A Case for Panoramic CRE Space Tours

This post was originally a comment I submitted on CREvation and Startups, in response to a post titled, “Virtual Tours – Good or Bad Idea?

The CRE App Review has regularly posted reviews on mobile pano apps like TourWrist, iPhone’s iSight, Android’s Photo Sphere and Microsoft’s Photosynth and truly believe that it this type of media is the next step in CRE photography.

I am going to make the infamous comparison of residential vs. commercial real estate technology adoption…. Surprise!

Residential real estate agents have utilized some shape or form of “virtual tour” for nearly a decade.

So, why such a lag in adoption for CRE? Perhaps, it is because vacant commercial space isn’t staged like residential is. For instance, the vacant space on the video in this post was kinda beat up, so as the landlord’s listing agent, I would be pretty apprehensive about publicly posting images of the space’s condition in the fear that it would deter potential tourees, right?

But as a tenant rep broker, wouldn’t being able to provide a 360 of each potential space prior to your tours be helpful during your client’s screening process? [Similar to the one below:]

One of the key differentiators for 42floors is professional photography. Why is this? How hard is it to take a decent photo of the space and post it to Loopnet. Not that hard, right?

But, I bet 98% of the for lease product on Loopnet (and maybe 100% on Costar) are exterior shots only!

Why? Because the listing broker or landlord is embarrassed to publicize that the space has been beat to [crap].

42floors publicly acknowledged that one request they heard before they rolled out their site in NYC is that each listing needed better photography.

What did 42Floors learn from its launch in SF that it’s applying to the NYC market?

[...] users really want photos — building photos, floor plans, interior photos, etc. When we launched in San Francisco, only 20% of our listings had photos, the rest just showed the Google Street View of the address (which was often the wrong building or a blocked view, etc.). For New York we made a huge push to get photos and 80% of our listings had photos at launch with more on the way.

Why is this? For one, it may be because a large majority of their users are tenants who are not yet represented by an agent.

The other thing we’ve learned in the last 6 months is just how many tenants come to our site who don’t yet have representation. [...] And it’s going to happen at an incredible scale. We’re going to have thousands and then tens of thousands of tenants that come to us without a broker and want our suggestion with which broker they should partner.

Being that many are unrepresented, it most likely means they aren’t using Loopnet or Costar. Heck, they may not even know what Loopnet or Costar is, they just Google “Office Space [City Name]” and see what comes up.

Commercial real estate marketing is moving the direction of residential real estate, only ten years later… Think Zillow and Trulia. Just because these sites exist doesn’t mean prospective buyers aren’t using brokers. These sites just help buyers pre-screen and identify their options before engaging one. The same will soon take place in commercial real estate.

Tenant Rep Brokers should embrace this evolution, because it will reduce the amount of time it takes to screen prospective spaces.

Landlord Reps and Owners should also embrace this trend because it offers a way to differentiate their space over another. And the ability to differentiate a product means it is less likely to be come a commodity whereby the only basis of competition is price.

An unrelated example: Have you ever bought or sold something on Craigslist?

What percentage of Craigslist listings actually have photos? 5%?

The times you bought something, one reason you considered it in the first place is because the listing included a photo, right?

Whenever I post things on Craigslist for sale, I break out the old Nikon and take a couple good pics.

I just sold an old couch for in the basement for $200 in less than 24 hours. I got 5 phone calls and 10 emails in less than 12 hours after posting, largely because of the photos.

And, ugh, this couch… little did these 15 people know, I would have paid them to haul it off.

Other listings of [crappy] couches with no or terrible photos?… They are probably still listed weeks later. Why don’t these other people post photos of what they are trying to sell? Pure laziness.

My point is this: CRE Virtual Tours will become commonplace. It already is in residential, mutlifamily and hospitality. Office, retail and industrial are next.

As soon as brokers and owners notice that tours actually increase when decent photos or virtual tours of their vacant spaces are included in public listings, this practice will spread like wildfire.

9 Responses to “A Case for Panoramic CRE Space Tours”

  1. benjaminosgood January 15, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

    I’m all for this. Technology makes panoramic photography so easy, so the only reason a landlord rep WOULDN’T use it is if the space showed really poorly.

    Having solid, quality photography or video on more spaces would save everyone a lot of time.

    • Dominic Zabriskie January 15, 2013 at 11:19 pm #

      Benjamin, thanks for stopping by. You are lucky to be in a great market to be on the cutting edge of the utilization of this new technology! Let me know if you see any good examples along the way. I would get a kick out of seeing it.

      • benjaminosgood January 17, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

        Thanks Dominic! It’s definitely an exciting time to be a tenant rep broker in San Francisco. Will follow your blog and keep you posted.

    • Craig Severance January 18, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

      Just slightly off topic . . . over the Holidays, I was the recipient of a remote controlled Qual copter which contains a 720 dpi wide angle video camera. It flies for 10 minutes up to 150 feet in the air. And, as a result, it can take outstanding aerial videos of buildings as you fly in a circle around a building. The gyroscopes hold the camera perfectly still resulting in excellent video quality. $300 Brookstone. The full employment act for 15 year olds this summer!

      • Dominic Zabriskie January 18, 2013 at 3:12 pm #

        YES! The days of paying $1000s for updated property aerials are over. I need to post something on the technology. Thanks for the reminder Craig.

  2. Howard Kline November 13, 2013 at 8:15 am #

    Good article Dominic

    • Dominic Zabriskie November 20, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

      Thanks my friend, about to touch on this topic again, with some new updates on the latest technology.

  3. Pat Vedder June 20, 2014 at 12:34 pm #

    hey Dominic. I have been feeling the same way for years about CRE and the fact websites need more videos and pics of the commercial properties they list. We run a commercial website and hear the same thing from possible tenants “they want more pics and videos”. If you do any more articles on the industry or this topic we’d love to be involved. Thanks http://www.officespaceheaven.com


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