Before you can sell a property, you need to convince a prospective buyer to visit.
While high-quality images can get the job done, many agents are now using 3D virtual tours as an additional marketing tool. For real estate photographers, this is an opportunity not to be missed.
There are many software you can use to create 3D walkthroughs - but by far the most popular are Matterport and iGuide. The question is, which one should you choose?
Here is a detailed comparison of the two apps.
In contrast with traditional 360° imagery, a 3D virtual tour should be a perfect visual reproduction of the property. This means every surface should be captured in detail, and the precise shape of every room recorded.
To achieve this as a photographer, you need to use some specialist equipment.
Both Matterport and iGuide have proprietary 3D cameras that capture both images and dimensions; iGuyide also supports a couple of third-party cameras.
With each software, you set up the camera in various places throughout the building and let it scan the surrounding area each time, then you use their software to create your 3D virtual tour.
Both apps use the precise spatial measurements provided by laser technology - or some clever image processing - to build a perfect virtual environment.
You can use the supplied software to produce simulated video walkthroughs or generate still images. It's also possible to publish the entire digital model, such that prospective buyers can navigate the property themselves.
In today's market, real estate photographers constantly need to prove their worth.
This means going the extra mile for your clients, and providing genuine value through the services you offer. It helps if those services cannot easily be replicated by an agent with a smartphone, too.
Virtual tours certainly fall into this category. What's more, they have become an essential part of selling a home in many local markets.
The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the growth in demand; Zillow reported a 191% increase in the number of virtual tours added to the site in just one month. Listings with 3D virtual tours are saved by 50% more buyers, and they sell 10% faster.
Those aren't the only eye-catching numbers surrounding virtual tours. Of all the add-on services you can offer to your clients, 3D scanning is one of the most lucrative.
Most photographers charge by the square foot, and you can upsell by including extras such as walkthroughs optimized for social media.
Assuming you would like to start offering 3D virtual tours to your clients, the next step is to choose your software. So, which is the better option: Matterport or iGuide?
It would be nice to give a definitive answer. However, both software have attributes that are suited to different tasks. Let's take a closer look.
Although Matterport and iGuide are in direct competition, they each offer something slightly different.
Matterport combines 360° photography and 3D measurements using artificial intelligence to produce detailed "dollhouse" models.
These 3D virtual models are small-scale replicas of the building, with ceilings removed, allowing the viewer to look down on the contents of every room from above. It's a spectacular way to preview a property.
The visuals are captured using a specialized multi-lens camera, while measurements are collected using several infrared scanners. These data are used to recreate the frame of the property, onto which the captured images can be hung like wallpaper.
Matterport is very popular with agents, and for many years, Matterport had a network for linking clients and skilled photographers. Unfortunately, the doors of this program are now closed.
iGuide also combines 360° photography and laser scanning. But instead of creating dollhouses, the software serves up virtual tours that are linked to 2D interactive floor plans.
As the photographer, you capture images using a customized SLR with a single fisheye lens. The individual shots are then later stitched together automatically.
Rather than 3D scanning, the iGuide software uses something called a "time-of-flight" laser. This can't create dollhouses, but it's more accurate and it has a considerably greater range than the Matterport equivalent. Because it can detect features in a wider area, you don't need to take so many shots, and as a result, you can scan an entire property in under half an hour.
This may be one of the reasons why iGuide has taken off in recent years. Originally an underdog, it's now tussling with Matterport for market dominance.
One significant distinction between Matterport and iGuide is your choice of supported equipment for each software.
The official Matterport Pro2 camera looks like something from Star Trek, which is appropriate given the technology inside. This angular black box has several fixed lenses facing in different directions, and it rotates automatically to capture 360° views at a high resolution.
The Pro2 is remarkably easy to use: you simply set it down and press a button. There is even a companion smartphone app, which tells you where you need to place your tripod.
The only downside to this simplicity is a relative lack of manual shooting options.
If you are on a tighter budget, you can use a Ricoh Theta Z1 / V or the Insta360 ONEX with Matterport. The official app even supports 3D scanning with the camera of your iPhone or iPad.
In contrast, iGuide only supports the proprietary IMS-5 3D camera. This strange contraption is actually a Canon EOS Rebel T100 equipped with a 5.6mm fisheye lens, and a laser measurement module strapped to the top.
Given that you are working with a customized DSLR, this system may feel more instinctive for experienced photographers. Furthermore, it gives you an array of manual settings to play with.
