Matterport 101

I recently had the opportunity to shoot a Matterport 3D tour of a home. I currently don’t own any 3D/360 degree camera, but was given access to one by Devon Fletcher of The Fletcher Group (Keller Williams Boise) for one of his listings.

First of all, using the camera is a cinch. It’s made, I gather, to be very user friendly. Not just professional photographers use this camera, but regular agents as well, most of whom probably don’t have any training in photography. But this camera requires very little instruction or experience.

However, before actually operating the device, it’s necessary to go to the Matterport website and set up a free account. A free, basic account gives you 5 “spaces,” which amount to five properties. It’s a good way to get started, as a 3D/360 tour is not always a necessary option in real estate photography, although Covid-19 as changed that somewhat in the past months. You’ll want to download the Matterport Capture app for your mobile device as this will allow you to scan the house (via the camera), store the images, and upload them to the Matterport site for processing. The Matterport site also allows you to take advantage of instructive videos on the general operation of the camera. They’re very helpful and very easy to understand.

Rookie advice: make sure the camera batteries are charged, but even more so, make sure your mobile device is charged also! My initial scans had to be scrapped as my smartphone battery tanked, and I was forced to return to the property the next day to complete the task. Fortunately, the house was vacant. Also, make sure all the lights are on in the house, just like you would for standard photography.

Once I did do the scans, I found that following a basic “route” that you might imagine any potential buyer to take was helpful. Walk through the house before you scan anything to plot a course, and then start anywhere in the house and follow the pattern you’ve determined works best.

Scanning is easy: once you have determined your starting point, like in the center of the kitchen, hit “scan” on your app, and the camera begins to scan the room. I found you have to hide in the next room so you don’t wind up in the shot. The app chimed to let me know when it was okay to move the camera to its next scan point. I found moving the camera about three steps sufficed, as it allowed enough overscan for Matterport to “see” the whole room. If you don’t overscan enough, the app will tell you, or advise you to keep it closer next time. Continue with the scans throughout the house until you’ve covered the entire property. Depending on the size of the listing, it will take you anywhere from 40 to 90 minutes.

Once you’re done, all you have to do is break down the camera gear and go home. Don’t bother uploading on your cell carrier’s network, unless you have smoking fast upload speeds. It’s easier to go home or back to the office where you can connect to wifi. Once uploaded, Matterport does the rest. The images and the resulting “dollhouse” overview from Matterport take about twelve hours to get back to you. These will go to the account you set up on your mobile. Or, as I did, you can send the finished product to your agent’s Matterport account where they can then post it to the MLS, their website, Zillow, etc. Either way, I believe planning accordingly as far as when the material is needed for listing is prudent.

There are other options camera-wise than the $2,900 Matterport device. Their camera is top-notch with its image quality and delivery, but there’s also the Ricoh THETA Z1 360 camera that shoots just as well and costs $999. If you’re on more of a budget, Ricoh also features the THETA V for approximately $360. There are also options for your smartphone.

With Covid-19, walkthroughs with clients have been limited or nonexistent. Tours with a 3D camera have become a hot commodity, especially in markets that are particularly hot, like the Boise, ID, area. Don’t believe me? Go try and buy a Ricoh Z1 on Amazon. It’s not even offered. Matterport is also becoming a useful and efficient tool for the property restoration business.

Overall, my first experience with a 3D tour can be summed up in one word: FUN. The process is detailed, but not hard. Scanning is simple, uploading a snap, and the finished product amazes. The 3D tour is a fantastic extra to the overall real estate visual marketing agenda, well worth the time, effort, and investment.

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