Baton Rouge residential broker using 360-degree virtual tours to help sell homes

Darren James did not take long to make a decision.

When he first heard from other real estate brokers in other parts of the country late last year about new camera technology that allows brokers to take 360-degree photographs of homes for virtual tours, James researched the technology and bought a camera, software and all the corresponding equipment within 30 minutes.

“I might as well take the chance and move forward in investing in the technology,” says James, owner of Darren James Real Estate Experts in Denham Springs.

Since Jan. 1, James and his team have created virtual tours for about 12 homes using the camera, including one home that sold within 24 hours of the tour being placed on James’ website. He says he thinks he is the only residential broker in the Baton Rouge area using the technology.

“It’s a game-changer for real estate,” James says. “It will allow the buyer to walk through a home from the comfort of their own home.”

To create the tours, James and his team first decide the best route through the house to showcase each room and the floor plan. They then turn on all the lights and open the blinds to let in natural light, and turn off all the fans.

James says he generally starts taking pictures right at the front door, where most visitors get their first look at the interior. Someone will then place the tripod in one spot, while everyone walks out of the room.

The camera will then spin in a complete circle, taking six pictures to get a 360-degree view of the room. The camera uses a laser to judge depth, so the pictures give an accurate representation of the room’s size.

Once the first shot is done, the photographer will move the tripod to another location, normally about three to five feet from the first location, and do the whole process over again. As the pictures are taken, they are automatically uploaded to James’ iPad where the sellers can watch the process happen.

James says it takes pictures from about 30 to 40 locations throughout an 1,800 to 2,000-square-foot home to capture the entire interior. The process takes about 60 to 90 minutes.

Once the photographer finishes, the photos are sent to a company that stitches together the six pictures from each spot to create a 360-degree image. The photos are then sent back to James’ team where one person puts them in order of how they want viewers to tour the home, then uploads the tour to the website.

The virtual tours have a feature that gives viewers a “dollhouse” perspective, looking down from above the home, minus the roof. James says the process of taking the pictures is so easy that his 11-year-old son could do it.

“It’s nothing like anything that’s been brought to the industry in the greater Baton Rouge area, nothing,” James says.

The tours come at no extra cost to the seller, and actually saves everyone time because potential buyers can view the house from their sofa, meaning the only ones who actually walk through the house are those with a serious interest in buying the home, James says.

The next frontier for the virtual tours, James says, are restaurants, schools and churches, so people buying homes in the markets can see what the nearby areas look like before they move.

“There’s many different uses for it,” James says. “That’s why I decided to invest in it.”

See one of the tours.

—Ryan Broussard

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