The Trick to Selling Mansions in Silicon Beach? Try a 360 Camera

L.A. realtor Edward Hutchinson has a modest goal this year.

He wants to hit $30 million in residential sales in the city's fiercely competitive high-end property market.

Hutchinson and his business partner, David Johnstone, focus on properties in L.A.'s so-called Silicon Beach, a coastal area that’s seen an influx of tech startups in recent years.

With a clientele like that, it’s natural perhaps that Hutchinson is relying on technology to give him an edge as he chases his sales target.

In addition to his active, multi-channel social media presence, the 27-year-old has also been a leading adopter of an emerging trend in real estate: 360-degree photos and video.

Using an Insta360 Nano camera and armed with his #LAMansionTours hashtag, Hutchinson regularly shares immersive walkthroughs of L.A.’s sun-drenched dream homes.

Insta360 talked with Hutchinson about cameras, $500 million houses, and how to engage an audience by just chilling with your dog.

How did you discover 360 videography and photography?

I’ve got a friend here, a fellow Brit, who works for Universal Music as the director of new technologies – he works with artists on digital marketing and the content they put out on social media. He brought up 360 with me one day, and showed me this camera, which was an Insta360 Nano. He said, "Mate, I’ve just tried this out, it’s a couple hundred dollars, and you really should start using it for your real estate."

Our partnership, Hutchinson Johnstone, is always trying to be ahead of the curve in terms of the tech we’re using and the content we’re putting out – we try to draw as much attention to our brand as possible among the millennial, Silicon Beach market we’re in. So I was impressed by what he showed me was possible with just a small camera you could plug into the bottom of your phone, which makes my life in no way more difficult and which I could just plug into my phone while doing a home showing. We played around with it for a couple hours, and I bought one the next day.

How have you used 360 photography and videography in your work?

Every Tuesday, there’s a period of time between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., when listings agents will hold open any of the new listings that come to market. We realized that in the market we are in — Beverly Hills, Bel Air, the super-luxury market where properties sell for between $20 and $100 million — we get access to these properties every week.

So we started using Instagram and Snapchat stories to record the highlights of these incredible properties we were going through to help grow our brand.

But we were always looking for things that were different, because everyone’s got Instagram and Snapchat. So we started using the Insta360 Nano, and that allowed us not only to take pictures in 360, but also allowed our customers and followers to actually interact with the photo by exploring it, which we've found is a lot more engaging. So as opposed to just watching a video panning across a living room, being able to drag and click or use your phone’s gyroscope to look around is something we got a really positive response to.

How about 360 live-streaming?  

We’ve live-streamed on Facebook in 360, and I’ve been surprised at how positive that’s been. I set it up the camera in our office, so you could see me and my dog there working in the office, and people could just tune in and see what we were up to and ask questions.

If you had a standard video of just me in the office, that would be boring, people would tune out quickly. But having the ability to pan around and see what our office environment is like and what’s it like to actually sit down and do the job we’re doing — it allows us to let the community we’re trying to build get behind our story, the story of us trying to hit our target of $30 million in sales. Having the ability to bring someone into your environment is another huge plus of the camera.

360 is an evolving medium. What makes good content?

I used to be in the perfectionist mindset where I wanted to make sure everything looked incredible before we posted it. I definitely switched that over the last 6 to 9 months. It’s about documenting the journey. I’ve learned that normal, everyday content can get a much stronger response than if we’ve got something that’s more wow. If we’ve got something like a 360-degree view on top of  a mountain, it’s almost too generic or too impressive. But walking through the Tube or walking over London Bridge is perhaps more relatable.

It’s authentic — it’s not you trying to show something off, it’s you just giving a window into your life, and it’s something people engage with.

Have you made any deals thanks to your 360 content?

We picked up one client we’re currently working with, a buyer, who sourced us through one of our social media platforms. He said, [these 360 home tours] are amazing, I’m actually looking to buy a house. He was brought in because of our social channels, because it was something different, and then, when his mind switched to, “I’m ready to buy and I’m ready to start looking,” we were the ones he called.

Do you think 360 and VR are going to change the real estate industry on the whole?

What you guys have done with the Nano camera — how easy it is and how it stitches in literally a second and then I can just post it directly to all these platforms. If you can just hand a real estate agent a plug-in camera, and say here’s how it works, it’s that easy, then absolutely, I see it being adopted massively. I already have realtors walking up to me in open houses, saying, “What is that, is that one of  360 cameras?”

There’s a shift in people understanding what 360 is, and there’s another massive shift in quality, like with your professional camera. The quality of that means that you can stream in very good-quality VR. That means if you had an online platform, you could host open house and have 10,000 people tune in to do a live walkthrough, where they all have VR headsets and can look where they want to and ask any questions.

That’s where I see a huge shift in the market, because people wouldn’t have to get out of bed anymore or fly across the country or fly from another country to do a showing, and they’d still be able to get almost the same experience. It’s obviously not completely the same thing standing in VR but it’s very close. I can imagine the switch when people start to say: I can make a decision based just on a VR experience. That is a game-changer for the industry.

What’s the property you most want to do a 360 tour of?

There’s a $250 million property in LA. I was trying to leverage our #LAMansionTours following to get in there, to convince them to let us come in and bring a lot of attention to the property with our Snapchat and Instagram and 360's. They’re also building a $500 million one at the moment. I’m trying to get access there because that would be amazing.

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WRITTEN BY @Insta360
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