Giving The Experience

What do the latest trends in high-quality photography mean to real estate? Let's take a look at what's available today, what's on the horizon and what it all means to our business.

In a world where selfies rule, there’s no doubt we love our photos, and of course our videos. We capture our lives on our phones and EXPECT the quality to be as good as the SLR cameras Agassi made popular back in the 90s. High-resolution 4K televisions, iMacs with Retina 5K displays, and 3-D movies have given us a new level of expectation to live for. 

The Internet doesn't get a hall pass on this either. As we browse the web, we judge each site and their content by its quality of imagery. When we search for things - from clothing to homes - we find that seeing the item at a granular level, in the color choice we want, and at a 360-degree view that keeps us engaged and ultimately helps us make the decision to buy. 

Since the Internet began, most savvy Realtors have learned that no longer does the blurry bad MLS basic photo of the home do the trick. And photos shot with our new smart phones are not an upgrade from this as well. Short of hiring a professional photographer to create the now standard virtual tour in our industry, you aren’t doing what you’re expected to do as an agent.

Enter progress.

In early January, Google announced that YouTube soon will be natively supporting 360-degree videos. Similar to the recent entrance of Matterport in our industry, the idea that you can view a home as if you were standing in it is alluring. With Matterport, there’s a large expensive camera to buy in order to take advantage of the three-dimensional effect, although their dollhouse rendering and user interface technology make even the novice seem brilliant. Even then, if you have access to the camera, you need to have your 3-D Showcase hosted on their platform. As YouTube launches their new feature anyone with a $200 360-degree camera will be able to make this happen. Will they do it well? Probably not. But like our photography standards have elevated overtime, so will this.

Also not to forget is the controversial drone photography - the latest way in our industry to provide a lifelike experience to potential buyers. Although it's slightly out of reach, making it ever so much more appealing, the FAA is gradually loosening  its grip by slowly granting exemptions for commercial use of drones. In fact, just last week they let through 8 more companies on their long list of over 300 requesting exemptions. At this rate people are predicting no earlier than 2017 that drone photography will become a standard with Realtors.

Overall, the drone experience seems to best apply in real estate to large amounts of land, expansive estates, or the homes with views. Photographers aimed to service realtors have jumped on the drone bandwagon quickly teaching themselves how to manage the equipment and at the same time get quality film. We’ve found the somewhat affordable drone photography doesn’t really do it justice; it’s grainy, the videos are short and give you a similar experience to Google's street view. The next level of quality, probably closer to what we’d expect, comes at a hefty price of at least $2000. The photographers are usually well versed with the equipment and often aren’t associated with any real estate photography company, they’re freelancers. And finally there’s the real thing, with the image quality of the movies. Photographers come straight out of LA, and use techniques found in Academy Award winning films. Drones are used, but often more so are helicopters. These videos often take months to produce and cost thousands. I figure less than 1% of all realtors will ever provide such a film.

So does either 360-degree video, or drone photography ever replace quality real estate basics? Not at this point. But we do know that the world is getting smaller, and buyers more often than not are coming from out of the area, often from out of the county. Ultimately we found the trend to prove that the winning agents, the ones that sell homes faster than others, are providing an unmatched experience for the global buyers that is as close as it can be to actually visiting the home. Yet when in doubt don’t give up on really good photography.