Virtual Tours Created with Digital Twins Create Value for Nimble Real Estate Group
With five offices across London, Atkinson McLeod is an independent real estate group specializing in sales, rentals, and property management. The company prides itself on providing excellent client service, with a nimbleness larger firms can’t achieve.
When COVID-19 led to restrictions on business activities in March 2020, Atkinson McLeod realized it needed a tool for remote property tours. Home rentals comprise 75% of the company’s business, and it needed to keep agents, clients, and occupants safe by minimizing in-person showings. The firm also wanted to make physical property showings more productive and less time-consuming.
As it closed its offices and asked agents to work from home, Giles Atkinson, Director at Atkinson McLeod, launched an intensive search for technology to keep the flow of lease and purchase agreements moving. Atkinson had looked at virtual tour software in the past, but dismissed it as a fad. Today, even as many businesses in the United Kingdom resume more normal operations, he can’t imagine doing business without virtual
home tours created with Matterport, Inc.™ digital twins. When Atkinson-McLeod surveyed tenants, 56% said they found virtual tours to be useful.
“London real estate is extremely competitive. You need to offer incredibly responsive, personalized client services to stand out,” says Atkinson, who credits Matterport with providing his group several competitive advantages well beyond the scope of its original need. “Matterport has created many efficiencies for our agents and clients love how it improves their home shopping experience.”
Easy Rollout for Immediate Efficiency Gains
After researching and evaluating six online tour alternatives, Atkinson quickly selected and deployed Matterport. Initially, Atkinson McLeod worked with contractors who used 360˚ cameras to capture homes so the company could provide clients with photorealistic virtual tours of properties coming up for sale or rent. Eventually, the firm purchased Insta360 and Ricoh Theta 360 cameras for its offices. Not only are the cameras affordable, but they are also highly portable and easy to use, which helped Atkinson McLeod quickly train agents to capture digital twins.
“I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it’s been. It only takes about ten minutes to capture a two-bedroom apartment. It’s very straightforward,” Atkinson says.
“Our agents work on commissions, so they appreciate the technology that makes the process more efficient,” he says. “They can usually create the digital twin on the day we get keys. There’s no waiting on processing like you might have from a professional photographer. We can upload high-quality tours to our website the very same day.”
Using 360-degree cameras with Matterport to generate photos and floor plans also helps the company manage costs. Atkinson estimates that the cost of outsourcing property photos, virtual tours, and floor plans for a single property would be £120, or about $160.
Simple and Top-Quality Mobile Phone Captures with Matterport Axis
In early 2022, the company was among the first to pilot Matterport Axis, a motorized tripod mount for smartphones that makes it easy and affordable to capture professional-grade scans.
By smoothly and precisely rotating a mobile phone, Axis allows users to capture high-quality digital twins using the Matterport for Mobile app on Android and iOS.
“I had tried a mobile phone previously for capturing spaces, but when you’re holding the phone by hand, the stitching together of the images can be awkward. But with Axis, I found the quality of the digital twins to be comparable to an Insta360 or Ricoh Theta camera,” says Atkinson. “The quality of the digital twin captured by Axis and Matterport for Mobile is very good due to the precision of the Axis device and the quality of cameras on mobile phones. I was very pleased with the imagery of the space. When comparing the Axis to a handheld 360 camera, I think the quality of the digital twin captured with Matterport for Mobile and Axis is slightly better.”
While Atkinson's high-volume firm prefers to capture Matterport digital twins with Insta360 and Ricoh Theta cameras, he sees the benefits of mobile scans with Axis for real estate professionals running smaller-scale operations. “Axis is a great solution for real estate and travel and hospitality professionals aiming to capture one or two properties a day.” Atkinson says. “If you have a good mobile phone camera and you don't need the rapid capture speed of a 360 camera, the Axis device is a very good option.”
Visuals Beyond Curb Appeal
Atkinson chose Matterport over alternatives because it makes such a great impression with clients. “The virtual tour allows clients to roam freely around a room, walk up to a window, and look at the view outside. They can look up to see lighting fixtures, down to inspect the flooring, and all around to assess the walls and openings to other rooms,” he says.
In contrast, alternative virtual tour software Atkinson evaluated only offered very limited, fixed paths. “With those, viewers click still images and get ‘teleported’ in unnatural ways to the next room,” he says.
