Lynn Dube was urged into the real estate business by the broker who sold her a house in Gorham, when she moved to that town from her native Bangor in 1994. Dube quickly got her broker’s license and worked as a broker and administrator until five years ago, when another broker asked her to take photos of a listing. That grew into a new business, Wave5, which creates virtual tour photographic walk-throughs of real estate listings in Greater Portland. The name of her business, Dube said, comes from her first triathlon, for the group of competitors she was assigned to, and the name just stayed with her.
Q: What is Wave5 and when did you start it?
A: It’s my virtual tour company. I started it for my fundraising for the Tri for a Cure triathlon. I needed to raise at least $100 and each time I shot a house, I just put that money toward my fundraising for the triathlon.
All I had was a point-and-shoot camera. I look back at those tours and say, “Oh, no, they need to come offline.” They weren’t very pretty. There was pretty much no control over the camera at all, as far as the focal point and lighting. I worked with it a couple of months and then upgraded my equipment. My first upgrade was an SLR (single-lens reflex camera) with just one lens and then I slowly graduated to a better camera with two different lenses and a tripod.
Q: What does the better camera allow you to do?
A: I can be a little more creative with it, where I can focus on the warmth of the room instead of just the room. I look at a room not as just a room, but it’s more about how I can make this look warm and fuzzy and inviting. With the newer camera, I could use a different focal point and zoom in on, for example, flowers on a table, and yet you still see the room in the background.
Q: How long does it take to shoot a typical house?
A: I allow myself an hour and 15 minutes per house. That gives me time to scope it out and chat with the seller and know what I’m going to do for a shoot.
I try to move right along and I don’t want to inconvenience the seller, because a lot of times they’re there. If the seller’s not there I will take more time and I kind of know what I’m going to do and I just go ahead and do it.
Q: It seems that when digital cameras and online real estate sites came along, a lot of brokers did their own shots. Are more of them turning to specialists now?
A: A lot more brokers are hiring photographers instead of taking their own photographs. Most buyers start all their searching online and can eliminate what they don’t want to see online. I know, from reports that have been done, that up to 94 percent of buyers start their home searches online.
Q: Are there any unusual features you like to focus on?
A: I like to show fixtures sometimes, bathroom fixtures, some of the details. If there’s a unique pattern on the floor, like an interesting wood floor pattern, I like to show that, so details are important, along with things like a cathedral ceiling or a vaulted ceiling.
Q: Are there things you tend not to show?
A: I will avoid rooms that are not ready to be shot and if there is something bad about the house, I try not to show it, while I also try not to be deceiving to the buyer as well. Oftentimes, those are things that a buyer will want to change anyway, like a bad wallpaper or poor choice of color for a room.
Q: Did you have a lot of photographic experience before starting your business?
A: Starting out, I knew nothing and I’ve learned a lot along the way and have learned more about the capability of my camera and editing software.
Q: Do you use photo editing software a lot?
A: When you shoot a house, my big thing is to be able to see out the windows (due to lighting) and that was my largest challenge. With the editing software, you can take out dark corners and tone windows down and provide an even photo.
Q: Most of your tours are still photos. Do you use video, too?
A: My virtual tours are all still photos and they do pan from one to the other (in a slide show). I’ll use video only rarely.
Q: What else do brokers get from using a virtual tour to show a house?
A: The broker gets a weekly report showing how many times the tour has been viewed along with the top sites where it’s seen (usually realtor.com or mainelistings.com, run by the Maine Real Estate Information System). If the site is seen a lot and no one calls, then that’s a sign they might want to lower the price.
Q: Is providing virtual tools a crowded field?
A: There are a couple of competitors out there – I just gave one of them a referral today. But there’s enough business for all of us all the way around.”
Q: You started this business when the housing bubble had burst. Was it difficult to launch then?
A: It gave me the time to look into different (computer) programs, learn how to do it and gain a knowledge of the cameras, because right now I have zero time.
Q: Is there more new technology you’re using?
A: I have a drone. Don’t tell the FAA. I’ve used it a few times, but I’m still practicing with it. It’s scary because you can have fly-aways (with the drone flying off, out of control) and people really need to know what they’re dealing with. I had one fly-away that started right after it took off and I powered it down into a tree. It will be more for the higher-end properties, especially where it’s an oceanfront property and you could show the front of the house and then the water beyond, or huge farms where you want to show all the acreage.