Remember years and years ago, when Property Panorama launched? Property Panorama is still around, and running strong. They are probably the industry’s leading virtual tour company, with over 500,000 customers building tens of thousands of tours every day. Zillow took a page out of Property Panorama’s playbook by using visualizations to create a 360-degree tour and stitching them together, which they call Zillow 3D Home – and claim it is a 3D tour. Way to catch a headline, Zillow, but your tours aren’t even close to a real Matterport or GeoCV 3D Tour.
The gap between Zillow’s 360 panorama tours and 3D tours is significant. Perhaps the most significant difference is the absence of the 3D Doll House view of the home in Zillow’s 3D tours. For me, this perspective of a home is the excitement of 3D, especially the virtual reality experience that smoothly transitions from room to room without jumping. True 3D delivers a special feeling in a way that the Zillow 360 panoramas do not.
Although I think that it is less important to the consumer experience, the 3D from Matterport and GeoCV also provides you with the ability to extract floor plans with near perfect accuracy of room dimensions and the ability to create HDR photos. True 3D tours create a digital twin of a property.
Zillow’s tours are not all bad, I just take exception to calling them 3D tours. The experience is not horrible; they provide a much better online property experience than still images, and will likely create a stepping stone to drive more adoption of true 3D tours. Zillow may further prove out the value of Matterport and GeoCV by popularizing the experience with consumers, especially if they highlight these properties and favor them in search results. Even after years of being in the marketplace, most consumers have never experienced a Matterport or GeoCV tour. When they first do, they are blown away. In some small way, Zillow will train the consumer eye to expect this experience and grow the category.
I wonder how many FSBO consumers, or Make Me Move sellers, will use the Zillow 3D Home app. I am in an airport today, or I would have built a tour of my property to test. Only properties on Zillow.com with an address can be added. I can tell you from experience that the Zillow 3D Home panorama capture is really easy to use.
I am also excited to see Zillow promoting an agnostic approach to cameras. The hardware was one of the biggest hurdles to the growth of Matterport and GeoCV. Currently, there are many camera companies trying to bring cameras able to capture true 3D video to the market at a lower price. If agents invest in good cameras, then the Zillow solution will pop a lot better than if they use their cell phones. Zillow supports the Ricoh Theta camera. I would also expect that cell phones with dual cameras are about one generation away from 3D capture. Today, phones do not let you capture from both cameras simultaneously.
Who Owns the Data?
As always, WAV Group encourages you to be thoughtful about who owns the data and license to the tour. Here we go again with Zillow policy concerns of perpetual, unfettered use. I wish that our industry would take the responsibility of protecting homebuyers’ privacy seriously, by adopting solutions that enable a buyer to remove the interior photos of their home off of the internet. Zillow already has the largest photo repository of property photos in the world, but more than that, they have the freedom to commercialize them however they like. I don’t blame Zillow for this strategy, it’s damn smart. But I do blame brokers, agents, and photographers for not being equally smart.
Anyway, enough soap boxing. Zillow now offers a free product to get listing agents into the 360-panorama game, and there are advantages to using these tools if Zillow marketing is a key part of your digital advertising strategy. But if you want to do it right, continue to invest in the Matterport and GeoCV 3D solutions. They are much better, and with GeoCV, you own it.
By the way – I am more than a little surprised that there was not a concerted effort by Zillow to use this opportunity to drive the adoption of their listing add/edit tool developed in Bridge. I think that the agent experience would be better if you could build an entire listing and capture the images in the same app. And, in some markets where the MLS has Bridge integrations, the agent could upload the listing to the MLS. Seems like an opportunity. Coming soon, perhaps.