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iGUIDE Sales VP discusses the virtual tour market in North America

Vervena says capture services help market properties better and allows them to be sold faster

iGUIDE, a virtual 3D tours and floor plan proptech based in Canada, recently announced reaching a 20% market share in the country. This highlights a growing proptech trend, with floor plan technology slowly taking over the rental industry in terms of housing tours and marketing properties. 

The company uses a proprietary camera system to create 3D tour links and floor plans. and provide home measurements, dimensions and property square footage calculations. While iGUIDE is based on Canada, its technology is just as in demand in the U.S., with many agents, brokerages and property owners adopting new tech to gain an edge in today’s real estate market.

The National Association of Realtors 2021 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report ranks floor plans (67%) as the third most important listing feature for homebuyers, highlighting this trend, followed by photos (89%) and detailed information on properties (86%).

FinLedger spoke with Michael Vervena, Vice President of Marketing and Sales at iGuide, to know more about the 3D tours and floor plan market in Canada and its plans of growing the business in the U.S.

Q: Could you tell us about the inception of iGuide?

A: The company itself is called Planitar Inc. and we go with the brand iGuide. We started in 2014 in Canada, outside of Kitchener-Waterloo, in the real estate space primarily selling directly to realtors. We started primarily as a service provider, and quickly learned what and how to better sell in market homes using our 3D tours and floor plan technologies. 

One of our co-founders, Alex Likholyot, is the gentleman that invented the camera system that uses laser Lidar technology to measure out spaces. There are great applications for this in the residential real estate space. 

In the first year they wanted to identify realtors who would use this and then build out the product in terms of delivering, making the iGuide 3D Tour itself, and using it with real estate photos. For real estate marketing, providing floor plans is a big part of it. 

In the first year they were quite successful. They definitely overdrove what their targets were, and that quickly led into shifting the business model a bit. In terms of opening up service providers or selling the technology, rather the technology or the camera system to do the capture, and then what we do is we take that data and we turn that data into floor plans and 3D tours and provide that back to the real estate market. That was how we really started iGuide back in 2014.

Q: Could you give insight into the demand for floor plan technology and 3D tours in Canada?

A: Floor plans are a key part of what we provide at iGuide. When we provide our service, it comes along with a 3D tour as well. They work together. 

We’ve seen the growth in floor plans. Prior to COVID, it was growing year-over year-at a good pace. Floor plans in some markets were a necessity, or schematics of properties were a necessity, because in certain markets like Alberta they have a measurement standard. There is a residential measurement standard that’s based off of ANSI-Z765 (American National Standards Institute). 

In those markets when a realtor, agent, or real estate professional would market a home, if they’re going to provide the square footage of a home, they have to provide how they got those measurements following that Residential Measurement Standard. That really drove a consistent measurements for the consumer.

What we’re seeing now across Canada is that for the consumer, there is a lot of value in terms of understanding that property. Studies done from NAR and Zillow show that consumers find floor plans as the second most important thing that they see. It is always, typically, the third most important thing, according to NAR, that buyers are looking for when they are searching for a home. That is driven in terms of understanding that property as a buyer, searching for a home to virtually walk through it or virtually understand it before they go there and see it.

Q: Can you draw a comparison between pre-COVID and current demands for such technologies?

A: COVID definitely drove the adoption of floor plans and even 3D technology, because people weren’t able to go in and see those properties. And so better information that really provides a better understanding of a space to help buyer make decisions. Nothing does that better than a floor plan, because you are able to understand how it fits and flows, you are able to measure and understand the sizes of rooms and the actual size of the property. When you look at photos, especially real estate photos, they can often be distorted because you’re using a fisheye lens. It’s hard to gain an understanding of the size of that space, and that’s where floor plans really come in. That was driven definitely by the ability of not going in the home because of COVID.

What we’re seeing in Canada and in the U.S., I guess now that things have opened back up, the adoption for the use of floor plans and 3D tours in Canada has maintained a definite strength in terms of a part of the package for marketing the property. Across North America going into 2022, the market was hyper aggressive. Homes were selling very fast. Sometimes you wouldn’t get the photo packages and the marketing done for a home, but it would already be sold. What we saw in Canada, because we’ve been a little bit of a different market, we didn’t have this slowdown that you saw with the subprime mortgages. There was definitely a dip in Canada, but not as significant like it was in the U.S. Canada has always been very strong in terms of the markets for the past 20 years, and that slowdown didn’t really affect it as much. When I started in this business six to seven years ago, agents would back up on the marketing of a property because homes were still selling fast. They didn’t necessarily need to spend the extra additional money on marketing of the property, because they were in high demand, the properties were going for over asking for multiple bids, and not staying on the market for a lot of days.

