Today I wanted to introduce you to a company called Matterport. This California-based startup has been making waves in the world of real estate over the past year and if you haven't already heard about the solution these guys are bringing to the market, I think it's something you ought to know about (not only because it has the potential to be very useful for real estate professionals, but also because the technology is really cool).
If you're at all familiar with Google Street View – Matterport's technology may look familiar. With Matterport's 3D Showcase, prospective buyers can get a similar perspective both inside and outside any piece of real estate. Take a look at what the typical Matterport virtual tour looks like below and you'll see what I mean. In this day and age, this is the best off-site view you're ever going to see on a property.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to do an email interview with Jeff Harris, Vice President of Sales for Matterport. I was really curious about this new technology and had lots of questions about how it works and the feasibility of its use for the typical real estate investor. Feel free to sit in on our conversation below…
Interview with Jeff Harris, Vice President of Sales – Matterport
In your opinion, what kind of person is an ideal candidate to purchase a Pro 3D Camera from Matterport? Is this more ideal for a Realtor, or for someone who wants to start their own, standalone “virtual tour” business?
Actually, both are ideal candidates. There are brokerages and agents purchasing cameras to use with every listing and are promoting themselves as forward thinking real estate marketers. Feedback from these agents is that 3D Showcase is an awesome addition to their listing presentation and gives them a huge advantage in their markets.
We also realize that some real estate professionals want a service provider to create the models for them, and vendors who service the industry now, such as real estate photographers or floor plan providers, are in an excellent position to capitalize on the high demand for Matterport's 3D models. The technology is easy enough for anyone to use.
Who is an ideal end-user of this service? Realtors? Homeowners? Real Estate Investors?
A clear application is the marketing of for-sale listings, so realtors are a natural audience for this service. Real estate investors can make use of the service by either viewing models of available homes to purchase (and save themselves a lot of time), or scanning their portfolio to show rented properties without disturbing tenants each time the property is up for lease. Homeowners will find uses for the service that may not be readily apparent today – such as the ability to use the 3D Showcase to view what a remodeled room could look like before they set foot in a home improvement or furniture store.
How much is the typical 3D camera owner charging for their services? If I wanted to hire someone to create a virtual tour of my house, do you have any idea how much they would charge for this?
We get asked this a lot. There are many variables that go into pricing, such as the square footage of the home, the market in which the home is located, and if the 3D Showcase is bundled with other services, such as photography or floor plans. This is typically about the same or even less than the cost of a photography package. Your best bet is to speak with a provider in your market.
Do you foresee this service becoming available in the form of an iPhone app, or a less expensive technology that more people can use?
We are excited about mobile and are developing a software-based solution for future mobile devices. We expect that these will be great for consumer use, but we will also continue to make a great professional product that is suitable for commercial uses.
We see this as parallel to an iPhone versus a professional DSLR. An iPhone takes very good photos, but if you hired a wedding photographer and he showed up with an iPhone, you probably would be a bit upset. However, there were probably a bunch of guests there who took really good pictures with their iPhones.
How well has this technology been received in the markets you serve? Are there a lot of camera owners out there? Are they getting much business? Have you seen slow or explosive growth?
We are seeing growth well beyond what we anticipated when we launched 3D Showcase last July. Demand has been strong, and there are definitely professionals making a business out of creating 3D Showcases for their local real estate professionals.
Absolutely! Matterport provides users with both a link (for use with MLS) and an embed code (for putting on blogs and webpages). The embed code enables displays of 3D Showcases in the same fashion one can easily embed a YouTube video on a webpage or blog. We will continue to expand ways that Real Estate professionals can easily and broadly share this unique content.
What are some of the biggest obstacles Matterport has seen as you've been trying to get this technology out to the masses? Has the market been receptive to this new technology, or are people hesitant to give it a try?
Because we are a relatively new product, our biggest challenge has been getting folks to experience and interact with our 3D Showcases. Once they do that, they very clearly see the benefits of how Matterport's 3D Showcases can help them win listings, attract qualified buyers, and attract and retain agents. Our appearances at trade shows this year have been a lot of fun because we get many brokers and agents checking out the 3D Showcases and learning about Matterport. Some folks, upon seeing the 3D showcases, assume the camera and technology is difficult to use. Once we demonstrate its simplicity this concern quickly abates. The payback for brokers and agents who purchase a camera is very quick. Often, if an agent can win just one more listing, the technology can pay for itself, and agents feel they can win way more than one listing with Matterport!
What are the most common excuses people use for not using this? How would you encourage those people to overcome those objections?
Some agents feel it's for the luxury market only. That simply is not the case. Nearly all listings, regardless of price, are worth photographing, which means those same homes should have 3D Showcases. Homes with photographs have higher perceived values, and I'd bet homes with 3D Showcases have even higher perceived values. We've heard that agents who use this technology are finding that prospects who view the 3D Showcases before visiting are often better qualified prospects, and that makes sense because you can immerse yourself in the house and get a sense of layout and perspective. If buyers can get better previews of the home before getting into the car, they won't waste their or the agent's time viewing properties they really aren't interested in purchasing. So saving agents time and selling the home faster are applicable to all homes, not just luxury.
If someone wants to purchase a Pro 3D camera and get into this business, what advice would you have for them as they're getting started? What have been some of the biggest challenges for the people who are entering this business?
I'd suggest networking with your local real estate community. Demonstrate the product to as many agents as you can. Offer to present at weekly agent meetings at offices around town. Have contests to attract agents and offer to do a scan for a discount to get them started. We have a Director of Partner Adoption who focuses on helping our clients large and small succeed. We have how-to videos online, an excellent FAQ and Support section on our website, and we provide some collateral material on our website (Matterport.com) for customers to use in creating their own marketing.
Like any business, marketing takes effort. Fortunately, once you have someone's attention, the 3D Showcase really speaks for itself.
Do you have any “verifiable proof” (e.g. – buyer testimonials, side-by-side comparisons, etc) that this technology is actually helping to sell properties faster?
The feedback from agents and service providers has been positive and adoption is growing because they see the value in how this helps them to market. Many high profile agents have told us Matterport has helped them win more listings. We hear anecdotal comments such as when a buyer comes to a property after viewing it online, they are already interested and more qualified.
With this technology, are buyers becoming more comfortable with buying real estate without seeing it on-site and in-person?
We have heard stories of overseas buyers purchasing real estate sight unseen because of the Matterport 3D Showcases.
Do these kinds of virtual tours make it harder to sell properties in any way? For example – if a house is downright ugly, is it ever a bad idea to show buyers this much detail?
Well, as for the strategies of showing “ugly” houses, I'll defer to experienced real estate agents for answering that! But I will say that the key to selling an “ugly” house is to find the person who thinks it's just what they need. The best way to do that is to distribute the ability to “walk through” the property to as many people as possible. As the saying goes, “One man's trash is another man's treasure.”
Jeff Harris is the VP of Sales and Business Development for Matterport. Jeff brings years of experience in the real estate industry with a deep understanding of the intersection between technology and the home buying process. Prior to Matterport, Jeff served as vice president of business development at VHT, the nation’s largest real estate photography provider, developing partnerships with media companies, portals, syndicators and other real estate technology companies. Jeff also served as vice president of business development at iNest, the online real estate brokerage, and helped guide the company through its acquisition by LendingTree, where he later held executive positions and collaborated on real estate initiatives.