Real estate has been moving “online” for years now, but this trend has only recently been accelerated due to COVID-19’s exacerbated need for virtual solutions to real-world obstacles. As such, 3D virtual tours are becoming the new baseline of real estate marketing — for all listings, not only multi-million dollar properties.
New advances in technology paired with the industry’s recent web-transition have put virtual tours top-of-mind for agents and brokers alike — offering a seamless way to showcase properties, even as stay-at-home mandates caused major disruptions for property showings. As the popularity (and necessity) of virtual tours surge, providers are cropping up all over the internet.
The options vary greatly and each service puts a different spin on the technology. Agents and brokers navigating this market need to know which option is the best virtual tour fit for their individual needs.
We’re breaking down the basic benefits of three of the biggest names in virtual tours right now: Asteroom, Zillow 3D Home, and Matterport. Here’s a look at each product according to five essential tour service criteria.
#1. Ease of Use
Agents are in the business of selling homes, not studying up on technology. While they do understand the importance of offering virtual tours for their listings, they need an easy solution — especially during the COVID-19 era. To make things work, a user-friendly virtual tour is paramount.
Zillow 3D Home provides a fairly simple interface that transforms panoramic images into a full tour, but the system does not come with a hardware component. Users are encouraged to buy a 360 camera. While Zillow 3D works on mobile, agents need to hold the phone up and rotate in a circle to shoot panoramic photos in each room. This, of course, requires a significant amount of an agent’s time and patience — not to mention the time needed for reshooting any photos that don’t come out as intended.
Additionally, to access the basic features of Zillow 3D Home, you need to have a Zillow account and sync the tour to your listing.
Matterport, best known for its complex technology, has recently introduced a new mobile solution that, at first glance, may seem appealing to agents. However, it’s mobile experience is very similar to that of Zillow’s mobile solution - holding the arm up and rotating to shoot multiple photos to create a 360 panorama. Because of Matterport’s technology, agents will need to repeat this action every six feet to a decent outcome on their tour.
Of course, time is money, and this means shooting a tour with the Matterport mobile solution can easily eat up an agent’s afternoon. (In our opinion, Matterport is a great solution for photographers or agents who want to invest in the extensive time and capital investment in)
Unlike its competitors, Asteroom’s software and 3D tour kit (which encompasses a rotator, a tripod, and a fisheye lens) are designed to be used with your mobile phone camera. It effortlessly captures floor-to-ceiling images and provides seamless image quality and real-time stitching of images into 360 degrees. Simply put, in order to achieve a high-resolution and high-quality virtual tour, Asteroom users only need to use the rotator to spin the phone camera once per room, which can be done in less than 20 seconds. Compared to other tour providers’ mobile solutions, Asteroom is much easier and faster, and the quality is a lot higher with the help of the Asteroom Pano Kit. Agents don’t need to worry about the human-caused rotation errors that frequently hinder tour quality with Matterport and Zillow’s services.
#2. Quality and Features
All agents know that being able to highlight the best features of a home is vital to converting online leads into sales. In fact, outside of the obvious need for virtual tours during COVID-19, virtual tours get clicked on 40% more than photos.
So, when shopping for a virtual tour provider, who has the best quality and the right features to help you best showcase your listing?
Since Zillow’s tours are stitched together from multiple panoramic shots, the end product is not completely seamless, as the quality may lapse at the junction points depending on how well the agent was able to capture the photos. Zillow 3D Home is also relatively featureless, as it doesn’t allow for a dollhouse view, 2D floor plan, virtual staging, and other options that premium virtual tour platforms offer.
Similarly, the success of a Matterport virtual tour shot on a mobile phone depends on the agent’s ability to capture great photos which, on mobile without the assistance of tripod and rotator, is incredibly difficult. For premium results, Matterport recommends that an agent uses professional, high-dollar camera equipment. Also keep in mind that Matterport does not offer floor-to-ceiling coverage like that available from Asteroom unless you purchase premium cameras.
Asteroom, on the other hand, has the capacity to generate high-resolution virtual tours with no image blurring thanks to its rotator’s auto-rotation — something that neither Zillow nor Matterport offer. Although Asteroom also works with 360 cameras - the company encourages users to use their mobile phone with its Pano Kit. Why? Because phone cameras actually produce much higher resolution than all the 360 cameras out there. While the $400 Ricoh Theta V produces 13 megapixel resolution, Smartphones plus Pano Kit gives you 32 megapixel. To put that into perspective, the $4000 matterport camera is only 40 megapixel.