But this time around it’s so hyper competitive, and what we’re hearing from our customers and from speaking to a lot of real estate professionals and seen in the numbers, is that real estate professionals are still spending the money on marketing. Because they realize that consumers have come to appreciate that understanding of a listing and that helps market their property better. It also helps them to show value to their clients in terms of the home seller and selling their property. Definitively providing value, building their brand and showing that they still need to invest in marketing of that property to show value to the home seller. I think the big thing that we saw, even when the market did slow down previously to COVID, that extra marketing would help sell a home faster. We’ve seen that just in market studies that we’ve done in Kitchener-Waterloo. I think using floor plans and the 3D tour is 34% less days on market than just photos alone, and then it’s the same with a comparison to other 3D tours. Those that use floor plans as well have 14% less days on market, so it definitely helps drive the sale of that property.

Q: Could you please explain the mechanism of the iGUIDE PLANIX 3D Tour Camera System?

A: At the base of the PLANIX system it uses a Lidar laser to measure distance to the wall, basically measuring out that space. It combines those measurements with the visuals. If you’ve ever looked at a picture of the panoramic camera, it captures 360-degree images and combines that with a laser measurement to understand distance and a spatial distance within that. We take that data and we create 3D tours from it, and a full plan from that. Those measurements help provide understanding and context in that space, and that gives you the ability when you’re in a 3D tour to not only measure and understand length of walls, but you can measure within the 3D space as well, through photogrammetry. You can measure height, you can measure distances between objects, or you can measure window sizes, whatever you like to understand about space.

And so a camera is one of the fastest ways to capture space with very accurate measurements. You can use a 360 camera just to capture a space, but the challenge is that the measurements are not going to be as accurate as when you use that time of flight laser. Our laser system has half a percent of uncertainty and a distance range of 130 feet, so you can capture a house quite quickly. A 3000 square foot home in 15 minutes in ideal conditions, or you can capture extremely large spaces.

I will give you an example. In the city of Waterloo, there’s a recreational facility that has four hockey rinks in it, a couple of basketball courts and a soccer field. The size of this one floor is almost 300,000 square feet, and we’ve been able to capture that quite quickly, document that, and have a 3D walkthrough and floor plans for that property. Big and small it is a very efficient way to capture and document a space, so that we can get floor plans and 3D tours for the measurement.

Q: What are some of the features of new services that iGuide has come up with, such as information on neighborhoods?

A: The iGuide itself is the 3D tour and within it, you have the ability to add information and have an understanding of everything around that property. You mentioned the map, or the neighborhood map. When you click on that, you understand the context of where that property is within the world. When you’re capturing the properties and drawing those floor plans, we put a compass there so that you know how the properties are situated, or the floor plan is situated which way is true north and in terms of direction. If you think about it, when you’re trying to understand a property, buyers want to understand all this information about it or use it from the perspective of buying and selling a home. 

If I’m a buyer I want to understand certain things from that home, and there’s there’s certain features that buyers are looking for when they’re searching for a home online. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) do a study on home buyers and sellers. The top things are property photos, floor plans and property details. Not only the price of the home, but understanding the room dimensions, the room sizes and also the total size of the home, because that equates to the building materials that go into the home and the value of the home. They want to understand where it’s situated in the neighborhood and what neighborhood it’s in, so that they can better understand things like walking scores, what amenities it’s close to and which schools it’s close to. 

The iGuide in total provides an understanding of a property or home to multiple different means of media. So in it you’ll find floor plans and a 3D tour where you can walk through and understand that space. You can add links to videos or to a realtor or an agent introduction, and can have a walk through the property or drone video footage. You could add Drone 360 panoramic photos to the property so that you completely understand the surroundings of that area. 

As you mentioned, you can add detailed tags where you can talk about objects in the space and provide descriptions. We also provide all those room measurements in the area calculations, so that if you understand that home will work for you. That is going to work for you as a buyer, in terms of where my furniture will sit, how does the home fit and flow, and that goes back to the floor plans which we kind of touched on earlier. The floor plans provide the strongest point of context of a property because if I’m a parent and I have a newborn, is my room going to be close to my newborn’s room? Or if I have a teenager, is my room going to be on the other side of the house from the teenager, depending on how you want that? How that setting is for your family, and what works best for you.

Q: Can you talk about your recent partnerships?

