How RICOH360 Tours Helps Me Achieve My Real Estate Photography Business Goals
One of the most notable places where 3D tours have gained significant traction is in the real estate media market. But professional real estate photographers and selling agents still have to make the tough decision of deciding the most suitable tour system for them. Where many of the proprietary systems available have proven to be too expensive and too difficult to use, RICOH360 Tours has been a real hero.
The RICOH THETA Camera and the RICOH360 tours platform have proven to be quite valuable especially for photographers in the industry who have closed more contracts and make more profits thanks to this low-cost and intuitive system. In this article, we discuss with Matthew J. Davis, a professional real estate photographer in Los Angeles about how RICOH360 Tours has been helping his business.
Matthew J. Davis - Estate Media Services
Can you briefly describe yourself, what you do and what your company does?
My name is Matthew Davis. I'm the owner of Estate Media Services. We specialize in architectural and real estate photography. We do all kinds of photography. But over 90% of our business is in the areas of real estate and architectural photography
How long has your company been in business and how would you describe your customers?
I've been doing photography for about 20 years, but Estate Media Services has been in business for nine years. The majority of what we do involves working with seller agents to get photos, videos, 3D tours, and drone photographs of properties being sold. These products help them to market the property and get it sold. I do work occasionally with some property management firms as well. I found that they make a lot less money per transaction, so it's hard for them to be able to pay for top-quality photos for rental properties. But there are a few that have seen the value in it and are investing long term in their rental properties.
How have you started using RICOH360 Tours?
So originally, when I looked at 3D platforms, there was one we were really considering - Matterport. It was kind of the pioneer in the space. Their cameras ran about $4,500 and their hosting platform was about $150 a month or more, depending on how many listings you are going to be hosting.
While there were a lot of things that I liked about their system, there were some major concerns. The biggest was the fact that the proprietary file system did not record the images in either a JPEG or a raw format. This meant I couldn't then take those images and touch them up in a professional environment like Photoshop or Lightroom.
So, as nice as the media platform felt, it wasn’t really tailored towards professionals that are trying to market properties by showing them off under the best conditions. Also, the number of tours I could do with it was limited despite paying $150 monthly. Due to these limitations, I had to drop the Matterport ideas and look for something better.
RICOH360 Tours was the perfect alternative. The price was much cheaper - about a quarter of the cost of the Matterport system - and I felt it was worth trying. I also realized that it saves the pictures in JPEG format, which made it possible to modify the photos in Photoshop or Lightroom in order to make each individual photo stand out and attract consumers. But my favorite part about the system in addition to these is the fact that the tours are unlimited. You've got an unlimited number of active tours once you’re subscribed.
Wonderful. How many virtual tours do you create in a typical month?
We've got 196 tours right now. We started in January of last year. So, if you just do the simple math, that's roughly about ten a month. Of course, we're getting slightly fewer 3D tours now than we did last year. Because of the pandemic, agents were more willing to get the 3D tours on every single listing. Since there were restrictions on showings and they couldn’t open houses, 3D tours were the next best thing they could get. Although the restrictions are loosening up now, we still get people who are interested in the tours, but mostly on homes that they really think are going to showcase. We are down to about 6 to 7 compared to about 15 to 20 per month last year. But that's more than what I anticipated when I actually purchased the product. When we launched the 3D platform, I figured I'd get five to ten a month. We’ve been able to do more than that.
How helpful was RICOH360 Tours for your business during the pandemic?
The pandemic closed everything worldwide. Fortunately, in the US, they made real estate an essential service, which meant that photography was part of that essential service. What I noticed was the number of properties being listed went down substantially, probably 25 to 30 percent of what you'd normally see on an annual basis.
But between me and my other photographers, our income didn't change because even though we were shooting fewer properties, we had just added the RICOH system. What I thought we'd do in a couple of months, we were doing it on almost every home. And so that increased our per property revenue that we were making on each individual home. That put us in a place where even though we did fewer houses for the year, we were right around the same benchmark as far as our income was concerned.
In terms of the positive effects of this tool on your business, do you remember anything that might have increased the number of clients you achieved?
It's hard to say specifically. I don't think I've landed any new clients specifically because of the 3D tour, but I think I've won clients over other real estate photographers because I offer that piece of technology in addition to the regular photos and the drone photographs.
I did land a big commercial gig with a retirement housing foundation. They own a bunch of retirement communities all over California, and I landed a contract with them. First, it was just one property. They needed some photos to update their website. So, I prepared a quote for them. In the first quote, it was just photos and drone, which is what they asked for, and in the second quote, I added a 3D tour of each one of the apartment sizes that they had. My highest package had a video that they could use to promote the facility.
They ended up going with the highest package. And I think part of that was because of COVID and their retirement community. Everyone there is at high risk and being able to have those individual tours for the apartments, and send them out to people that are interested was safer for them. They can preview it and navigate themselves through the space without having to physically be there. I think that was a huge selling point for them. After I landed that contract with that particular property, the corporate office called me and they loved everything. And they said, “we want you to do every single retirement complex we have in all of California”. And I said, “sure, let's do it”. I think that RICOH360 Tours played a major role in winning that contract.
In your opinion, what makes RICOH360 Tours a user-friendly platform compared to other services?
First is the fact that it takes less time. What the Matterport system for instance would take probably about an hour to an hour and a half to complete, you’ll only need about 30 minutes with the RICOH360 system. This means you will be spending only half the time spent on location as you would normally spend.
There’s also no need to set up multiple cameras to take a shot. From my research, I realized that there were many systems that were set up like this. But why would I want to waste my time with setting up 10 cameras when I can just take one camera?
RICOH360 Tours also has a mobile app that comes in handy when I need to work on the go. I’ve got a wife and six kids so I try to carve out as much time as possible to do family things. So on occasions where I need to go through the photos and set all the waypoints or navigation points but and I don't have the time to do that before we have to go leave and do family stuff like go to Disneyland or Knotts Berry Farm, I can easily pull out the app and do a few things. It takes a little while for it to load, but once it loads, then I'll click on the tour, go through and start adding the waypoints on the phone. I'm spending more time with the kids and I'm able to kind of get that work completed at the same time.
And finally, there’s the image enhancement feature. I don’t use it a lot because as a professional, I am able to touch everything up in Photoshop. But one of the best things about the RICOH360 Tours is that it reaches out to both professionals and individual agents. So an agent might want to reach out and buy a $300 camera, upload the images directly from the camera then use that image enhancement feature to make some minor adjustments on the photos and to look a little bit better than they did coming straight out of the camera. So even though that's not a feature I use, I still see the value in that.
One last question. Would you recommend RICOH360 Tours to other photographers and agents?
Yeah, the RICOH360 Tours is one I seriously recommend for anyone that’s thinking about getting a virtual tour software. Whether you’re an agent thinking about picking up a RICOH THETA camera and getting the platform for themselves or a professional photographer that's looking at adding the RICOH system to their existing platform. It's definitely something I recommend on both fronts.