Q&A with Brandt of 39Pixels

 

About Brandt & 39Pixels

Brandt Pemberton
Founder, 39Pixels in Lodi & Modesto, CA
http://39pixels.com/

In their own words

Our job is to help your listing stand out amongst the crowd. Our real estate photography, Matterport 3D Tours, and other media services help get your listing more exposure which in turn helps the listing sell quicker. Let us help provide you and your seller the best media, both in quality and service.

 

Introduction

Photographers are some of Matterport’s most important customers. Since the first Matterport camera in 2014, many entrepreneurial-minded people have taken the plunge and built a business around the new medium of 3D walkthroughs.

Brandt is one of these hard-working, enterprising photographers. Since starting 39pixels in 2015, he has photographed over 2500 homes and captured over 750 Matterport spaces in California’s Central Valley (Lodi & Modesto area). We sat down with him to hear his story and how he grew so quickly.

 

Why did you start your photography business?

I opened my first business in Lodi, CA (Computer Impressions) in 2005. It is a local IT/Computer Repair company, which is still running today. My major role in the company was the marketing and sales side, which allowed me to go out and meet lots of people in my local community. As time progressed, we hired more people to handle the day-to-day tasks of the company, which in turn gave me more free time to start something else.

Photography has always been my hobby — especially capturing cityscapes. Two years ago I laid out all my camera equipment and calculated how much it was all worth. Turned out to be $30,000 in total. I said to myself “I gave myself an ultimatum to make back what I spent on this equipment in 6 months or less, or sell all the equipment and go to one camera and one lens, like a normal person”

That’s when I decided to start 39pixels. I have always loved photography and I have loved cityscapes, buildings, skylines and architecture. Through the years of marketing my IT business in our area, I had a long list of realtors that were clients and some that were friends, which would be a huge help getting me introduced to the industry. Real estate photography just felt like the right direction for me.

39pixels.com

 

How did you start with initial jobs?

Because I started from nothing, I really needed to invest a lot of time and energy to find customers. I started by calling up 5 of my good realtor friends and offered to photograph their next 5 listings for free. So basically I photographed 25 houses for free.

This helped me get my feet wet, establish a process, and also build my brand with realtors. It didn’t come easy, but business grew steadily and I branched out to also offer slideshows, websites, video, and other marketing services.

 

What made you invest in Matterport?

Matterport just kept on showing up in tech blogs and other places as a new cool 3D/360 thing. I was interested as I always wanted to be ahead of the curve, offering the cutting edge and reinvesting in anything new for my industry. This was a big expense as my business was small at the time. So I made some estimates on the cost of the camera, equipment, hosting, etc. I figured that in the worst-case I would break-even.

Two years ago, selling Matterport was difficult. Few people knew about the 3D tour, and when realtors saw it, no one took me up on it. But I personally believed in what it could deliver. The turning point was when I handed an iPad with a virtual tour to my grandma, who is not a fan of technology — she caught on within 20 seconds.

So I knew these 3D spaces had a future, if I could just market and sell it to realtors the right way. Technology and marketing are my two biggest passions. I love to hear “no” because I see it as a challenge to convince someone. If I hear “yes” that’s great but I am a little disappointed inside because I feel like it was too easy. I love the hunt of sales… getting the kill (landing the deal) is kind of addicting.

 

How did you build up your client base?

Old fashioned, grass roots “go out and meet as many people as you can and make sure they know who you are and what you do” was the start. I spent hours calling, emailing, collecting business cards and constant follow-ups to local agents. I set up countless coffee meetings to show them what I was doing, and this was working great… Then I had a meeting with a local, high producing Keller Williams agent. During the meeting, she said

“You should come to one of our sales meetings and show this to all the agents at our office”.

BINGO! I put together a simple keynote presentation, she got me the meeting and I put on my first presentation. I was very nervous but it was a big success.

I kept on repeating this strategy — finding and connecting with top-producing agents in the area, and presenting at more and more lunch meetings and realtor get-togethers.

I learned that you really have to be flexible. Once I had a presentation scheduled for 25 minutes in front of an entire office of agents. When I got ready to present, the event organizer didn’t even see me on the schedule, so she reluctantly gave me 10 minutes. I stayed optimistic and really made the most of that limited time. In the end, that 10 minute presentation stretched to 45 minutes and an invite to present to another group of 500.

 

What kind of relationship do you cultivate with clients?

It’s more than just a business relationship. It’s about being part of their team and part of their family. One of the most memorable pieces of feedback I’ve heard was:

“What I really enjoyed about your presentation is that you want to be a team member for our agents, working on their behalf to make them better and sell more homes. Other photographers we’ve worked with just take photos and walk away.”

Some organizations, such as Keller Williams, are really team-based. It’s just a part of their brand. I have taken this to heart and have really enjoyed being a part of their local family of agents. This has really made it fun for me to learn how to help them with their media and figure out and try new ways to help them get their listings sold faster.

If you take the time to really study your client and how they work, then find as many ways to use your talents to help them simplify their job or just make them better at what they do, you will never lose. At this point, you are not a vendor, you are an asset, which has been my goal with every agent I work with. I don’t want to be just a photographer. I want to a resource, part of their team.

 

When did you decide to invest in more employees and more equipment?

It wasn’t until I was photographing about 80 homes a month that it became more than I could handle alone. Because business was still going strong, I decided to hire someone else to share the load. I had a friend who worked at a bank but did wedding photography on the side. He didn’t like his bank job, so we worked out a deal to share some jobs so he could be a full-time photographer for weddings, real estate, and more.

We started by sharing the one Matterport camera. In December 2017, we started looking ahead and planning for 2018. We started seeing a lot more new faces come through. That was a sign that next year was going to be bigger. So we purchased a second Pro2 camera in December 2017.

6552 Brook Hollow Circle, Stockton CA (39 Pixels)

 

What times of year are the busiest for you?

Spring through July and August is a very busy season for us. Many home sellers (and agents) are getting ready to sell their homes in the summer when the weather is the best.

There’s only four of us handling +/- 200 homes a month. When you stop to think about it, it’s actually pretty crazy to see that much. The only way we can have this much volume and not go crazy is by being very systematic and very efficient. That’s what’s truly helped us. Every part of our job has a system attached to it. I am OCD about organization, systems, processes, checklists, etc.

We’ve also started to branch out into other areas like luxury real estate, home builders (who pay more), and high-end apartments (more likely to use the models for longer). I have also started working with a few yacht brokers who now hire me regularly to put media packages (photos, Matterport Tours, websites, etc.) for their boat/yacht listings in the Delta and San Francisco Bay Area. I was even flown to Brunswick, GA to do a yacht listing over there!

We are also working with a few agents in the Carmel, CA area. To date we have photographed and created Matterport Tours of 15 homes over there, the smallest being 4000sf all the way to 12,000sf. 15 homes is not much, but it is an area that is hard to get into, so I am happy with our success so far. Breaking into the super high end/luxury market and also expanding more into the marine/aircraft industry is our main goals for the rest of this year and 2019. Of course, we will continue to cultivate and grow our local area as well.

Statistics

  • 2500 Approximate Total Number of Homes Photographed
  • 750 Total Matterport Spaces
  • 40% Approximate % of listings/jobs that use Matterport
  • 173 Total listings photographed in July 2018
  • 225 Total listings photographed in August 2018
  • 2 Matterport cameras (one Pro1, one Pro2)
  • 4 Total employees
  • $0.5M Projected revenue for 2018

 

What about agents who think that a Matterport virtual tour is too expensive?

It’s true, a $349 package with virtual tours (and more) may seem like a lot for a $300,000 home. But virtual tours are not worthless after the home sells. With the new owner’s permission of course, agents can reuse the Matterport tour and the single-property website as part of how they market themselves.

Many agents make it part of their listing presentations and part of their brand. They tell home sellers,

“We’re willing to go out of our way to sell your home. We don’t hold anything back.”

Sellers see this and they say,

“Well, why wouldn’t I list with them? This agent has the right attitude and really cares about showing my home in the best possible light.”

We even know one agent who just orders the full package on all of his listings — even if it is a small 900 ft² condo that’s going for $180,000. It’s just what he does.

 

What have you learned about the real estate business?

I’ve learned that most agents don’t have the time to photograph or scan their listings. Of course they appreciate and rely on great photos, but truly artistic photography or camera technology is not their passion. That’s why they rely on 39pixels as their photography and marketing partners.

For high-end luxury homes, Matterport is a great fit. Most home buyers for luxury homes are from out-of-town, so with the virtual tour they can see it online before traveling in-person. Areas like Carmel, Monterey, and West Hollywood love these virtual tours.  

I’ve also discovered that millenials love the Matterport virtual tour too. Many of them work hard during the week. On Sunday afternoon, they don’t want to drive around to see houses like my generation did. They just want to relax on the couch with their iPad. With a virtual tour they can explore houses online just as casually as the rest of their internet surfing.

Brandt of 39 Pixels shows off the post-processing he does for every property

 

What do you see as the future of 39Pixels and Matterport?

As I mentioned earlier, Matterport is a great fit for luxury homes. I also strongly believe that it is also great for mid-market and low-level homes too. In the really long long-term, I think it is just a normal technology acceptance cycle where people see 3D/360 tour more and more and just overall become more comfortable with it. I’m really looking forward to photographing and scanning more for the rest of my career.

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