3D Virtual Tours for Real Estate Professionals
3D virtual tours are quickly becoming a popular feature to add to real estate listings. It gives potential buyers a real-world feel of properties that they might be interested in. Having this feature on your real estate website not only eliminates less serious property buyers but also allows serious buyers to look at the property by themselves, in their own time, before contacting the agent.
3D virtual tours provide an immersive experience for potential buyers, are easy to set up, and can become a powerful marketing tool for your real estate business.
What is a 3D tour?
A 3D virtual tour is a digital alternative to an in-person walk-through of a property. It is often used by hotels or guest houses as well as real estate professionals to give potential guests or buyers an immersive experience of the property without them needing to visit the property in person. Museums even use them to allow more visitors to view their pieces.
A 3D virtual tour allows the viewer to interact with the property, view the features in detail, and list photos and floor plans. It is a great solution to showcase a property to out-of-town buyers. It is also providing a safer home viewing option during the CoronaVirus Pandemic.
You can create different kinds of virtual tours. A video tour gives viewers a guided tour of a property. These are often accompanied by a narration that talks viewers through the main features of each space. Video tours really are just videos of the property, edited to create a fluid walk-through of the space. They are not interactive, and viewers can only see what the estate agent chooses to show them.
3D virtual tours provide a slightly more immersive and hands-on experience to your viewers. They are created by stitching together several panoramic images of each space. These images can be taken using a specialized panorama camera or lens attachment for your smartphone. The end result is a streaming video that could be a bit jumpy or disjointed. However, 3D virtual tours give viewers the options to stop, look from side to side (360 degrees), and back up in each space to focus on specific details or features.
A 360 degree tour gives viewers an immersive experience that comes just about as close to viewing a property in real-life as you are going to get. To create a 360 degree tour, you will need to use a specialized camera that can take a 360 degree image of its surroundings. These images are then compiled using specialized virtual tour software. This results in a fluid walk-through of the property as if you are visiting it in person. It is similar to Virtual Reality, where you would wear a VR headset but can be viewed on a computer or (in some cases) a smartphone.
How 3D Tours Are Useful to Real Estate Professionals
3D virtual tours give potential buyers the opportunity to get a real-life view of a property before scheduling an in-person view. Some potential buyers might even decide to put in an offer based only on a 3D virtual tour. Viewings can be done at any time from anywhere. This saves both the buyer and estate agent time and possible frustration trying to coordinate schedules and could potentially sell the listing faster. It could also reduce the number of in-person viewings scheduled, narrowing down interested parties to serious buyers.
3D virtual tours are also beneficial when you market to out-of-town buyers or buyers looking for a new property while they are restricting their movements during the pandemic.
You can embed virtual tours on your website, on a single property site, and in some cases, even on multiple listing service sites. Links can also be shared via social media, in email blasts, and in paid ad campaigns.
How to Create a Virtual Tour
Equipment and software.
You will need a 360 degree camera and 3D tour software to capture, create, and publish a 3D tour on your property’s website. You could also consider investing in a tripod that has a panoramic mount. This will help you to stabilize your camera and take clearer images. A tripod also helps you line up your images on a straight horizontal plane and keep all angles consistent. That makes for a seamless 3D virtual tour once you have stitched the images together.
Plan your shoot.
Instead of willy-nilly shooting images, take some time to plan your shoot out beforehand. Make a list of all the spaces that you would like to shoot and write them down so that you can double-check that you have included each space when you are shooting the images. This will save you going back to take additional images later on. Remember that potential buyers are looking to get a real feel from a 3D virtual tour. That means they would want to see every room or significant space, including cupboards, walk-in closets, mudrooms, bathrooms, and basements or attic spaces.
In order to get an excellent 360 degree view of each room or space, look at placing your camera (and taking images) from as close to the center of the room or space as possible. When you select a spot from where to take the images, make sure that you can get good images from that spot and that the images showcase the features and details of the space. This could sometimes mean that you will need to use a spot that isn’t in the center. You will need to judge where the best location to take the images is based on each unique space.
You could also consider taking up-close images of specific areas in a room to zoom in on in your final product. A walk-in closet or pantry would be an example of this. First, take an image of the larger space, then move in for a close-up image of the closet to allow viewers to get a closer look.
Mark each spot with tape as you move through the property so that you can quickly and easily locate them once you are ready to take the images.
Setting the scene.
Before taking images of the space, stage it, and prepare the room as if you would for a traditional in-person viewing. You want to draw potential buyers’ attention to high-value features. Remove everything from the room that is not essential and doesn’t show off the room’s main selling-points. Remove anything that might be obscuring the lens or affect the quality of the images.
Using the correct lighting is also essential. Some spaces are best showcased with soft, glowing lights, while others might have significant natural light that you want to show off. Select the best time of day and lighting options to showcase the property as a whole and not just each individual room to create a sense of coherence throughout the 3D virtual tour. Some viewers might find it odd that some images are taken with plenty of natural light, while others were obviously taken in the evening. It could create some distraction and make the 3D tour seem unprofessional – completely the opposite of what you are going for.
Use a tripod.
A tripod can help you easily create professional-looking images that can be stitched together with virtual tour software. It helps keep the camera stable and keeps the lines and angles in your images straight and lined up with each other. However, in order for the tripod to do this, it needs to either be placed on a level surface, or leveled out before you start taking your images, video, or panoramic photos.
