So Tom Dorawa, welcome to the show.
Tom Dorawa: (00:05)
Hello Kylie. I’m very excited to be here. I have to tell you.
I know we’ve been talking about getting you on for a while.
Tom Dorawa: (00:11)
Oh, I was getting so jealous listening to all the other people from PropTech. I’m going to be honest. Woo-hoo! Finally, yes.
So Tom, we always start on the PropTech podcast with your elevator spiel. So tell us what the elevator pitch is for Virtual Tours Creator?
Tom Dorawa: (00:29)
Okay, so the Virtual Tours Creator is a software for any real estate agent, property manager, or pretty much anyone to create your own 360 virtual reality tools of any property as quickly as in 15 minutes and for as little as $5 per property.
Tom Dorawa: (00:48)
That’s it pretty much in a nutshell. And it works. And I guess that’s what everyone does. We have now almost 200 customers across Australia and New Zealand. And I created this software for sales as my background is not from real estate. I had no idea about the existence of property management. And for the last six months, it’s just booming in property management. We had probably 35 agencies that specialise just in property management using our virtual tools, not only for the marketing, but also for doing quarterly or half yearly inspections to communicate with landlords or even better, they’re doing it on every entry condition report.
Wow. Okay. So let’s rewind a little bit. Tell me a little bit about your background. How did you get into this?
Tom Dorawa: (01:47)
Well, my background has nothing to do with programming or virtual reality at all. I’ve been in sales all my life, sales, marketing that’s what I’ve been doing. But my best friend that I snowboard with, he has his own company back in Poland where I come from for the last 20 years designing 3D visualisations, so off the plan properties. And I was talking to him and he got me into it. On the video you can see in the background behind me, you see one of the visuals and that’s what we do also. That’s my other company. I have another company called Mood Studio and we do 3D design.
Tom Dorawa: (02:33)
So I started with that. Then from that, because I’m a big fan of photography and videography, I got myself into shooting 360 videos and we have quite a few successful virtual reality apps for the likes of Bond University or four months ago, we just launched a whole app for the City of Darwin. So it’s a video 360 presentation of tourism of the city of Darwin. So that’s where I started my adventure with virtual reality.
Tom Dorawa: (03:11)
And then now three years ago, me and my wife were ready to buy a house and having two full time jobs, we didn’t really have time to go to open houses. And I thought to myself, look, there must be a different way just to inspect those houses to be able to compare it and look. And because I had all the technology, I just had to create a platform. And I have a few friends that are real estate agents on the Gold Coast. So I talked this through with them and they said that might be good. They didn’t say it’s going to be brilliant, but that might be a good idea, although it might be extra work for us as they do.
Tom Dorawa: (03:52)
And I got really lucky because I got put in touch with Nigel Dalton from REA and I got his mobile number and I called him and he happened to be on the Gold Coast. I was in Brisbane, so I had to drive back to Gold Coast. And he was at a conference here, LJ Hooker, the casino at the national conference and he said, “Well look, if you have a great idea, just come over and show me what you got.” So he popped out during the break. I showed him my demo and he said, “Wow, look, we’ve been trying to get this technology onto the Australian market for now two years with Matterport. If you can create an alternative that’s going to bring it on budget, then we’re going to be more than happy to get you in.”
Tom Dorawa: (04:37)
And then six months later we launched it. We did some consumer testing with REA. It was very exciting times. You know the whole team from REA was incredible. Luke [Chadwick 00:00:04:49], Nigel. I really, I didn’t expect such human face from such massive company.
Yeah, that’s great to hear. And a big shout out to the REA guys.
Tom Dorawa: (05:02)
I’ve got so many questions. We had Dan Swan on the show. He was my first guest actually on the PropTech podcast and Real AR does augmented reality, tell me what the difference is between augmented reality and a virtual tour?
Tom Dorawa: (05:23)
Well it’s fairly simple. Virtual tour lets you see… Let’s say when you’re talking about properties, let’s you feel like you are inside of the property. If you put the 3D goggles on, but you can also see it on your mobile phone or on a desktop, but augmented reality is overlaying what it is. It’s overlaying computer generated images or any kind of content over real environments.
Tom Dorawa: (05:57)
So probably most of you guys have heard about the game Pokemon Go. So you use your phone and do you need some kinds of markers so things that are going to trigger your phone to play a video or to show you a 3D scene or to show that character that comes up as a Pokemon, the Pokemon itself and you can chase it. So it’s a computer generated image overlaid over real environment.
So, I guess what we’re seeing there then is that augmented reality is probably something that works better for project marketing for properties that haven’t been built yet, whereas virtual tours is more of a resale market because it’s existing stock and it’s letting you have that fully immersive experience of going through the home.
Tom Dorawa: (06:51)
Yes, yes, you can put it this way, but also it’s worth saying that augmented reality is a much broader area because you can put virtual reality into augmented reality and probably you’re going to ask me what’s the future for us? You know, next question if you have few questions and that’s going to be augmented reality.
Let’s just hold that there. Let’s hold that thought and until we get a little bit more into the interview, but, so virtual tours are a fantastic tool for potential buyers or people who are wanting to rent a property to have like a walkthrough of the property. You said before that when you were first testing out the idea, agents are a little bit like, “Hmm, I don’t know if this is the problem that I particularly need solved.” How has that changed over time? And how much extra work is it for an agent to do a virtual tour?
Tom Dorawa: (07:58)
Look, if you ask me, I would say it’s almost no extra work because they go to the property anyway. They probably did 30 times before they sell the property. They go there with the photographer to let him in to do the photos. So if they want, if they’re really innovative and they’re thinking forward about improving their digital presence, a virtual tool is going to be a brilliant tool that is going to take them extra 15 to 20 minutes in the property to take those photos without any photography experience because we’re also going to train everyone. I train everyone in person or over the internet. We’ve got instruction videos starting from how to turn on the camera, how to press a button on your phone to take a photo and then how to upload the photos to our software to VTC to create a virtual tour.
Tom Dorawa: (08:55)
So it’s not much more work. I think where it all comes down to is the mindset. And one thing that I understand now that I didn’t understand when I was thinking about introducing this, the real estate industry, I didn’t know how busy these guys get. Whether it’s sales or property management, which is even more complicated. But now after two years of being on the market, we know that the guys that are using the virtual tools with us, they’re loving it and there’s no turning back for them. There’s no going back to normal form of a listing.
Tom Dorawa: (09:32)
If you want to stand out, you need something different. And the whole idea behind those tools is think about the buyers or the tenants and I am now working with absolutely the most innovative agency in Australia. The rest will follow maybe in a year’s time, maybe in two years. The mindset hasn’t changed that much, but luckily for the people from PropTech is there’s more realistic trainers and people who are icons in that industry who agents are looking up to. They start talking about those new technologies and saying that those technologies are not a threat because the first answer would be “Oh look, I want to have people through the open house. That’s how I get my leads.”
Tom Dorawa: (10:23)
Now this technique is going to have to change sooner or later, and the ones that are doing it with us, they’re saving them so much time. They’re saving the time of the buyers, because they don’t have to go to a property that they would not like to see. They can see it in the comfort of their home. Everyone wants to see everything straight away. And now if the agent doesn’t know who’s going to come to the open house, many times they tell us, “Tom, I’m saving myself one hour drive to the property to wait in a house that nobody’s going to come and visit.” When they have virtual tours, they get qualified buyers, they come into the property. They’ve seen it at home then they consulted with the family and friends because this is one of the most important things in the buying process. Nobody makes the decisions themselves. I have to ask my wife about everything.
Look the girls are always the key decision makers. But so do I need any special equipment to create a virtual tour?
Tom Dorawa: (11:23)
Yes. That’s the one thing that you need. You need a little 360 camera. We sell them exactly at $539 and that’s your initial outlay, the camera. You might need a tripod if you don’t have one in your office. So the whole setup will cost you $688. And if you probably talk to Kylie, she can give you a good discount.
We’ll put that in the show notes Tom. You can do a deal in the show notes. And then you mentioned before that it was about $5 a tour after that, tell me how that works?
Tom Dorawa: (12:01)
Yes. So it’s an example just to make…
… tell me how that works?
Tom Dorawa: (12:03)
Yes, so it’s an example just to make it simple that it’s around $5 a tour, you don’t exactly pay per tour. Our solution is a subscription model.
Tom Dorawa: (12:12)
So, you sign up to a subscription, it starts with $20 per month. You get free active virtual tools at any given time, each one of the tours with 10 photos. So that $20 divided by three, it’s around seven, but our most popular plan is the business plan for $49 a month. That gives you 10 virtual tours and that’s how we get the $5 per tour.
Tom Dorawa: (12:37)
And then the more tours you do, the cheaper it gets. It goes down all the way to $1 per property depending how many properties you do per month [inaudible 00:12:48].
Okay. So, what I really love about this is, based on that comment that you made before that some agents are saying, “I don’t know if I want to do virtual tours cause I get my leads through my open home,” but if you’re producing a virtual tour and you’ve got that online, that would be giving you some great marketing insights into how that video is being watched and shared. That would help you pre qualify someone, even to a better level then you would get at an open home I’d have thought?
Tom Dorawa: (13:22)
Because you’d be seeing how many times the person watched the video, how far they went into the video, whether they shared it with friends and family and if they do all of those things, then that’s a pretty good indication that that person is really interested in the property, isn’t it?
Tom Dorawa: (13:37)
Yes. And funny you said that it’s been the end of the year, so I did a little summary of all of our virtual tours according to Google Analytics and an average time spent on a listing, on a virtual tour, is around two and a half minutes.
Tom Dorawa: (13:55)
Which is massive compared to 60 seconds or when people just flick through photos on your listing on REA or Domain or [inaudible 00:14:03] whatever that is. So, it’s such a big amount of time where people create a relationship with the property, but also with you as an agent. So the virtual tours are not videos they are just photos. You go from one photo to another, so there’s no time how long they last.
Tom Dorawa: (14:24)
When people open the virtual tour, they just click on it and go from room to room. They go inside and they go to another floor and it’s up to people to decide how long they watch it for. But the average time spent on being inside of the tour, that’s two and a half minutes.
Right. Great, got it. Thanks, Tom.
Tom Dorawa: (14:43)
Okay? So yes. Well, it’s an important thing because many real estate agents say, “No, we are doing virtual tours” and they think the video where you walk through with a gimbal through a house is a virtual tour. That’s not, that’s what photographers created to tell people this is a virtual tour.
So who are your competitors in this space, Tom?
Tom Dorawa: (15:06)
Is it Matterport, is it …?
Tom Dorawa: (15:08)
Yes, yes, there’s Matterport, and there’s DIAKRIT.
Tom Dorawa: (15:13)
Two main players on the global scene and also in Australia. Although, I really, honestly think we are not VTC Virtual Tours Creator is not a competitor to any of them.
Tom Dorawa: (15:28)
You might ask me why?
Why is that?
Tom Dorawa: (15:30)
Because Matterport, first of all, Matterport is amazing. They deliver amazing quality of images, but it’s big. It’s time consuming because when you can take a three-bedroom house photos, using our software in 15 minutes with Matterport it’s going to take you probably one hour and agents don’t have that time. That’s why they say, ‘we don’t want to do virtual tours.’ And free, if the agents are not going to buy their Matterport camera, which is $5,000 themselves and probably it will never happen, they will have to get somebody, a professional photographer to do it for them and they’re going to charge them an arm and a leg for that.
Tom Dorawa: (16:13)
So, the people that I would say if you have a property of $2 million, go straight for Matterport. Don’t waste your time with VTC because you’re going to need the premium quality. But if it’s anything below and then especially property management where you have no budgets, choose us. It’s $500 per camera, then it’s around $5 per property. You can’t go wrong. And even if you would decide you’re not going to use this camera in the future, you can use it as your holiday action sports camera and take your videos or photos [inaudible 00:04:44].
Won’t be wasted, you can take it skiing in Europe.
Tom Dorawa: (16:48)
So, that’s Matterport. And then DIAKRIT is also a brilliant idea, but DIAKRIT is a photography service business. They do photography. The virtual tour is just a tiny addition to the whole thing. So, we are, I believe, a one of a kind solution that is just that budget alternative to those companies. Of course, they are a competition because we all do virtual tools, but I think there’s room for everyone and the people that don’t use Matterport, they wouldn’t use virtual tours if we didn’t exist.
Right. Okay, fantastic. So, you mentioned, well, so I will … Angie and Dick from DIAKRIT, I’ll be reaching out to you guys shortly to have a chat. I [inaudible 00:17:38] I’m really caught up with digital [inaudible 00:17:42] at the moment, so best of luck with that.
Tom Dorawa: (17:45)
You mentioned before about property management, so talk to me about the Property Manager user case.
Tom Dorawa: (17:54)
Well, there’s quite a few but just to put it in perspective, the biggest one which you might know is Image Property from Brisbane. Joel from [inaudible 00:18:16], his property management business has three and a half thousand properties under management and they are using our software for every Entry condition report that they make.
What a great idea.
Tom Dorawa: (18:25)
So they started with us four months ago and they’re doing 130 virtual tools a month.
Tom Dorawa: (18:33)
They’ve got five property managers. Every property manager has one of our cameras and they’re absolutely loving it. The most important thing is that time saving instead of taking 500 or 400 photos of every property. When you do that report, you just take 100 or 150 photos in total because the virtual reality tour allows you to have the general state of every room. You take just one photo per room or two and if there is damage, you take the photos with your camera, with your phone or your digital camera of the actual damage. So it’s such a massive time-saving exercise that Joel says that he can’t see any other way to go back now.
That’s a great service to landlords to be able to see what condition your property is, especially if you’re an interstate landlord and you don’t get to go up there all the time. So you really rely on your property manager to share the photos, you never have that kind of sense, do you of walking through it?
Tom Dorawa: (19:39)
Yes. And one of the best example is LJ Hooker City Residential from Perth. Rob Whoolmer who’s a [inaudible 00:19:46], he has plenty of landlords that have never seen the property or they haven’t seen it for the last 10 years and now they are expecting to get the same amount of money for the rent as if the house was new, but they don’t want to give him money for renovations and his testimonial is actually on my website that once he did the virtual tour, send it to the owner, he understood where that damage is in comparison to the rest of the house.
Tom Dorawa: (20:19)
So immediately within two weeks, he got the money for the little renovations they did up the house and then he rented the property at the price of the landlord was happy with and also the tenant was getting a great quality property to move in.
Fantastic. So how long have you been going for Tom? Four years did you say before?
Tom Dorawa: (20:40)
Well with, in virtual reality space in 360 yes, almost five now. And with VTC just under two years.
Fantastic. And so what does the future hold for you guys? How big is the business?
Tom Dorawa: (20:57)
Look, I hope it’s endless. We are now focusing only on Australia. We’re starting to get customers in New Zealand cause the word goes out and obviously because we are a online-based service, we have customers from around the world. Although we don’t actively advertise, we’re not going for the US market yet, we’re not going for Europe, although I just recently went back to Europe to do some research to check out the conferences and we’re getting some great feedback. So in the future, yes, we’re going to expand but we are not rushing. I want to get Australia covered. I want to make sure this becomes a staple. Just like a normal floor plan, meet the industry and I’ll be really happy if I could just take care of the Australian real estate and in the future, if we have to, we’re going to go global.
Tom Dorawa: (22:02)
But thinking about the future, it’s also already we want to reach out to augmented reality. We are prepared to allow agents to just scan the QR codes and put those QR codes on the flyers, on the banners, on the signs in front houses. And that might also give back some life to the boring printed advertising. Cause everyone is still using it but it’s slowly dying off because it’s just boring. If you add augmented reality to your Sunday head out listings or whatever it is, people can just take out their phone, open the camera and they scan that listing, it’s going to open up a virtual tour and our tours are already ready for that. Anyone get the QR code … which is actually, you are the first person to hear about it. I haven’t even told about it to my customers.
Can we log a scoop on the Prop Tech Podcast.
Tom Dorawa: (23:10)
Tom Dorawa: (23:11)
So, the codes are ready. All you have to do is get the code, print it on your flyers and anyone that has a phone now, mobile phone, you don’t even need the QR codes colour. Just open your camera and it’s going to open up the virtual tour. And in the future, we’re going to add it to a broader audience and it will allow you, not only to add virtual tours but mainly to connect a video, connect when you speak to the people about the property, you can add a slide show or maybe a PDF file or something like that.
Fantastic. And I noticed the other day inside Domain, and I haven’t looked in realestate.com for ages, but I noticed that inside Domain you have the option to upload a video and or upload a virtual tour, they’re kind of two separate parts as part of your listing. So we are starting to …
… parts, as part of the listing. So we are starting to see this stuff encouraged to be more and more common. What proportion of the market do you think is doing it at the moment?
Tom Dorawa: (24:14)
Oh, it’s tiny. It’s no more than 3% then all the listings in Australia. Even though it’s been two years now, it’s still early days. I think 2020 is going to be much bigger for people to learn about virtual reality, because there’s people like you talking about it, organising events. Proptech is becoming a word that people are actually know what it is, or they actually heard about it. There’s our friends from Rita or Patrick and Rail. I’m very excited, because I don’t get to follow what they do on daily basis, because I’m busy with my own stuff.
Tom Dorawa: (25:04)
But it’s great to call a customer from Tasmania and she tells us, “Oh yeah, we already using Rail.” She already says, “We can’t already imagine working without it, without the help of artificial intelligence.” So I think we all help each other by introducing a bit of novelty to that real estate business that is stuck in some ways. But there’s many of people that have been waiting for that. They wanted to see something new, they just didn’t know how to find it. Didn’t know what it might be.
But I guess the ROI for agencies kind of twofold. It’s a ROI that is offering a much better service for both potential buyers and potential sellers who can see how you market a property. But also for landlords who might be thinking of listing through you, because they’re getting a much better understanding of how their properties tracking and how it’s being looked after by their tenants. When we talk about the ROI for it, we’re looking at an investment in the first year of around about a thousand dollars, by the time you take to purchase the camera and the tripod and then a 12 month subscription. But in return for that, you’re not only getting the amazing additional service that you’re offering to property buyers in saving them time and going through properties and as a marketing to sellers tool that helps you stand out from the crowd.
But also at that property management level, you’re offering an amazing new service to landlords to help them understand the quality of their properties and how they’re being looked after. But then, it’s also this extraordinary time saving element. Especially in the property management team of giving them their time back. So it would seem to be a great investment for about a thousand bucks and then cheaper after that for the following years.
Tom Dorawa: (27:12)
100%. I couldn’t summarise it better than you just did.
Luckily I had two goes.
Tom Dorawa: (27:21)
No, no. It was a good one. Yeah. I’m so happy, because the happiest thing in my work is I’m not selling pens to people. And walk into an office and saying, “Hey, I got the next greatest thing that’s going to change your life.” I can honestly say that yes, it’s working. When I started two years ago, it was just my vision and my dream. But now, I can stand up against anyone and tell them 150 reasons why this is working for customers. But now I’m extremely happy that it’s spreading to property management, because that seems to be a bit of a nightmare, all the photography and reporting. We are already working on now creating a reporting system using virtual reality. We working on one vision and trying it with some Remax offices here on the gold coast. So, I think that’s going to be another great thing.
How big is the addressable market for you in Australia?
