James and his wife Sue Hannah run Creative Virtual Tours, originally out of Cambridge ON. They have been in the real estate industry for over 20 years, shot over 20,000 houses and although they started as a 2-person team, they have grown to a 9-person team with 4 iGUIDE cameras in 2020. They are passionate about real estate and passionate about “people serving people” with the right products (including iGUIDE 3D tours!).
iGUIDE Technology Sent This Real Estate Photography Business Into A Years Long Hiring Spree
A low quality video of a house for sale put James Lieper on a course that led to a thriving real estate photography business in one of the world’s hottest housing markets—southern Ontario.
James found the video on the internet, and it changed his life.
“I was watching a realtor in Texas doing a walk-through with a Sony camcorder at a property for sale, and the screen door hit him on the ass on the way in, the lens cap was banging against the microphone, and of course it was shaky as hell because there were no stabilizers back then—but mission accomplished, he did a pretty good job,” says James.
“I have been a videographer my whole career, and I looked at that and said: ‘I can do better,’” says James.
So, James started Creative Virtual Tours, which is based in Cambridge, Ontario. It provides still photographs, video, drone footage, twilight photography, virtual tours and voice-overs. With clients in Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, Guelph, Brantford, Burlington, Milton and west to Woodstock, his business continually grew.
So did the competition.
For the first 15 years it was just James and his wife Sue Hannah, who is also a photographer. They saw the increasing demand for 3D virtual tours, square-footage measurements, floors plans and room dimensions. For a very short while, James took the measurements by hand and sketched it all out on a notepad.
“When your customers come looking for you to supply a product,” says James, “you better see what’s on the street, because if you ignore it you will be standing there at the end saying: ‘Wow, what just happened?’
James started looking for property tech solutions to meet demands for floor plans, room measurements and tours. He found one in nearby Kitchener with Planitar, maker of the iGUIDE Camera. He also found a company in the U.S. that provided an alternative, but James was turned off by a stock email referring him to a website for more information.
“And then I phoned Planitar and spoke directly to the vice-president and developer of the product,” says James. “And that made the decision for me.”
Well, not quite. His wife Sue was adamant—they had to buy an iGUIDE camera before their competitors did. The technology takes laser-accurate measurements that are used to make interactive floor plans featuring 360-degree photographs and virtual tours.
The iGUIDE package is delivered within 24 hours to clients in an email attachment containing virtual tours, 3D tours, 360-degree tours, floor plans, room dimensions and measurements and square-footage calculations.
Planitar’s back-end support provides detailed web traffic analytics to help agents maximize a property’s exposure.
“When it comes down to it, we are a service business and people buy from people. But you have to have the right tools in the toolbox to get the job done, and iGUIDE provides that for us,” says James.
So, James bought an iGUIDE camera in 2016. The little piece of property tech sent his real estate photography business into overdrive. The first iGUIDE camera paid for itself within months, and he’s been on a camera-buying-and-photographer-hiring spree ever since.
The company now has four iGUIDE cameras and will buy a fifth one soon.
“We have been buying a camera every year ever since without interruption. What has it done for our business? It has made us quicker, more efficient, more lean, better deliverables for our customers, and most importantly able to grow in a digital space that is constantly evolving,” says James.
There was no way James and Sue could meet the soaring demand induced by the iGUIDE products on their own. In 2016 it was just James and his wife. He has hired seven photographers since then.
“Today we are a team of nine,” says James.
James was talking about the enormously successful impact iGUIDE cameras had on his business while driving to shoot a client’s house. He credits iGUIDE technology for seeing him through one of the worst economic downturns in recent memory.
“The number one thing for realtors during the past 70 days has been how do we limit people going through the house but giving them a chance to see the house? So, the iGUIDE story became very compelling since the onset of COVID-19,” says James.
“Currently we have a steady volume of trade, we are happy to have that, we are lucky because there are a lot of folks in other sectors who simply are not even operating,” says James.