Shoot and shoot again if you need to.
Ensure that each image shows off the details of the space that you want potential buyers to focus on. You might need to take more than one image, set of images, or video of a particular space to get the best result. While you are taking test images, you can adjust the lighting or settings on your camera if you need to.
Test images will give you a good idea of what the viewer will see in the final product. Keep an eye on any reflective surfaces like mirrors or windows to make sure it doesn’t pick up reflections of your camera or people in the room. You might need to place your camera in your selected spot and operate it remotely from outside the room.
Work your way through each space of the property and take all the images you need in each room or space before moving on. Check each image for clarity and that there isn’t anything out of place. Taking multiple images of the same space gives you a larger selection of images to use once you are ready to put them together in a virtual tour.
Creating your virtual tour.
After you have taken all the images for your virtual tour and are happy with how they came out, you can start to stitch them together. You will need to use a good 3D virtual tour software, like Matterport. This software will guide you step-by-step to create professional-looking virtual tours of your property. First, you will upload your images. The software will stitch normal, static images together to create 3D virtual tours, while you can use panoramic images to create 360 degree tours.
You could add additional features if your 3D virtual tour software allows for them. Some software lets users zoom in, back up, or look from side to side around the room using their computer mouse.
What cameras are used to make a 3D tour?
You can create video tours and 3D virtual tours with your smartphone (with a panoramic lens attachment) or a good camera. If you want to create professional-looking 360 degree tours, however, you will need specialized equipment. If you were to capture multiple images with a single camera to create a 360 degree feel, you might pick up something called stitching artifacts.
Stitching artifacts are caused by parallax errors that occur when you take images of the same object from different angles. Because the same object might be closer to the camera in some images and further away in others, they might appear in odd locations and not line up correctly when the images are stitched together.
You can eliminate nearly all parallax errors by using a single lens camera that rotates on the same axis around a fixed point.
360 Degree Cameras.
Most 360 degree cameras have two or fewer lenses that help eliminate parallax errors. Cameras with more than two lenses have a higher likelihood of creating parallax errors once the images are stitched together. The Ricoh Theta camera and Insta360 are the most popular 360 degree cameras. Still, these cameras both have two lenses and could produce some parallax errors and stitching artifacts in your final product.
360 degree cameras take images of a room or space in one or two shots. That means that the camera needs to be operated remotely to avoid capturing the photographer in the shot. If the camera supports a two-shot mode, you could manually operate the camera by standing behind it. You can then take an image in one direction and then turn with the camera (to stay behind it) to capture the image in the other direction. Because these cameras only need one or two shots of each space, they reduce the amount of time spent on site taking images significantly.
If you are considering using a 360 degree camera, keep in mind that the edges of images taken with these cameras are softer than images taken with a DSLR camera. They also tend to create noise in low light conditions because they have smaller image sensors. This could affect the quality of the images in your final product.
360 degree cameras could gather information to replicate 3D space structures and schematic floor plans – although they might not always be accurate.
Digital Single-lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras.
DSLR camera setups include a wide-angle or fisheye lens that is usually fixed to a tripod or other stabilizing device. The camera is rotated to take multiple images that will be combined into one 360° image at the end. The way the camera is mounted, along with the lens configuration, eliminates most parallax errors. You will likely need to take between four and twelve images with a DSLR camera, depending on the lens configuration.
It will take you longer to take the images you need with a DSLR camera than with a 360 degree camera because you need to take multiple shots of each space. On the other hand, they can be operated manually and generally have larger image sensors that capture better quality images in low-lighting conditions.
You can also use DSLR cameras to create 3D space structures and floor plans of the property.
Your mobile phone or another mobile device could be paired with an automated rotator to take images for a 360 degree virtual tour. If you use the right equipment, you could even eliminate most potential parallax errors. You will need to take a lot more pictures (between twelve and eighteen) to get a 360 degree view than you would if you were to use a 360 degree camera. However, you will likely capture higher resolution images with your mobile phone paired with a rotator than with a 360 degree camera. Images that are taken with your mobile phone generally will not show a complete photosphere (images of absolutely everything around you), and it might not capture parts of the ceiling.
Some virtual tour creating software companies like Matterport enables you to create 3D tours by capturing the images on an app. When you do this, you will hold your mobile in your hand and ‘sweep’ the camera over the space you want to capture. The images captured through this method are more prone to producing parallax errors, and stitching artifacts as the camera’s location and angle are continually changing.
Generally, capturing images for a virtual tour with your handheld mobile phone takes longer than phones on an automated rotator and 360 degree camera. Images derived from handheld mobile phones can extract a floor plan and create a 3D representation of the space.
WP3D Models partners with Matterport to create 3D tours, mostly for real estate websites.
WP3D Models is a WordPress plugin that was explicitly designed to support the Matterport community. WP3D Models serves as a content management system and a marketing engine to leverage the features that you get from Matterport. Virtual tours can be created in minutes (once the images are captured) and can be customized to include your company’s branding.
The plugin makes it easy to embed your Matterport 3D virtual tour on your website – whether it is a single property site or a library of available listings.
3D virtual tours are becoming popular and powerful marketing tools in the real estate industry. Guided tours can be done from the comfort of your own home and in your own time. They play a large role in separating those who are ‘just looking’ from serious buyers. This saves both the buyer and estate agent time and money while making the viewing and purchasing process more streamlined.