I never thought virtual reality would ever make it into the real world.
When I was younger and at Orlando’s Universal Studios with my family, there was a Back to the Future ride, where visitors would climb into a tricked-out Dolorean. Inside, on a screen, you could go on a virtual ride with the car moving up and down, mimicking the effects of actually flying through time.
But that was the nineties.
Today, the virtual reality (VR) world is taking businesses by storm, with Oculus Rift, HTC’s Vive, Google Cardboard, and the Microsoft HoloLens. Even Samsung is jumping into the mix with their GEAR VR headset, where users can clip on their Galaxy for an immersive experience. (Or you can just keep pouring champagne on it.)
But there are other ways to leverage tech for real estate success, including the benefits of adding video to your online listing (which are awesome, by the way). And if adding a video is so successful, just imagine what a VR component can do.
Talk about going back to the future.
But what, exactly, are the benefits of virtual reality for real estate (apart from being super cool)?
Not to worry.
While your competition is trying to figure out how to incorporate VR into their sales strategies, I’ll show you three ways you can use this visionary tool right now so you can reap some serious benefits in the future.
1. Capture Remote Customers
Ever had to move far away? To another state? To another country?
Sometimes photos can’t quite do a place justice. A hard flash might make a space look too stark, or none at all might make a place look dark and uninviting. A photo only captures one perspective, and even then rooms look larger or smaller depending on your angle.
I’d click on to the next listing. Wouldn’t you?
For remote buyers or renters, visuals can be crucial to deciding whether or not your offering is the place for them.
This is where virtual reality can have a major impact.
Already, some listings enable a virtual walkthrough, which is a sort of VR in itself.
Interested buyers can click through rooms to gain a clearer perspective on what’s being offered. It’s a great way to be more transparent with your property, satisfying those who wish to see it in real life.
But the thing about a walkthrough is that you’re still just seeing it on a 2D screen, whether it be desktop or mobile. And even video walkthroughs don’t give you the freedom of navigating the space on your own terms. (For me, it can even freeze my computer screen. It’s a bit frustrating.)
With virtual reality, however, buyers can virtually walk through a property with more freedom, concentrating on spaces, like the kitchen or a bathroom, to get a clear picture on what’s being offered. It’s essentially like a real walk through, but instead buyers can take the property at their own pace.
So why is it a worthwhile investment? It has the chance of converting potential buyers into actual buyers.
Because of the newness of VR in real estate, exact conversion rates aren’t confirmed, but Huffington Post reports that a virtual reality company, YouVisit, which provides VR tours of college campuses, caused a “30% increase in physical visit requests” for participating schools, resulting in a 12.3% conversion rate.
That’s just for schools. Imagine what it could do for homebuyers.
Plus, this simplifies the process for homebuyers. Instead of wasting time looking at spaces they would pass on, with VR they can cut to the chase and concentrate on what they want.
Think of how happy you can make buyers by securing them a home even before they visit it in person.
If you’re considering jumping into VR, YouVisit now covers the real estate industry. May be worth contacting them to see what the next steps are and how much it costs to enlist their services.
2. Show Homes Remotely
While virtual reality can do wonders for getting buyers to consider a property, it also has uses for live virtual tours as well.
For remote customers, this can be an added benefit, as they can have a guided tour that points out specifics of a particular property’s amenities or standout features. Also, if needed, they can ask questions of their virtual real estate agent, i.e. you.
“I can lead a VR tour remotely and even see where the client is looking,” Matthew Hood of Sotheby’s tells Fortune, “which allows me to address things like a kitchen counter style while they’re looking at it—just as I would in a real world tour.”
For real estate agents or even buyers, virtual tours can function as a quick way to tour a property if you’re under time constraints or don’t have the ability to visit the property in person. Perhaps you’ve overscheduled yourself and are short on time or your clients are stuck in a traffic jam. Imagine the possibilities.
“Virtual reality has been a big piece of early sales,” real estate agent Julie McEvoy tells Curbed. “Being able to see and experience the space is huge.”
Furthermore, sometimes when a client is unable to view a property, they may have an assistant or trusted friend check out the space for them. Rather than relying on descriptions and images, these busy buyers can take a look for themselves, even if they’re on the other side of the world.
Don’t worry about your job becoming obsolete, though. As an agent, you still have much to offer.
“The technology doesn’t replace a salesperson’s explanation,” McEvoy continues. “[A] first-time buyer still needs to be talked through the details—but now you can show them.”
Check it out for yourself. Matthew Hood uses the Samsung Gear VR, which you can pre-order for $99.99 (phone not included). But also know that the 3D creation has a price tag as well. Scanning one space (depending on its size) can range from around $300-$700, which is why VR is a more common tool for luxury properties at the moment.
3. Show Completed Construction Projects
Whenever I watch a home remodeling show, I try to imagine just what the flippers or architects are planning, but sometimes it’s just too difficult to picture.
Just another area where VR can come in handy.
While it can be a great way to entice potential buyers and even guide them through virtual tours, you can also take advantage of this technology by creating a 3D model of what the completed project will look like, so people can walk through it before it’s even built.
More than just photoshopped images, buyers can take a look at how the property flows with new flooring, remodeled bathrooms, and updated kitchens. Buyers get to see the whole package, enabling a larger sense of trust between them and the remodelers or even allow them the ability to correct particular plans that don’t meet their vision.
In the long run, this will lead to more satisfied customers.
Jonathan Kaufman Iger, CEO at Sage Realty Corp. in New York, tells Realtor Mag about the success he’s had with VR. “It’s been tremendous. You can get a better sense of the depth and scope of a space through the headsets. This really helps to offer a firm understanding of what is possible in an otherwise empty space.”
While not the real thing, if you’re having difficulty imagining large construction overhauls, like knocking down multiple walls for more open space, VR will let you see how the changes will translate into reality.
For Iger, his company invested in an early Oculus Rift prototype (the finished product retails for $599) and had Floored, which develops 3D technology specifically for real estate, create their mock-ups. Floored doesn’t list their pricing, but you can contact their team for a demo or a customized quote.
For now, VR real estate showings come with a large price tag. But since VR is already trickling into the mainstream market, hopefully this means costs will plummet and VR will become a staple of every real estate company.
Excited about VR, or not impressed? Let me know in the comments below.