Real Estate Perspectives on AR & VR

If a picture speaks a thousand words, imagine what a 360-degree tour with customizable, interchangeable props has to say. 

Quite a bit, as advancements in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are currently proving in the real estate sector. These new tools are making it easier, faster and more convenient for people to find, tour and put offers on properties from anywhere in the world. And while virtual experiences may not yet have completely replaced all the benefits of an in-person visit, the impact the rapidly improving technology is having is well worth noting. 

A late 2017 study by Redfin including more than 1,500 people who purchased a home in the last year reported that 35 percent of them made an offer without physically visiting the property. That number was up from 33 percent last May, and 19 percent in 2016. Millennials are even more open to the idea, with 45 percent saying they had made an offer sight-unseen in 2017. 

What might have been unthinkable just a short time ago is now a growing trend, thanks to VR’s computer-generated simulations of three-dimensional images or spaces to engage users in highly realistic, replicated experiences, and AR’s ability to blend the simulated with the real. VR typically involves the use of a headset or goggles to achieve that fully-immersed feeling, while AR works by overlaying different images and options on actual views.  

How are Worldwide ERC® real estate members utilizing these new technologies, and what kind of impact is it having on their businesses and clients? 

We asked a few to share some insights: 

W. Thomas Cryer, SCRP

Broker Associate, Kentwood Real Estate Greenwood Village, Colorado

“We routinely use an app called HomeSnap with an AR component built into it. Basically, one aims a phone’s camera at any property within the boundaries of our MLS system, snaps an image and waits for the property history to populate. It will bring up all county records on the property — anything from current price, last sold price or confirmation that it has not yet been listed. Our clients love it because they can use it all over town. 

Additionally, for us on the brokerage side of things, HomeSnap will link with Waze, and if there are any shoppers in the area, the address of my listing will pop up and show the prospective buyer how to get to it. We’re reaching more people in new and faster ways, but even the simplest of technology is making a difference, too.

  With our short supply and multiple-offer market, we are more and more frequently closing transactions with the help of FaceTime. Last year alone, I think we closed four transactions which started with a FaceTime showing.

We have been using HD photography for years now, but it has recently been augmented with virtual staging capabilities. Vacant corporate inventory can instantly become furnished at a fraction of the cost of traditional staging, and without the potential damage that can happen when moving in and out. It gives online shoppers a mental image of how the property flows for them. All of this is about making the employee’s time more productive. Right now, we have at least three if not four AI-based services coming into our market with even more ideas about how to make the home buying and selling process faster and more efficient. Disruption is daily.” 

Leigh Massey Hayes 

Relocation Director, Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby's International Realty Atlanta, Georgia

“We have been using Matterport as an additional listing tool to showcase those special properties, where even the best photography does not adequately convey the essence of the home. We’ve long known the power that high-quality images have in attracting online shoppers, but now we can immerse them in a completely different experience, with 360-degree tours that really give you the sense of being there.

It’s a whole new way of showing, and once a consumer connects with a property like that, it’s much more likely to become their next home.” 

We just launched a new product called Curate by Sotheby’s International RealtySM. Using Google’s ARCore and the power of roOomy’s virtual staging, it gives homebuyers the option to scan and visualize the space with a variety of curated designs and styles. If they like what they see, they can find out where to purchase the item right then and there. They can share the images on social, interacting with other family members or friends while touring the space."

Kyle Rank

Director of Sales Support Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices/Carolinas Realty, York Simpson Underwood, North Carolina

“The emerging technologies of VR and AR will have a huge impact on the real estate industry. While we’re not quite there yet, I’m certain that in the not-too-distant future, many more clients will be able to throw on a set of goggles and preview homes from just about anywhere. For now, AR is allowing us to successfully bridge traditional staging with digitally enhanced, staged still photos for a very cool, interactive client experience. Letting them visualize options through a tablet screen while standing in the room itself really takes showings to the next level. 

Right now, it still requires some upfront prep work on our end, as there’s no magic, ‘all-in-one solution’ yet. But I’m confident a much more practical, user-friendly application is right around the corner. The next phase will likely allow clients the ability to upload photos of their own furnishings to see exactly how they’ll look and work in the new space.”

Jill R. Silvas, SCRP

Vice President, Pacific Union International, Sonoma, California

“Our firm is successfully using AR to virtually stage a variety of vacant properties. The technology is helping us realize two important business goals:

  • Widening the appeal of our listings to greater numbers of potential buyers who are conducting online research — from national and global locations

  • Achieving significant time and cost savings for our clients, while mitigating some     of the risks associated with traditional staging efforts. 

We had a recent case in which AR helped us transform a highly neutral, mid-range property that was on the market for some time. The seller was reluctant to invest in traditional staging tactics, but once we added that virtual layer, helping digital researchers envision its true potential, it sold in less than two weeks.

Right now, we’re using AR to virtually stage one of our more unique listings. Its main dwelling is over 4,400 square feet, and it rests on close to 10.5 acres — with nearly 8 of them housing award-winning vineyards. It is currently vacant — but the costs and risks of physically staging a property of that size and stature are not insignificant. Yet, even the highest-end properties don’t show as well when they are vacant. AR technology allows us to present this property in its very best digital light, with furnishings that are appropriate — in both size and style — to the home itself, and attractive to the unique needs of the potential buyers who are searching this niche market. 

The bottom line is that we are continually looking at ways to embrace cutting-edge technology for better client experiences — across the board. As rapid advancements in both VR and AR capabilities emerge, I’m certain that we’ll see increasingly bigger impacts on the real estate industry.” 

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