Those days and hours spent being trundled around by your realtor could be far more focused and productive if you could walk through a property before an actual site visit. Your time, after all, is valuable.
Imagine if there were a way to walk through the property without ever leaving your desk, just think of all the great things you might accomplish with all that extra time. Enter the Virtual Reality real estate tour – the practical implementation of Virtual Reality in a real estate environment. Essentially a simulation of the interior spaces of a property, it will enable you to asses the suitability of a property without actually traveling to it.
For the realtor, it increases the possibility of a sale, being able to show the site to more people in more places, and to allow them to focus on buyers who are truly interested. Virtual Reality real estate tours translate to more showings and raise the potential for a faster sale, even for off-plan developments. The buyer is happy, the seller is happy, the realtor is very happy. Everybody wins!
The Future is Now
Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are poised to hit $150 billion by 2020, disrupting and surpassing mobile by a long shot. Early development has long been the realm of film and gaming, but as the technology becomes more accessible, more and more industries are getting on board. Many industries are finding great value in providing completely immersive or semi-immersive experiences across a range of applications. From education and training to complex military or medical training, the value to providers is astronomical, both in provision of experiences seldom had in the ‘real world’, and in their economical delivery. In clinical settings, VR has already proven valuable in the treatment of psychological disorders and phobias, while the rest of the world is just starting to discover what potential it may hold. For hardware developers, it could be seen much like the dawn of the smartphone revolution. For software developers, it opens the doors to a brand new revenue source, targeted to a mass audience with a hunger for more immersive experiences in gaming, film, eCommerce and communications.
Real Estate’s VR Revolution
3D Virtual Reality for real estate is no longer science fiction. Already in use by some of the world’s most successful agents, it is revolutionizing the way real estate transactions are made, and raising expectations from both the buyer and seller perspective. 3D tours allow buyers to explore every corner of their potential investment before they commit their time to a site visit. Providing a fully immersive, interactive photo realistic experience, investors can be introduced to off-plan developments via smartphone-driven VR headsets such as Samsung Gear VR or Google Cardboard, and real estate developers can showcase new builds even before they’ve broken ground. Essentially, they are affording their founding investors a peek into the future, giving them the benefit of knowing that what they see is what they will get.
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Benefits for Off-Plan Developers
Convincing people to part with their hard-earned money for a property-in-development is often difficult. While some 2D renderings can capture the imagination of the potential buyer, it’s just not the same as an actual walk through. Some buyers may lack imagination, or the site itself may be in such a state that it would be hard to visualize the finished product. By putting the buyer directly into the environment, they are stepping into a space that doesn’t even exist yet, provided with a fully immersive experience that could make the sale.
Using 3D imagery generated from the architectural drawings combined with 360˚ drone video footage of the immediate surroundings, real estate developers can provide their potential investors with a photorealistic 3D rendering that instills confidence. By integrating video and photography taken at different times of the day, they can even experience the sunset and sunrise views that may prove to be a factor when choosing a specific unit. They can navigate through the common areas, check out the view from one side of the building or the other, travel to the tenth floor, the thirtieth floor, or even the rooftop.
Sotheby’s Predicts the Future
Sotheby’s International real estate division has recently begun to use Virtual Reality to sell luxury homes all over the world, showcasing multi-million dollar homes in New York, Los Angeles, the Hamptons and overseas in places like Tuscany and the French Riviera. While the current high cost of scanning a home for VR imaging might make it prohibitive for some lower-end buyers, Sotheby’s clientele will undoubtedly see it as a worthwhile investment. Catering to the rich and famous as well as the uber-rich and not-so-famous, the high end realtor can show homes to potential buyers all over the country, or around the world.
Using a VR headset and hand controller, the realtor can lead the tour remotely, tapping into the buyer’s experience and see what they are seeing, able to pinpoint upgraded features like granite countertops or detailed craftsmanship. A home that has been scanned in one city then can be shown by agents in other offices. While it might take several weeks to show a buyer all the potential properties by driving to them, VR can reduce that time to days or even hours. The benefits to the seller are great as well, as they are able to focus only on those buyers who are truly and legitimately interested, avoiding much wasted time and aggravation. When shopping for properties overseas, the advantages include being able to view a property before investing the time and money to fly in and close the deal.
Living Up to Potential
Though Virtual Reality already offers clear advantages for the real estate industry, it will likely be some years before real estate deals are actually being closed in VR. There are still levels of third party expertise that are required, such as home inspections, and concerns of legal liability have not yet been ironed out, or quite possibly even conceptualized. Additionally, the expense of providing a Virtual Reality experience for lower-priced homes may prove prohibitive in the short term. With the fast-growing accessibility of VR technology, this will likely change within the next few years if not sooner.
Many tech companies have already released VR and AR apps that are dedicated to real estate, allowing users to dial in criteria like neighborhoods, price and number of rooms to be presented with a list of homes they can virtually walk through. ArchVirtual and StartVR’s Edge28 provide apps that can be used with a range of hardware, while VR specialist company Matterport has developed a 3D imaging camera that is specifically geared to real estate VR simulation. It has been postulated that Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus VR was almost entirely based on its real estate potential, seeing a future where a client would come to an office and check out a number of homes via head-mounted displays, choose the ones they wanted to visit in person and essentially eliminate the realtor altogether.
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