A: There’s integrations like Floorplanner.com where you can take our end product, and put it into a floor planner where you can design and plan out a space. You can take the floor plan and extrude a 3D model if you wanted to, or even just put in furniture, pick or paint colors and design that space. It’s a planning tool. 

We have other partners that capture services. We have an iGuide map on our website. If you are looking for a service provider in your area, like a real estate photography company, you can go to your area on the map and you can see all the different service providers that offer. 

If you’re in other spaces and looking for captures services for national contracts, the ability to capture multiple properties across the U.S. for example, there’s companies on there like Seek Now who are in insurance, capture services or facilities management. Seek Now is a national player in the U.S., and depending what sector you are looking for, you can find people that will do capture services for you or you can do it yourself with the cameras.

There’s other integrations in real estate. When you go to market your property, we take that iGuide URL in Canada and you put it into your MLS system, and when you put that listing live it is embedded and read in realtor.ca. That’s the main search site in Canada. It’s the same thing in the US. We take that 3D tours link and put that in your listing in the multimedia link button, our input cell, and it will populate a 3D tour on the main page of Zillow underneath the main photos, The same on Realtor.com. It’s a great way to market a property, because it’s embedded in real estate partnerships, embedded in these links, search portals and even a number of rental and leasing portals as well. It’s just a better way to engage with consumers online because they have this media rich content, where someone who’s searching the property can really garner a good understanding of that listing.

Q: Coming to the cost of services, could you tell us about the cost and how revenue is generated? Is it on a subscription-basis or money from add-on features?

A: It’s project based. If you hire a service provider, they have a fee that they charge based on that project. Depending on what they’re doing, if they’re just doing the iGuide, which includes the floor plans and measurements, it will be one fee. But if they’re also doing other things like real estate photography, there may be an additional fee for that. They set pricing and it’s all market dependent. They upload the data to us and our processing, and we charge on a per project basis based on the square footage of the property. we charge the 3D tours and the floor plans based on that square footage.

Q: Are there any upcoming plans we should look out for? 

A: At this point in time we’re increasing functionality in improving the efficiency of our captures processes, so adding elements and making the elements easier to capture. Some of the things that we’re doing is we’re quickly growing into other verticals outside of residential real estate.

As you can imagine, floor plans and 3-D tours provide understanding of the build world.  So everything is based on a floor plan initially, a schematic or a drawing of a space. And so when you can quickly capture that space, document it and have a way to virtually visit it, that it empowers decision making and understanding of that space. When you add things like tags and notes into that 3D tour, and use the floor plans to image the property, what happens is it makes it more like a living document. It’s more of a dynamic digital twin of your space. 

It provides understanding and better tools for communication. Where I’m going with this is that we’re starting to see other verticals expand the use of this technology for their businesses. In the insurance restoration claims industry, you have independent adjusters, public adjusters and restoration contractors using it to document damages of estates, or even document pre-loss state and condition of a property. 

In the world of facility management, you have people that are managing thousands to millions of square feet, or managing multiple buildings and cities. It might be asset management companies that manage a portfolio of properties, and they’re using this technology so that they can better budget, capital plan and manage the day-to-day facilities of these properties and document changes. 

There’s a big thing going on right now with accessibility across several states and in Ontario. They’re making sure that all buildings have accessibility, like large enough doors, opening doors and wheelchair ramps. That kind of thing, so they’re documenting these spaces. They’re adding accessibility, and then they’re updating it to show the work that they’ve done. They’re also using it in the bidding process as well. 

It’s interesting to see where the technology is changing and adapting to support that. We’re doing a lot to support that, and I think the bigger picture is understanding that different industries are adopting the technology in their day-to-day use to make themselves either more efficient, or to provide more value to their clients.

Q: Are there plans of expanding the business to the United States?

A: We are the largest or one of the largest 3D providers in Canada. I think in the residential real estate space last month, 20% of the homes had an iGuide on it. 

We have very strong market share in Canada and we’re in those other verticals that I mentioned, in facility management and commercial real estate (CRE) as well. II think we’re coming up to a thousand service providers in the U.S. We’re in almost every state in the U.S. right now in terms of the residential real estate space, and then as I mentioned, partnerships. 

We have customers that are in the insurance world and in the facility management world that are using us in the U.S. We’re still relatively small with the size of the U.S. when compared to our size in Canada. It’s a focus for us to grow in the U.S. now. We’re looking to invest more in the U.S. and definitely grow here. We’re working on plans now to expand that.


In other recent proptech news, Tour24 added new members to its leadership team and plans on expanding its user base. Livly also announced a monthly increase of 70% in apartment unit software sales during July.

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