That said, if you want to use the iGuide software, this camera is your only option.
The Matterport Pro2 camera has a list price of $3,395, while the iGuide IMS-5 is available direct for $3,500. Not much to choose here, although remember you can use the much more affordable Ricoh and Insta360 cameras with Matterport.
The scanning process is straightforward with Matterport, if a little slow - partly because the infrared scanning technology has only a limited range, so more scans are needed. It can take anything up to one or two hours to cover a large property.
In comparison, the iGuide IMS-5 allows skilled operators to capture an entire house in about 20 minutes. That is a major difference in time spent on site.
That said, Matterport somewhat makes up for the extra scanning time with a very simple editing workflow.
In Matterport, you just upload your data from the capture app, and the software automatically assembles your 3D model. You have the option to fill small gaps, but otherwise the process is automated.
Once your model is online, you can open the Workshop view to control how the virtual tour should be presented. For instance, you might add tags to notable features, or restrict access to certain areas of the model. It's all fairly simple.
Creating your virtual tours using the iGuide Stitch app is more hands-on. The software compiles the data automatically, but you may need to do some tweaking to ensure everything looks right.
You can make manual adjustments to all the data, and edit the images should you wish. iGuide does a good job of combining the photography and measurements, and the images are automatically enhanced - but you might want to tweak the alignment or exposure settings from time to time. Only once you're happy do you upload your tour for iGuide to process.
Comparing the two systems, Matterport's software is the more user-friendly. But that is a direct consequence of the additional effort you put in during scanning.
Another area in which these two software differ notably is the way in which they present 3D content.
Along with interactive 3D tours, Matterport delivers beautiful, detailed dollhouse views.
This form of presentation allows buyers to gain a spatial awareness of the property while simultaneously previewing the feel of each room. In addition, you can add clickable points of interest.
Users can explore by clicking to "move" around the property. However, navigating these digital models can feel a little overwhelming, so you might prefer to present the dollhouse view with a guided walkthrough.
Within the Matterport software, you simply choose which rooms you would like to show to prospective buyers and wait for the app to produce a highlight reel.
The visual effect of zooming in to each room is certainly eye-catching, and Matterport allows you to export the video in a format suitable for Instagram - a unique feature.
While iGuide does not offer dollhouse views, it matches Matterport stride for stride when it comes to the virtual tour experience.
Rather than asking you to fly around a 3D model, iGuide presents 360° photography alongside an interactive floor plan. To "visit" a room in the 3D view, you just click that point on the 2D map.
This makes iGuide tours slightly more intuitive for less tech-savvy viewers in comparison to Matterport's immersive dollhouses
Another benefit of using iGuide is that you can quickly export those floor plans. They are accurate to within 0.5-1%, so you can offer precise measurements as an attractive add-on.
Matterport and iGuide use two different pricing models - but in both cases, you can expect affordable fees after a significant initial outlay on equipment.
Matterport is based on monthly subscriptions. There are several tiers, ranging from free to Business Plus, which is $689 per month.
Each package includes online hosting for a certain number of models; your first is free, and the top tier offers 250 slots. Note that if you use the Pro2 camera, the cheapest tier you can use is the Professional subscription, priced at $69 per month.
Bear in mind that your models will go offline if you stop paying your subscription.
There are no monthly fees with iGuide. Instead, you pay by the square foot, with a minimum price per property and an additional fee for properties over 10,000ft2.
Starting at $29, Standard processing delivers most of iGuide's features for $0.02/ft2. Premium processing adds advanced measurements, detailed floor plans, and VR compatibility for $0.03/ft2 with a minimum charge of $43.50.
iGuide also offers small extras, such as Google Street View upload for $15. On the flip side, you don't (currently, at least) have to pay for hosting.
So, what does this mean?
Matterport is more economical if you shoot plenty of 3D virtual tours in larger properties.
If your virtual tours are more infrequent, or you mostly shoot smaller properties (<4,000ft2), iGuide will probably be cheaper.
As you can see from this review, there is plenty to consider when comparing Matterport and iGuide. They are two very capable systems that produce virtual tours in contrasting ways.
Matterport feels like the more premium product here. It's simple to use, easy on the eye, and filled with features. You can also choose which camera you want to use. The downside is the commitment to monthly payments.
iGuide is slightly less polished, and technically not quite so ambitious. However, it fulfills the needs of most clients, provides excellent accuracy, and allows photographers to get the job done faster.
In summary, Matterport is better for:
iGuide is better for: