Virtual Reality for Real Estate Applications

January 4, 2017

You’ve probably already heard that VR is a hot technology right now, but did you know that the real estate sector is going to be reshaped by VR tech?

The intersection between virtual reality and real estate is obvious: instead of touring a potential new home or apartment in person, you can take a virtual reality tour to get a similar feeling for how the new piece of real estate measures up to your expectations.

In this article, we’ll look into the preliminary applications of virtual reality in real estate to see the coolest examples and a few notable flops.

Making the Most Out Of VR

Many realtors envision VR as a way to massively increase their productivity and make their jobs much easier. There are some advantages to using VR which are downright cool that are entirely separate from allowing long distance viewing of a property’s environment.

Benefits To Realtors

First and foremost, realtors will experience massively increased ability to tighten their turnaround of existing properties. Usually, when a property comes on the market, the present occupants still live on the property. This is inconvenient because it means that realtors need to juggle the schedules of the occupants in addition to the people that are prospective buyers.

With VR, this isn’t an issue. If the property is scanned into the VR environment and rendered effectively, the present occupants get removed from the picture, and realtors can offer guided or unguided VR tours at any hour of the day or night without worrying about inconveniencing the sellers.

Scanning many different properties to render them in VR will pay off in the long run for realtors, but the biggest strength of VR is that it allows realtors to easily sell identical units in large apartment buildings or housing developments. Since there are only a couple of variations of units in large buildings, the realtor only needs to make a few scans before they have a comprehensive VR library.

Cutting Costs by Removing Realtors

VR might displace many employed realtors, as with the help of VR it’s possible for one realtor to remain in one location and guide potential buyers through their VR explorations, which saves a lot of time that is usually spent traveling to and from the properties that the realtor handles. The increased efficiency of each realtor is massively increased by VR, meaning that real estate brokerages won’t need to retain as many.

VR Might Not Show the Cracks In The Walls

You might want to be careful while using virtual reality to explore your next home, though. While VR is extremely powerful for showing off potential properties using CGI, it puts the buyer at a disadvantage in a few areas.

First, there’s no way to tell if you smell mold or if you’re allergic to the materials in the house if you’re only viewing a potential property through the current state of the art VR technology. Considering that you’ll have to live in the house if you purchase it without seeing it with your own eyes, this is a major concern which there doesn’t seem to be any solution to.

Second, buyers will need to keep in mind that the image that they’re experiencing as they virtually walk through a property is not the reality of the property. 3D scans of the property’s layout and furniture might not capture things like cracks in the walls or discoloration on the wallpaper.

Likewise, it’s unlikely that a realtor’s VR rendition of property for sale will show the highway out the window or the perpetual construction project across the street. The point here is that VR only provides input that approximates reality via creating visuals that represent reality. Even if the quality of those visuals is photorealistic, there’s no guarantee that they reflect reality.

What’s Next In Real Estate’s Use Of Virtual Reality?

With major international brokerages like Sotheby’s integrating VR into their practices, it’s hard to see a future where real estate exists without extensive use of VR. VR has the potential to streamline the real estate industry in more ways than are currently used, however.

Realtors will gain access to faster scanning methods, and can eventually operate via the internet exclusively if they choose to as VR permeates the consumer market more fully. Likewise, if a consumer wants to put their home on the market, they just need to scan its interior and exterior to start the selling process, so it’s conceivable to see fully automated real estate exchanges shortly.

What We Won’t See

It’s unlikely that we’ll see the integration of other sensory technologies to virtual reality in real estate used in the near term, however. In fact, even sound might not be integrated into the new standard for realty. There’s not much of an incentive to provide a soundtrack if it doesn’t increase the chances of fast turnover and increased efficiency.

Likewise, there’s little reason to expect that haptic feedback technology will be used by realtors to show off properties because touch isn’t a necessary element of the real estate buying process.

Wrapping Up

If you’re eager to grab a VR headset and start looking at properties, your best bet will be with the larger and more established realty companies, as the smaller brokerages may be a bit behind the times when it comes to state of the art solutions. It may be a bit embarrassing to stumble around the room while the realtor is watching you traverse the virtual property, but it’ll probably save you a lot of time that you’d have to spend traveling otherwise.

Before you pull the trigger on a buying decision, you should probably visit the place you’re going to buy to make sure that the VR render of the property isn’t covering up anything too crazy. And remember: start looking for opportunities to use your consumer VR hardware at home to look at other properties directly so that you get the most out of its potential.

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