Asteroom also has additional features, including a dollhouse view, a 2D floor plan, 3D staging (coming soon in August 2020), and the ability to customize the tour with the agent’s contact information and branding, a downloadable video option, image enhancement, one-click social sharing, and more.
In the past, the overwhelming cost of creating a virtual tour prompted agents to reserve this technology for only the most luxurious and exclusive listings. Now that the technology is more accessible and costs have come down, it makes sense for agents to consider virtual tours for all their listings - especially now that virtual tours provide a competitive advantage. Everyone wants them, and agents that deliver will be in high demand.
However, if agents don’t do their research, they can easily fall into the trap of spending too much on cameras and commitments.
Zillow 3D Home tours are marketed as free to create, but this shouldn’t be taken at face value. Deeper digging into the process reveals that, while Zillow tours are ‘free’ to create and can technically be created with a cell phone, the service still heavily pushes for the use of expensive 360 cameras to get their best results.
Matterport has historically been known for its pricey equipment and the need for a professional photographer in order to produce a nice virtual tour, which is likely why they rolled out a mobile solution. However, like Zillow, they still push the use of expensive equipment in order to see the best results.
Standing out from the pack, Asteroom has perfected the ability to create a high-resolution, high-quality virtual tour with a cell phone. Agents do not need to compromise on quality, navigability, or features for the ease and efficiency of cell phone shooting. What’s more, agents do not need to make an investment into a very expensive camera that will quickly become obsolete. They already have a cell phone — and they can use it to shoot a whole-property tour in less than 15-minutes. Not to mention that most cell phone cameras actually have higher resolution than 360 cameras.
#4. Ease of Promotion and Distribution
What good is a virtual tour if you don’t have the capability to share it with potential prospects? When searching for a tour provider, it’s vital to understand where and how you’ll be able to share the tour.
Zillow 3D Home tours have native integration onto Zillow’s listing services, making posting on their own site fairly simple. Zillow also highlights listings that feature 3D tours. But, posting elsewhere isn’t as easy. Their technology does not allow for sharing to their competitors’ sites, such as realtor.com, Redfin, and homes.com. What’s more, when sharing the tour to your MLS, you’ll have to take an additional step in order to remove the Zillow branding and the backlink that takes visitors back to their site.
Unlike Zillow, Matterport does allow for posting on some of the most popular real estate portals, such as realtor.com, Redfin, and Homes.com.
Asteroom also takes sharing your tours one step further with video walkthrough tours, a dollhouse image of the property, and a 2D floor plan for each property that can also be shared with prospects. This variety of content from a single virtual tour provider is simply unmatched in the industry.
It is also important to note that both Zillow and Matterport claim ownership of your data. On the other hand, Asteroom simply stores the data for its users and will not resell it. As many agents know, you must remove listing information when a client no longer has a property listed with you or when they request it be removed. If an agent can't easily do that, they could face legal action — so it is vital to have the ability to remove your listing tours, photos, and other content. Only with Asteroom can you do that.
#5. Leads and Analytics
Virtual tours get more leads than a collection of images and the stats verify this. Analytics show that listings with virtual tours get clicked on 40% more and generate 46% more follow-ups than still images. However, it’s important to know you will have access to this data and analytics when selecting a virtual tour provider, so you can leverage it for lead conversion — and to show your sellers how well their tour is performing.
While Zillow tours are promoted on Zillow, they are only allowed to be on their own platform. Asteroom and Matterport tours can be posted nearly anywhere, so they undoubtedly have a larger reach compared to Zillow tours. More importantly, because Asteroom tours offer a wealth of additional content types (2D floor plans, photos of dollhouse views, and teaser video of the walkthrough), properties will have a much larger opportunity to generate leads through these additional content on social media and the portals.
And, to ensure you’re able to track the reach and success of your tours, Asteroom gives you a dashboard to view the successes with ease.
Both Zillow and Matterport have their own version of statistics offerings. However, with Zillow, you must have a profile and log into the specific listing’s data to see the results.
Selecting the Best Virtual Tour for Your Needs
While all of these are leaders in the field, Asteroom is the best solution for someone looking for cost-effective, user-friendly, high-quality tours. In order to keep up with the evolving industry trends and COVID-era demands, today’s agents need an easy, affordable, and easily publishable tour - and all of that is possible with Asteroom. To learn more about Asteroom’s premier services, visit our website.