller think about the choice this way. If you were single and looking for someone on an online dating site would you submit a 3D image of yourself for consideration? Imagine the person on the other end “walking around you” while they sit in front of their computer in their…never mind.