It is no coincidence that Matterport recently launched onto the Nasdaq Stock Market and in the process, raised a total of $605 million. The pandemic has sent the use of digital tools in the real estate industry skyrocketing.
If you haven’t adopted a virtual tour platform yet, now is a good time for me to explain some of the options available for real estate agents. We host more than 5,000 virtual tours on Juwai.com and Juwai.asia, so I hope I have learned some useful insights to share with you.
I have limited this list to only those virtual tour options that I believe really make the cut. I have left out many that have inferior features, pricing, sustainability or usage. By my informal count, there are at least two dozen products competing to offer virtual tours to real estate agents and developers.
The options below, I believe, have the most powerful features, are among the easiest to use and have been proven popular with users over time. All are also offered by companies with longevity, ones I consider unlikely to shut down (possibly taking all your virtual tours with them).
What is a virtual tour?
Most of the statistics I have seen about virtual tour user engagement have been hyped and are hardly scientific, but I believe they do have real value. Virtual tours can help you win listings and make a persuasive case to the seller regarding how you will get the best price for their property.
They also give buyers a chance to fall in love with your listing after they have already been reeled in by the text and conventional photos. They give buyers the most realistic sense of what it is like to be in the property that they can obtain — short of visiting in person.
Although I believe most users only engage in a virtual tour after first looking at traditional photos and text descriptions, I have no doubt that for a potentially interested buyer, virtual tours are an important tool that help move them along from browsing to inquiring and buying.
Matterport is probably the leading virtual tour software on the market and the industry standard. Matterport was the first to offer the dollhouse view, which let you see the whole property on your screen at once, just like a child’s dollhouse with the roof and side removed.
Matterport also offers a useful floor-plan view, allowing users to see the listing as it would appear from above. (It’s also worth noting that, although you don’t need Matterport’s larger proprietary Pro2 3D camera, its tours are optimized for it).
Navigating in a Matterport tour is relatively smooth and intuitive. Users are unlikely to get frustrated or disoriented. Finally, as a successful company with tens of thousands of customers and several hundred million dollars in the bank, Matterport is here to stay.
I expect the company to continue to offer new innovations and improvements in its software to keep itself at the head of the industry. That’s why I think Matterport is a safe bet that will get even better in time. The professional plan that gives you 50 active listings is $129 per month.
2. Zillow 3D Home
Matterport is a virtual tour leader, yes, but it’s not the only offering. Zillow allows you to use either your phone or a special Ricoh Theta 3D camera to create virtual tours with the Zillow 3D Home tool.
Both Zillow 3D Home’s features and in-tour navigation are relatively basic, but the tool is free. Tours post automatically to Zillow and Trulia, and you get links for posting in other locations. Zillow is another company that is unlikely to disappear, taking the videos of your past tours with it.
To be clear, you can post your Zillow 3D Home tour on your own website and on other portals. You can also post listings from other virtual tour creators on Zillow. If you are looking for a simple, no-cost option and you advertise on Zillow, this may be a good choice. It is also likely to get better over time.
CloudPano is full-featured. At $33 per month for unlimited tours, you pay more than with Zillow’s free tool but less than with Matterport. CloudPano knows it is the challenger in the industry and is gunning to win business from the leader.
If you’re getting started from scratch, CloudPano lets you clone the demo tours that come with your account so you can include a full feature set in your first tour without having to do the extra work of setting it up.
CloudPano does not offer the dollhouse view. Also, it is more work to stitch together your photos into a tour than in Matterport, where it happens near automatically. That may be one reason CloudPano pricing plans seem to be pitched to photographers who create tours for agents and appreciate that they can create unlimited tours for one price.
Photographers may have hundreds of tours at a time, while agents are more likely to have fewer than a dozen. If you are considering a paid, full-featured option, then give CloudPano a look.
Kuula has been operating since 2016 and has a successful track record. The business plan is $36 per month, which is more than twice the $16 cost of the pro plan. For that additional fee, the most important extra features you get are detailed analytics, the ability to add multiple logos and password protection for your tours.
You can add a virtual tour link to your listing on Zillow or most other portals in two ways. You either add it directly via your portal dashboard or include it in your MLS listing.
Kuula is a full-featured, well-priced option and a serious contender, although it’s less popular in the U.S. than some of its competitors.
3DVista offers traditional virtual tours like its competitors, but it’s more expensive and offers an advanced feature the others do not have.
That special feature is a live-guided tour, which is like a combination of a Zoom video call and a virtual tour. It’s a unique and powerful feature for a sales agent who wants to remotely show a listing and see in real time how the buyer is reacting.
Just like in a video call, your buyers can dial into a virtual tour with you, and you’ll see their live images in boxes on the side of the screen. Then, you can walk them through the virtual tour while discussing highlights with them.
You can also let them navigate, so they can explore the virtual space with you there to answer any questions or point out features they may have missed. This guided, live presentation of a virtual tour can be a powerful tool, especially with buyers who cannot visit the space in person. Best of all, it doesn’t cost anything extra.
Unlike the other services, 3DVista is downloadable software. 3DVista’s Virtual Tour Pro software comes in Mac and PC versions for a one-time $499 purchase. But the costs don’t stop there. If you (like most) want to use the accompanying cloud service, about $120 per year will give you a 1 GB plan, which the company says is enough to host about 20 typical tours at a time.
If you are trying to sell an empty space or one that has been gutted or is unfinished, you may want to go one step further than just a virtual tour.
RoOomy is a separate company, but through a partnership with Matterport it’s the only one able to virtually stage a Matterport tour. That means your 3D images of your empty or gutted listing can be turned into a fully finished and furnished space. Just choose a design style (the choices are traditional, transitional, modern, mid-century modern, rustic and Scandinavian), and the company does the rest.
BoxBrownie is another handy and very inexpensive service. The folks at BoxBrownie will turn your 360-degree photos into virtual tours. The company also offers so many other digital services related to photos and virtual tours that I can’t list them all here.
Among BoxBrownie’s offerings is a virtual staging service similar to roOomy’s. It will insert furniture and decor into 360-degree photos of an empty room, giving buyers a chance to fall in love with the lifestyle your listing offers.
If you are selling unbuilt homes for a builder, the service can create virtual tours of what the finished space will look like. Perhaps your buyer wants to see the kitchen with each of the cabinetry options? BoxBrownie will edit the virtual tour so buyers can easily switch between one cabinetry option and the other.
Georg Chmiel is Executive Chairman of Juwai.com and Chairman of ASX-listed iCar Asia.