Buying a house in a new region is challenging and often requires making a big investment sight unseen – which is why people rarely do it. Instead, they pay pricy month-to-month rent while house hunting or appoint a proxy to view and bid on properties for them. Either way, it’s a lose-lose situation and few people end up with a house they like by looking at a few pictures.
Luckily for buyers and real estate agents alike, new virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) tools are making it easier for buyers to assess properties and help agents present the finer details of each home. But how does it work? Here’s a glance inside the exciting new world of virtual property tours.
Up Close And Virtual
At its core, VR for real estate is very simple: if someone wants to visit an apartment, they put on a headset and they can walk around that virtual environment without ever moving. The goal is to create a sense of depth and immersion equivalent to a real property tour and, ideally, VR will eventually add a tactile element. But even sans touch, VR lets a potential buyer get up close and personal, examining the molding, the floors, or the doorknobs. All the little things you can’t see by looking at photos online come to life through VR.
Now, you might wonder why not just use video in place of VR – after all, video is a powerful marketing tool and we already use video on real estate sites to perform what were, at least once, called virtual tours. But there are good reasons to skip over video and draw on the big guns. Most people can’t stream video at a high enough resolution or speed to provide a smooth, high definition experience like that found in VR. And a low-quality visual experience is a death knell for sales.
Many marketers are concerned that VR may not offer users the same level of insight that in-person tours can, that it won’t be significantly better than video or photographs, but select groups that have tested out VR tours have seen incredible results. As one team pointed out, “Things that [buyers] may not get conceptually on a regular 2D just walking through, now they can even look at … ‘What does the ceiling look like? What do the floors really look like?’” Buyers pay real, careful attention when using VR. The novelty may actually enhance the experience of a property.
The AR Advantage
If VR can help improve long-distance sales, AR can simplify and personalize showing a property by transforming the staging process. Typically, owners or agents stage properties so that they look clean but settled, giving potential buyers a sense of how the property could look. Simply put, staging makes properties more appealing, can cover minor flaws, and presents a clear and orderly representation of the property – rather than the over-lived in, cluttered version that most people actually call home. AR, though, offers an alternative to traditional staging.
Several apps that specialize in AR staging have already hit the market. Rooomy, for example, can present an empty space with freshly painted walls, furniture, even a television, while iStaging can customize a room for sales or for new owners looking to furnish a space. Particularly for owners or property managers trying to sell a vacant residence, digital staging programs can save time and money.
Overall, AR has reached a point in its development where it’s sufficiently advanced to provide an in-depth experience. Real estate and property management companies can invest in Enterprise AR featuring 3D modeling and blueprints, use these tools to help potential buyers explore the neighborhood, and save everyone time and energy. It’s a perfect solution to an arduous process.
Is It User Friendly?
The one major concern many real estate experts have about using VR/AR technology in sales is that it may not be the most user friendly experience. Only a limited number of potential buyers have prior experience using such tools; most people’s only experience of AR is Pokemon Go. Getting people to put on a headset and explore a virtual environment may be the greatest barrier to adoption.
AR, on the other hand, has somewhat greater potential for broad adoption in real estate, particularly as other commerce leaders introduce similar tools. Ikea, for example, has an AR furniture app that allows users to preview products in their home before buying, while Lowe’s Vision lets users preview renovations such as new flooring or trim. AR is on the cusp of becoming the new normal.
Say goodbye to traditional tours and hello to an exciting new form of engagement. Real estate doesn’t need to rely on in-person encounters to facilitate sales. This is the crystal ball version of property staging and sales – every buyer can see the future of their property even before they move in.
For contribution enquiries, please email us.