Immersing Ourselves in Virtual Real Estate Technology

© Maurizio Pesce, 2015

Sci-fi writers and technology experts alike can’t hold back their excitement about the advent of virtual reality into our entertainment sector, with first-adopters raving about the platform’s vast uses and detractors scoffing at the current lack of immersion. As with all emergent technologies past and present, it’s smart to take advancements like these with an initial grain of salt. Of course, it’s also profitable to look toward the future to see how the current crop of these devices can be developed for more specific functions in everyday life. For many of those future-focused VR developers, the world of real estate is a hotbed for eventual VR killer apps.

In fact, some firms in big cities have already begun use of VR in everyday functions, which Realtor Mag covered in its article “VR Headsets: Real Estate Game Changer?” back in March. Multiple high-end real estate firms have already begun the use of 360-degree tools to simulate a property tour, often for clients to avoid the need to travel. In Los Angeles, Sotheby’s International Realty has been allowing clients to tour residences through the Samsung Gear VR headset, allowing users to look up at chandeliers, down at limestone floors, and all around spacious living rooms and wine cellars. All of this can be done within the comfort (not to mention safety, in terms of the current residents of the home) of the real estate office.

For some enterprising firms, however, the technology is being used to tour buildings that don’t exist yet. The New York based Sage Realty Corporation has been using 3D modeling technology from Floored to develop 360-degree tours of mockups of spaces that haven’t yet been built. Even for existing spaces, the company takes it a step further by allowing for virtual staging. Clients can customize their tour to display a hypothetical version of the space built out as a restaurant or office – more advanced technology can even allow for rudimental organization of furniture.

The eventual translation of this technology into everyday real estate agents across the nation and world is inevitable, and more than likely sooner than we think. Some experts posit that the onset of practical and affordable VR will be as disruptive to the everyday real estate workflow as Google Street View once was; where clients can now find a series of still images to explore the area around the home, future clients might be able to step into a virtual world for a more dynamic view. Agents in places with high volumes of transferring employees who may not be in a position to fly out to view homes could send that tour over the web, accomplishing the same degree of sales pathos while accommodating more clients in further reaching areas.

According to a survey of Realtors and market experts conducted by Nabarro, 81% of respondents think that virtual reality will have a dramatic effect on how developments are planned, marketed and leased in the next 10 years. This figure isn’t hard to believe – the extent to which the technology is already in use and in planned use is already impressive. It’ll be a matter of affordability, and that’s coming rather soon as well – the aforementioned Realtor Mag article estimates Floored’s rendering costs at around $2 to $7 per square foot for residential properties, and under $1 per square foot for commercial. While those numbers are rather lofty as of now, they will certainly decrease as more competitors and options become available.

The beauty of technologic advancement is in its swiftness; we’ve already hit a point where “futuristic” is a common response to even relatively inexpensive new items. What makes modern technology even more beautiful is the way that it can be adapted to fit today’s world and improve efficiency even more than it already has been. The real estate industry has several new technologies on its horizon that promise to change the way we think of buying a home, and VR is just the tip of the iceberg.