Home virtual tours for realtors business???
July 22, 2006 8:28 PM   Subscribe

I'm considering doing a side-business creating home virtual tours (360 degree panos + stills) for local real estate professionals. I understand there are companies out there, that provide info and marketing materials that allow you to be an affiliate. Anybody doing this/done this have any words of wisdom?
posted by spock to Work & Money (9 answers total)
I can't imagine how you can make money with such a side business. There are a few established companies in the market & many smaller ones, and I doubt you'll be able to contact enough brokers that will enable you to make a living on it.
posted by growabrain at 8:59 PM on July 22, 2006

I disagree with growabrain.

Having just bought a condo in Chicago, one of my biggest complaints was that the vast number of listings amazingly did not have photos or virtual tours. I would have thought that in 2006, everyone would have one.

I think you could make a living on it in a city with a big real estate market.
posted by twiggy at 9:27 PM on July 22, 2006

As a Real Estate agent I will tell you that it will be somewhat tough to make alot of money, but if your start up costs are low and its mostly a side business you could doing O.K. Why? Because real estate aetns are cheap.. haha we have so much overhead already running ads and paying for things that unless the listing is extremely pricey chances are we are going to take the photos our selves to save money. Will you be able to represent your value to your clients? and will you market to for sales by owners or jsuyt agents and if you do the former... what if they ahve no website for their home? I am sure people make money doing it but I dont think its a wham bam I made 3k bucks last week kind of job.
posted by crewshell at 10:20 PM on July 22, 2006

I'll admit this isn't entirely on-topic, but McSweeney's had a rather amusing PDF of a book that's tangentially related to the subject: Lessons in Virtual Tour Photography [PDF].

Speaking seriously, crewshell is right. I've done some work in another industry involving photography and video as a tool to sell something else, and I can tell you that margins are tight. If you're really frugal with your expenditures and market yourself well, there might be a hope. Specialize, and expend effort to make sure you're getting work done the cheapest way possible.
posted by Alterscape at 12:58 AM on July 23, 2006

Being an "affiliate" to one of these companies is for suckers. Either do it yourself or don't do it at all - you'll get nothing of value from the companies promoting affiliation.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:09 AM on July 23, 2006

i wouldn't do the affiliate thing either. Do you personally know any real esate agents? As crewshell said, they have lots of overhead already. We--high end real esate magazine--get photos submitted by agents that appear to be drive-by camera phone photos all the time. When they could get a decent exterior photo taken for $10. A pixelated photo of a million dollar house isn't uncommon.

Also, look at the market where you live. Do houses sell for $200k? 500K? Here the median price is around $800k, so the agents make more money but also have to spend more to sell.

We used to have an in-house-but-separate business that did video and virtual tours....and it is basically closed down now...and we regularly have contact with the 5,000 agents in this county. So i'd say it is a tough thing to try.

i've seen at least 2 photo/virtual tour businesses [individuals] start up in the last year, and they seem to be doing ok for now. So i'd say, start slow, do it yourself, make good relationships with local agents--and careful with your pricing. There are agents here that will make more money with one sale than i will in a year that will still freak over the cost of a quarter page ad.
posted by th3ph17 at 10:11 AM on July 23, 2006

I worked for/with a guy trying to start up a company doing exactly this, what, seven years ago maybe. It was a damned tough sell to convince agents to try it.

Which is annoying because, as a buyer, I hate looking at a listing without any photos or video. It amazes me how bad a job some agents do on their listings.
posted by fenriq at 1:53 PM on July 23, 2006

If I were to do this, I'd do mockups. Take an existing listings from the agent you're going to approach (which, as mentioned, are often shockingly badly put-together), and re-do the html with some images and panos.

I'd also make some mock listings and take some typically dark, scanned, poorly-exposed, badly-framed photos of a property you have access to (not necessarily for sale, it could be your own home), and redo them with all-singing all-dancing imagery, then get some candid comments, recorded or transcribed, from friends and neighbours. Ask 'em if the property in question looks more valuable, etc. Make a package to sell your services.

The problem with all that, though, is the one discussed in the book Freakonomics. A seller's agent isn't inclined to push for an extra 10K, say, for a house, because it means a very small bump in their gross income for the sale. Given that, even if your services could paint the property in such a light that you could convince the agent that it might bump the sale price by 10K, say, they're somewhat disinclined to pay you much more, because they're not making much more on the sale.

On the other hand, marketing your services to people who are selling (or renting) their own properties: that might be a richer opportunity, because they'd be paying you out of a much larger windfall if they could sell/rent the place for more.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:56 PM on July 23, 2006

On the other hand, marketing your services to people who are selling (or renting) their own properties: that might be a richer opportunity, because they'd be paying you out of a much larger windfall if they could sell/rent the place for more.

All indications are that there's a huge market of folks catering to Sell By Owner type folk. If this is an under-represented service and you can make it mostly painless for sellers you could have a real winner.
posted by phearlez at 4:37 PM on July 24, 2006

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