Tom Dorawa: (28:27)
It will be pretty much any real estate office or independent agent property manager that wants to have a different level of services, or that just wants to work with the times and doesn’t want to get out of business in two, three or five years time. It’s massive. I have to say, “Yes, it’s great. It’s big.” Even more internationally. But I kind of had to hold my horses after we launched. I thought it’s going to spread like fire, and everyone’s going to use it. But unfortunately, not every real estate agent is following what the competition is doing, which is for me a bit not understandable. I think it’s still going take time. But, with us, as Proptech, I think it’s a good time to be in it. I think it’s a great time to be also a real estate agent, because there’s so much external knowledge that you can just find on the internet. If you want, you can really stand out from the crowd and then make yourself a champion in your area.
Yeah. Fantastic. So, Tom, just a last quick question for you. With your crystal ball out, what do you think the next five years holds for real estate and technology? What are the trends that you’re seeing in your area that you think will play a key role?
Tom Dorawa: (30:15)
I don’t like to have this kind of predictions, because obviously, yes, it’s all going to change. It’s changing, the artificial intelligence, I think no doubt is going to become a big thing in property management. That’s going to be really helpful for any agency to deal with customers and to save their time and give back time to their employees to do what they should be doing. And being ambassadors of the agency, rather than just doing all the tasks of writing emails, answering phone calls, calling plumbers and doing obviously what you have to do, but in such a different way. When you think about virtual or augmented reality, it’s really impossible to even look one year forward. There’s so much stuff happening in this space. Like even the 360 cameras, there’s a 360 camera coming out every month. There’s new technologies. There’s not only AR, DR and now it’s XR.
What’s XR? Is that extra special? Extra big, extra large?
Tom Dorawa: (31:36)
It’s a combination of everything altogether. Connect with artificial intelligence. I don’t know how. It’s honesty impossible to tell how the VR space is going to change. But in real estate, I think the clever real estate agents are going to go ahead with the times. They going to understand that without being digitally present, without using social media, let’s start with that. You can see the likes of one of our customers. Lisa [Novack 00:32:16] has been called number one real estate agent in her category last year. She’s all about social media. She’s selling houses without listing them on REA. She sells them on Facebook. So, for those that want to do it, the future is bright and there’s so much that they can learn. But the most difficult thing for, I think, from what I see from our customers, is even though the the agency owners, they want to do the progress.
Tom Dorawa: (32:50)
They want to be more digitally at present, and they want their crew, their staff, their team to do, let’s say virtual tools. There’s a lot of resilience and a lot of agents is saying no to anything, because they’ve been taught that way. They are used to certain things and they think, obviously it’s going to take more effort to learn something new. But if they understand that once they learn, it’s going to be easier, the future is going to be bright. I think it has to happen.
Tom Dorawa: (33:28)
There’s new kids on the block, there’s a lot of new agencies coming up and they are using everything they can to stand out. Everyone I think is going to have to come up with new standards. But still, there are agencies that when I call and have a chat with somebody say, “Oh, hold your horses. Virtual reality? I just started doing videos.” We have to understand that not everyone is even in this space doing their videos. And of course, you have to find the right people that are going to do the videos for you. You can’t expect your team to do the videos, which in some areas is impossible. But yeah, there’s so many different ways that this can go. I wouldn’t dare to have any predictions.
Tom Dorawa from Virtual Tours Creator. Thank you so much. I really appreciated you helping me understand the difference between augmented reality, virtual reality and then just a plain old video. I think that’s a really important differentiation that we need to be making at the industry. And it’s been fantastic to hear your story about this sort of cutting edge technology around virtual tours. I’m looking forward to it becoming mainstream. Thanks so much for your time.
Tom Dorawa: (34:52)
Oh, thank you very much, Kylie for having me on this beautiful podcast. That’s another thing. I can see that agents are listening to podcasts. They time pool. They like to drive in the cars and listen to podcasts.
Yeah. It makes it easy. Cool. We’re all about making it easy.
Content marketing strategist, researcher, journalist and presenter specialising in the real estate industry. I'm passionate about proptech, digital disruption and all things property, big data, leadership and entrepreneurial ideas, have an MBA and specialise in social and digital media content creation and automation.