How Virtual Reality can help Real Estate Agents optimize their business

How is Real Estate sold today?

Selling a house is never an easy task. The journey that Real Estate has made these past couple of decades from wooden signs on the road side, through ads in the papers to online ads and websites like Craig’s list and from text ads to image ads and finally video.
While people still begin their search online, their natural next step is usually to attend an open house visit. This is still the most used and effective sales method private sellers or home owners and real estate agents use to get potential buyers to their property.
But open house visits are expensive to the home owner who needs to declutter, often rent a storage unit, clean up, maybe paint and prepare refreshments and they are time consuming to the agent who has to skip from one house to another often in the same day.

So why do people still do it?

Because human beings are all about what they can see with their own eyes and about instant gratification. They want to see what they are buying and they want to be able to imagine how their belongings will look in that space.

The “Global Village” Real Estate challenge

One challenge that is more prominent today than ever before, is that of relocating to a new town, state or even continent. With borders opening up, technology connecting people and opportunities becoming global, the world really has turned into a small village and more and more people find themselves uprooting their entire life and family to move elsewhere. Often to a location which is too far to go visit open houses before they rent or buy.

Cue in VR for Real Estate Agents

VR in Real estate is not new and in fact, one can argue that even just an online video of a house tour is in some way “VR”. You get to see the house before you decide to rent it or buy it, but it is not in “real life”, hence it is in “Virtual reality”. With the rising popularity of 360 degrees video, house tours have become even more sophisticated. However, people can still not fully “experience” the property, grasp the dimensions, or visualize how their sofa would fit in the living room. 360 degrees videos, which is usually 2D is essentially flat and doesn’t allow the person watching to become immersed in the scene. For this purpose we need full or “real” VR, 3D 360 video, preferably watched on a headset.

Imagine your new home…

We usually say a “house” becomes a “home” when we have our personal belongings in it, when we made it our own – painted the walls, put up pictures on the wall, planted trees in the garden…
While VR cannot really help us do this (AR can, but that’d for another post), it can help us visualize, imagine and understand the space.

Think of the following scenario:

John and Amy are a young couple. Amy is pregnant with their first child. John just got a great job in another town and they’re looking to buy their first home.

Normally, John and Amy would start by looking online and perhaps talking to a real estate agent. The agent would line up several properties, send them pictures and descriptions. They would narrow the search down to 2-3 houses and then they would have to travel to see the houses, often in one day having a very short visit in each property.

By the time they get home they will have remembered questions they still have and haven’t asked the home owners or the agent, they will have forgotten what they’ve seen in each house, each of them will have remembered the same space or room larger or smaller…

Now, imagine John and Amy being able to go online to the Real Estate Agent’s website or even visit their office, and “visit” not just 3 houses but even 5 or 6 houses through a complete VR tour. They would be able to put on a headset and “walk through” the house, feeling the size of the rooms, pausing where they want to, asking questions, taking a second or third look.

What if they could do it all from their comfort of their current home, without having to travel to another city?

How much easier would it be for both our couple, John and Amy, and for their Real Estate Agent to seal the deal? How much time, energy and money will they all save?

So why isn’t everyone doing this? What are the challenges of VR in Real Estate?

VR in Real estate still poses several big challenges:

  • The best way to experience VR in a fully immersive way is on a headset, yet headsets are not yet used by many.
  • Creating virtual tours in VR still requires some video editing savvy and time, which Realtors don’t necessarily have.
  • For 3D 360 (full VR) to be played online a dedicated player is usually best (or uploading the footage to YouTube in 3D and watching on a headset, which takes us back to challenge #1).
  • Real Estate Agents are on a race to catch up with technology and compete with each other. It is often easier to use less complicated tools.

What can we do, how can we drive the use of Virtual Reality in Real Estate?

With the Real Estate VR market estimated at $2.6bn by 2025, surely there have to be ways to help Realtors adopt VR faster to optimize their business.

Here are a few ways realtors can incorporate VR into their business easily and effectively:

  • Create Virtual tours using a 3D 360 VR camera. A fully immersive VR experience no longer requires extremely expensive gear. You can get a Vuze VR camera and with just a few clicks and well placed camera, create a complete virtual tour of the house you want to show. Get a couple of headsets in your office, so clients can go on these virtual real estate tours when they come.
  • Start your own YouTube channel and upload VR tours of your properties, so people can watch them from the comfort of their home or their mobile devices (see example in our Showroom).
  • Hire a VR videographer to work with you, if you want something a little more elaborate like this.

Here's a VR tour for Commercial Real estate shot by the Vuze camera: