3D Virtual Real Estate Tours – Fad or the Future?

Imagine if rather than simply having real estate photos (or even a video slideshow) of a property, you could have a 3D virtual tour for potential buyers to view online.

Well you don’t need to imagine it (though by all means continue if you’re having fun). Because this technology is no longer confined to the realms of your imagination. It’s a real thing in real life.

Creating 3D videos

There are two ways to create 3D virtual real estate videos.

Firstly, let me introduce you to the Matterport Pro 3D Camera. This camera has recently begun to get some traction in the Australian real estate market. Naturally, there’s a lot of complicated technology behind it – but don’t worry, I won’t bore you with techno-babble. Put simply, the Matterport scans a house to create a 3D virtual “walk through” of the property. This virtual real estate tour can then be uploaded online for potential buyers to view, allowing them to walk through the property without ever physically visiting it. The main exciting point of difference between the Matterport and earlier virtual tours is that while the earlier tours only allowed you to do a 360 degree pan from a single point in the room, the new ones let you move around in the room, and from room to room.

The second way to create a 3D virtual real estate tour is to use software to create virtual renders of the property based on floor plans, lighting plans, and other details about the finishes and intended final “look”. This is perfect for properties that are yet to be built.


If your main pool of buyers are located overseas, then 3D virtual real estate tours are a bit of a God-send. When combined with photos and video, they allow your overseas buyers to get a more thorough idea of the property they’re buying than they could ever get otherwise. This is also a great point of difference if your competitors aren’t offering the same service.

3D virtual real estate tours are also a great idea for marketing properties that are yet to be built – especially unit developments or other off-the-plan homes. Obviously, it’s impossible for prospective buyers to physically inspect an off-the-plan property. It doesn’t exist yet. But with a 3D virtual tour, you can give buyers an idea of the look and feel of the property, and show them the quality of the proposed fixtures, fittings, and other features. Once again, this can give you a competitive advantage in the market, especially if your competitors aren’t doing it.

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Of course, as with any new technology, it isn’t all sunshine and roses. (Sunshine literally can’t be involved too much… but more about that in a moment.)

From a photography perspective

From a photography perspective, there are four main challenges with the Matterport 3D cameras. These aren’t all such a concern for 3D virtual renders of off-the-plan homes, but they’re definite cons if you’re creating 3D tours of existing properties.

The first, and perhaps the least serious, is time. It takes 60 to 90 minutes to scan an “average” sized home. Not surprisingly, a bigger home = longer time. While this doesn’t make the job impossible, it does make it time-consuming.

There’s also the question of accurate representations of space. You’ve seen cameras with wide angle lenses warp the subjects of their photos. Similarly, 3D cameras can warp objects, rooms, and representations of space. This is obviously far from ideal, because the last thing you want your 3D virtual tour to do is give a false impression of a property.

Using 3D cameras, you also experience other limitations that aren’t a problem with normal photography and videography. Because you film every nook and cranny, you can’t use additional lighting for dark interiors. So dark interiors stay dark. As the camera moves from room to room, the colour temperature can vary, with a whiter tone in some rooms, and a yellower one in others, depending on the lighting. The camera’s also limited because you can’t use it outside or in direct sunlight, meaning you can only film in the early morning, at dusk, or with all the curtains and blinds closed.

Presenting the house in a 3D virtual tour is also a challenge. Everything has to be perfectly placed, and you can’t move items from room to room like you might do when taking stills.

From an agent’s perspective

From a real estate agent’s perspective, the biggest concern with 3D virtual real estate tours is the risk that prospective buyers won’t front up to your open homes. That’s because they may already have made a judgement on the property based on the 3D virtual tour. If it didn’t seem ideal, they’re less likely to turn up than if they’d only seen a handful of photos.

A lack of buyers at your open home creates three main problems.

When buyers turn up physically to a property you’re selling, you have the opportunity to get feedback from them about the house. This can be valuable to you as the agent, and also to the owner. If they don’t turn up, you don’t get feedback.

Meeting buyers in person also creates opportunities for you to convince them about the property if they’re wavering, or to agree to negotiate with them. If they’re a no show, you’ve missed this opportunity.

And of course, if buyers don’t turn up, you can’t collect their contact details to build your database. When you have their details and you know what they’re looking for, you’re more likely to be able to sell them a property, even if it’s not the one they’re currently viewing. But if people don’t turn up to the open home, you’re unable to do that.

The verdict

3D virtual real estate tours are still an emerging technology.

If your buyers are overseas, or your portfolio includes new builds, 3D virtual tours are a worthwhile investment.

But if not, I would caution you to be wary of providing 3D virtual tours for existing homes being marketed locally. I say this for the same reason I advise agents not to provide too many pictures of a property online: because the whole point of marketing a property is to entice prospective buyers to make an enquiry or come to an open home. If they can see everything online, they may pass judgement on a property and not enquire, even though the home is actually ideal for them.

Your say

Have you marketed a property with a 3D virtual tour video? How did you find the experience? Let me know in the comments below!

Got questions? Comment away and I’ll be sure to get back to you.

3D Virtual Tour, Matterport, Real Estate Tours, Real Estate Video

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