Real Estate News

Home hunting and virtual reality: An incoming match

Published: 31 Jan 2017

A surprising match of industries could be on the horizon: real estate and virtual reality. The potential of this technology could give homebuyers a new way to assess properties before purchase and add to their experience. These new additions could also improve the way realtors offer homes, changing the timeframe for an average sale and possibly increasing consumer confidence.

Pre-viewing
NerdWallet recently wrote about the companies implementing virtual reality into the home buying process. In the standard vision of VR, users interact with special eyewear to see other spaces up close.

Real estate could harness this with the added benefit of allowing prospective buyers a look at homes that don't exist yet, the source said. This could not only inform buyer decisions but also help everyone involved save time.

The article spoke to Bob Yuan of the company Circle Visions, who explained the tactile benefits of VR for anyone interested in a home development project.

"When you look at a blueprint, you don't really get a sense of how it feels to be in that property, whereas with virtual reality, you're right in it," Yuan said. "You can open doors, you can turn on the lights; you get a feel for the scale or the sense of that room."

Remote viewing
Along similar lines, this field could help customers look at houses they aren't physically close to, giving them an up-close look that could help them make a decision. Though this may not replace the desire for a physical site visit, it could be a vast improvement to slideshows and online photo galleries.

As the San Diego Union-Tribune suggested, it could also help realtors with their own demanding schedules, especially if it lets them get ahead of opening dates for new properties. For example, the article mentioned a Redfin live stream that worked as a kind of "virtual open house" to reach many different parties at once.

Drone assistance
VR isn't the only new technology enhancing buyers' views of homes. Crain's Detroit Business reported on the way flying drones are also part of the boom in technology, adding to what real estate companies can do to monitor new developments.

As units are built, the source said, drones can record progress and give unique views of the structure. The article also referenced the combined use of this and other new advancements. What's significant isn't just any one trend, but the way all of these systems could support the same common goal of better property visibility.

Possible drawbacks
There are already some concerns over VR's limitations in housing. One is the cost of the equipment. NerdWallet said that agents showing homes in VR may have to include it as part of their fees, in addition to the actual expenses of headsets and other necessary electronics.

While multiple sources suggest that real estate is ripe for new technology, there's also the sheer novelty of this to account for. VR is new not just to real estate but to much of the world in general, requiring some possible adjustments as it grows more familiar.

Furthermore, changes in generational preferences when it comes to homes could also impact the ways possible owners shop for homes, as Dallas News said. Millennials, for examples, are more interested in privacy than previous generations, and have a possible incentive for non-traditional living arrangements, such as cohabitation.

Against this is the general thrust of VR, which seems to be a rapidly growing industry: According to an International Data Corporation statement from last year, by 2020 the combined VR and Augmented Reality markets will be worth more than $162 billion. VR systems are also said to be the more dominant player in the short term.