Today, Atkinson McLeod uses Matterport digital twins to create virtual tours for 95% of its active properties. When the company highlights virtual tours in emails to customers, click-through rates double. Prospects who click on the tour links are prioritized for follow-up by agents, providing them more engaged, qualified leads to call on.
“The digital twin-based tours are really eye-catching. They definitely improve engagement and help our emails stand out from the crowd,” says Atkinson.
Matterport 3D virtual tours accelerate the property showing and contract signing process, particularly for rentals, when more than one or two people may require viewing a home. “When you have a group of four roommates, such as young professionals who are on different schedules, touring properties in person gets very time-consuming. Offering a virtual tour shortens lag times when they can’t sync their schedules,” Atkinson says. As there are rules against contracting a property sight unseen, a physical tour eventually still takes place, but some members of the group may feel more comfortable opting out.
Prior to an in-person visit, Matterport 3D virtual tours make a big difference in helping clients better assess property suitability, saving time for agents. “We’ve reduced in-person tours by 50% while improving the quality and productivity of physical showings because clients can confirm in advance if a home is a good fit. As we lease out 1,300 properties annually, the efficiency gains add up fast,” Atkinson explains.
Tenants also appreciate the time savings. In the past, they might have needed to spend nights and weekends visiting properties – now they can view several in one evening.
“Tenants love it. They’re busy and don’t have a lot of extra time, so they appreciate seeing realistic visuals with the Matterport digital twin. They value the authenticity compared to elaborately staged photography that can make a property look nicer than it really is. The level of detail available in our 3D virtual tours helps them decide whether to schedule an in-person tour,” Atkinson says.
Owners also benefit from the faster process. “The properties are on the market for less time because we can expose the home to more clients, faster,” says Atkinson. Whereas in the past a property may have had 25 to 30 in-person tours, now agents can get it under contract with just three to four showings to more highly qualified home seekers. This represents a more than 80% reduction in the average number of physical showings per rental listing.
Digital Twins Simplify Property Inspection Reports
The company handles full-service property management for 650 homes, with many of those property owners living overseas. Atkinson McLeod now uses Matterport digital twins to provide a virtual tour, rather than a written report, for home inspections that take place during tenancy. Agents can highlight any maintenance issues using the digital twin, helping the firm provide owners a more robust picture of their property’s condition.
Especially in situations when an out-of-area owner hasn’t seen the property for many years, the streamlined process helps Atkinson McLeod take a more proactive approach to recommendations for improvements that could boost marketability and property values. “The detail we can provide via the digital twin really helps us to get client buy-in for any renovation recommendations,” says Atkinson.
With its cloud-based Matterport account, Atkinson McLeod can maintain a library of all its properties. Agents can easily find and access them when it comes up for rent once more or when there are property condition issues to discuss with a tenant or owner.
Adding Value with Differentiated Services
For some clients, agents show the virtual tours using a screen share, allowing them to provide a guided walkthrough to highlight the benefits of the property. “While we don’t insist on virtual tours prior to an in-person visit, we highly recommend it. When clients visit a property in person after viewing the online tour, they feel they’ve already been there because they’ve gotten such a genuinely good feel for it,” Atkinson says.
When representing home buyers, the virtual tours sometimes encourage clients to consider a home in a neighborhood they hadn’t been looking in or at a higher price point. “For a multi-story house, the Dollhouse view provided with the Matterport digital twin is particularly impressive,” says Atkinson.
Implementing the Matterport digital twin technology was straightforward, even for a firm of Atkinson McLeod’s size. “Superb technologies like Matterport allow us to provide clients a higher level of service, giving us an edge in the market,” says Atkinson.
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ABOUT ATKINSON MCLEOD
Atkinson McLeod is an independent London real estate group specializing in sales, rentals, and property management. Founded in 2002, the firm has five offices across the city.
London, United Kingdom
Residential Real Estate
Make property showings more convenient, productive, and safe.
Matterport for Insta360, Matterport for Ricoh Theta, Matterport for Mobile, and Matterport Axis
Matterport-powered virtual property tours boost business in unexpected ways, upgrading the real estate search experience while advancing agent efficiency.
- 50% overall reduction in physical property visits, supporting faster time to contract signing
- 2x more click-throughs for marketing emails that contain virtual tours
- 56% of tenants found virtual tours to be useful
- More efficient property management with robust, visual property inspection records