True 3D: Immersive Real-Estate Experience

True 3D: Immersive Real-Estate Experience

In Tucson like in any large city in the US, real-estate listings compete to make homebuying hopefuls a promise. A promise so compelling that they will take the plunge and call the Realtor®. After an aborted attempt in the mid-2000s, Virtual Reality is ushering in a brand-new era for listings: True 3D virtual tours have arrived and the experience is riveting for both buyers and sellers.

The MLS is the great equalizer: Realtors can’t promote their names on it and excerpts of their listings only feature a thumbnail, a stamp-size photo of the property. That’s all they got to lure people in. And they compete for eyeballs against a huge list of similar thumbs, many of which show similar cookie-cutter homes in look-alike subdivisions.

This situation reminds me of the window displays of the many hardcore peepshows that lined up the buildings of Rue Pigalle in Paris back in the 70s: constrained by decency laws, competing sex joints had only so much space to display small censured photos promising over-the-top porno acts inside.

The thumbnail isn’t so different in its intent: it must make an attractive promise on a very small surface. It’s the working girl of the Realtor: hard at work to get those clicks.

After the click

Once you got the coveted first click, your prospect is in to look at your gallery. What have you got to show?

Over the last couple of years, Realtors have turned to High Dynamic Range photography to change cookie-cutter sub-division homes into magic abodes.

From ‘meh…’ to ‘wow!’

But when overdone, good things turn bad. HDR has itself become banal, every other listing is HDR. Bye-bye, unique looks! On top of that, the technique is wrongfully pushed beyond its photographic intent, and many real-estate listings look like galleries of cheap impressionist repros with little connection to reality.

VR as in Virtual Reality

In any case, HDR wasn’t designed to change fundamentally the way prospective home buyers EXPERIENCE a home online. As spruced up as they may be, HDR shots are still regular shots.

Enters Virtual Reality. Light, camera, action!

Warning: Virtual Reality is NOT what many dub “virtual tours” but are in fact just b.o.r.i.n.g slideshows with a tasteless uncopyrighted muzak soundtrack. Virtual reality is NOT “video tours” either! There’s nothing virtual about video tours (unless its 3D video tours).

Virtual Reality gives home buyers the capability to move any which way they want in a virtual space created by 360° shots assembled together by a 3D modelization software.

Google® pioneered this technology with Google Street View®, the 3D modelization technology that enables us to view a street and discover a neighborhood from the curb.

Just like 3D video games like Call of Duty® or Grand Theft Auto®, Virtual Reality applied to real-estate enables home buyers to visit a home virtually. Visitors can move forward, backward, right, left, turn 180 or 360. They can climb up staircases, enter and leave a room, and stop to look at every detail of the home as if they were in that home.

Soon, they will be able to interact with the home on an even deeper level: turning power on and off, closing and opening doors and windows, running faucets… (OK, we’re not yet there, but it will come).

Virtual Reality gives home buyers a complete immersive experience of a home. It radically changes the way people experience a home without physically visiting it.

Here is an example of a 2-story home 3D Virtual Tour I created with the Matterport® camera, once of the few 3D cameras on the market today. Just click on the photo to visit this home.


And this is a 3D virtual tour of a retail store. Same: click on the photo to visit.


With simple controls (mouse, arrows), 3D Walkthroughs are incredibly easy to navigate. They can be viewed on any computer and mobile terminal (smart phones, tablets) as well as — in true VR fashion — in VR goggles.

If you want to impress a prospective home buyer you are meeting face-to-face, just have him put on your Google cardboard goggles or hi-tech Samsung goggles, plug in your Android phone and start the 3D Walkthrough. The WOW effect is gua-ran-teed.

The WOW Factors of True 3D Virtual Tours

3D Walkthroughs offer an unparalleled level of immersion. They add the WOW factor to any real-estate listing. Their main advantages:

  • The 3D experience is so real that homebuyers can pre-select homes they are TRULY interested in — thereby saving both Realtors® and their homebuyers a ton of time in unnecessary visits.
  • 3D Virtual Tours create a much more cognitive experience of the “flow” of a home. Regular photos can’t spatialize a home: they don’t show the connections between the rooms, how a family circulates inside. 3D virtual tours help homebuyers project themselves mentally inside their future home much more efficiently. Mental projection is a huge step forward in the buying process.
  • Realtors using 3D virtual tours differentiate themselves more clearly in the eyes of the sellers. Facing a seller during a listing presentation, a real-estate agent showing 3D models on a computer or tablet immediately creates a WOW factor that less innovative Realtors will find hard to beat. Unfair advantage?
  • 3D virtual tours can be used on any real-estate website: MLS, Zillow, Trulia, single property websites, agency websites. They come in branded and unbranded versions for compliance with MLS rules. It’s just a link to install anywhere on a site. In the MLS, the link is simply entered in the Virtual Tour section of the listing.
  • Some 3D tools like the Matterport make the process of creating a 3D tour easier and faster. I can shoot a home in the morning and deliver the 3D Walkthrough to the Realtor in the same day.

Present and future of real-estate listings

The quality of the homebuyer’s experience with a real-estate agent depends in part on the agent’s ability to understand the needs of his prospects and serve them with ease and efficiency.

Since time is our most precious commodity, enabling people to save time on unnecessary home visits makes the process just smoother and faster. This unique advantage of 3D Walkthroughs works in favor of both homebuyers and Realtors. Not to mention significant annual savings in gas, tires and car maintenance.

It should be fairly obvious to Realtors that in a world of dying retail stores and omnipresent e-commerce and home delivery, the way real-estate is done today is bound to change.

It is already being fundamentally transformed by the unprecedented access to listings offered to the general public, both on the buying and on the selling side. Whether FSBO listings are bound to gain market share or not (the topic is hotly debated), Realtors face tougher competition every day. There are more real-estate agents on the market, and more advertising platforms are available; market pricing is more transparent, and commissions are more than ever subject to discussion.

3D virtual tours are a big step forward in the virtualization of the market. In my own photography studio, the talented creatives I work with and myself are already working on ideas and techniques to make 3D tours even more cutting-edge in the way of internet marketing.

Realtors MUST adapt

Realtors are not evicted from the market. They are just pressed by market forces to shed their old skins and be reborn into people’s people (what they are) WITH a pronounced hi-tech side. Photo studios like mine are forced into adopting other technologies than just high-end digital cameras and lenses.

We all can’t just continue thinking the way we thought. We all have to think ahead and anticipate on what people (buyers & sellers) want to experience.

Selling does not change in its basic principles. But its tools do. Virtual Reality and 3D Walkthroughs are just one more act in this continuous process. Salespeople, you are warned: adapt or eat the dust of your real-estate competitors.

Resources: See Matterport website