Although 3D tours certainly saw an uptick during the pandemic, using them on every listing isn’t practical or necessary — especially in a hot market. Here’s why traditional listing photography, despite its flaws, will still be standard practice.

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It’s safe to say that real estate is a visual experience — certainly in person, but most definitely online.

For years, buyers, sellers and brokers relied on good photography to showcase properties and give more insights into the flow and layouts of spaces. It opened up a new way to present homes and stand out from the competition.

However, with the use of wide-angle lenses and advanced filters, reality can become a bit skewed at times. Sometimes, floors aren’t the same color as they appear online, and rooms feel much smaller than they look in photos. Understandably, buyers often become overwhelmed when they visit properties that don’t look the same in person as they do in pictures. 

To remedy this, one alternative allows for a more realistic approach to viewing homes before any in-person visits. Recently, 3D tours have become more and more popular, providing a greater immersive experience and adding tremendous value.

But are they equipped to overtake traditional listing photography altogether? Here’s my take on the world of 3D tours and how they stack up against still photography.

Virtual tours have actually been around since the 1990s, getting their original start in 1994 at the Dudley Castle in England, which was reconstructed in 3D, allowing online visitors to virtually walk through the property the way it was in 1550. 

However, its entry into real estate for commercial use didn’t take place until roughly 2011 when popular companies such as Matterport, Panoskin and Immoviewer (to name a few) brought the software and hardware to market.

This allowed consumers (many of them current photographers), to expand their businesses and provide more offerings to their customers for a good-sized investment that then trickled down to their clients.

Having used 3D virtual tours mainly on my larger listings, I can attest to their benefits and added value. Allowing potential buyers to virtually go through the entire home, understand the layout and quickly vet whether or not it’s for them makes for a much more efficient use of everyone’s time.

The only issue? The cost. It’s hundreds of dollars more than traditional photography, and depending on your home’s square footage, it can take a chunk out of your marketing budget.

However, for the reasons listed above, 3D tours serve a great purpose. In the luxury market, for example, many potential buyers of those properties may have busy schedules or uncommon free periods.

Providing a 3D virtual tour gives them the convenience of “walking through” on their time and ultimately deciding if it’s worth seeing in person or not. In addition to enhancing the listing experience, it helps identify the right buyers for the property and who they could be. 

Surprisingly, these tours are not as common on higher-end properties in the Kansas City market. However, they’ve certainly been seen more and more on the East and West Coasts.

The idea that 3D virtual tours will lead to the end of traditional real estate photography as we know it is just not a likely scenario without the masses implementing them on every listing. In addition, not only are the costs higher and require more time involved, but as cliché as it may sound, a picture is truly worth a thousand words — retouched and all.

Wide-angle photography is great for capturing multiple details in one shot, but it’s also an effective way to tell a story. It evokes emotion and feeling that doesn’t always come with a virtual walkthrough. Even if spaces appear larger than they actually are, one can only hope the property has information on room sizes and multiple angles.

Though 3D tours certainly saw an uptick during the pandemic, using them on every listing isn’t practical or necessary — especially in a hot market. Ultimately, 3D tours seem to, at best, have a niche market: Larger properties or luxury listings that clients don’t always have time to view in person.

Anthony West is a real estate agent, the founder of The Luxury Life KC at Moffitt Realty, and an entrepreneur in Kansas City.

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