How Real Estate Agents Can Embrace Virtual Reality in the New Normal

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By Jing Xue

Jing Xue is the COO and co-founder at DecorMatters, a creativity-sharing ecosystem that brings together interior designers and furniture shoppers.

 

The digital shift that was taking place before the COVID-19 pandemic – and has since been accelerated by it – has forced real estate to keep up with new technologies. In particular, virtual reality (VR) has played a big part in modernizing the industry and ensuring it stays accessible and profitable during changing times.

In fact, predictions state that the VR market will be worth $62.1 billion by 2027. Already, areas like healthcare, retail, education, and gaming have adopted the technology and are reaping its benefits. There’s substantial scope for real estate to follow suit and leverage VR alongside the surge in online activity to provide a more immersive property search experience. 

The COVID-19 crisis has made people reassess the importance of home, and somewhat unexpectedly, more people are contemplating moving. More than ever, VR has the potential to help people find the right home, in less time, and in a more hygiene-conscious manner. Here’s how estate agents can embrace virtual reality in the new normal:

 

Host virtual tours

vr-gogglesVirtual tours are an exciting way to give prospective buyers an interactive viewing of a property. The tours can include 3D floor plans and offer an overall sense of the aesthetic, spacing, and location. For viewers, the tours are particularly enticing because they can visit a property without having to leave their house. Not to mention, tours can be taken 24/7, meaning no restricted viewing times and complicated logistics. On top of that, VR tours help establish an instant sense of ownership because buyers can literally envision themselves living there.

For real estate agents, virtual tours are a cheaper alternative to driving back and forth between multiple properties for showings. They are also extremely versatile and can be customized according to real estate agents’ branding and messaging – for example, logos can be included in the projections. Likewise, agents can choose whether they want to build guided tours or allow viewers to roam independently. The ability to tailor showings based on user preferences and proven sales tactics is what makes VR tours so profitable.

Another perk is that VR tours are relatively inexpensive to make. While there is the option to hire a professional visual partner to create the tour, agents can also create it themselves with a panoramic camera that captures 360-degree videos. There are a number of places to rent the equipment, and agents can also utilize platforms like Oculus, HTC Vive, and Playstation VR. 

 

Offer armchair aesthetics

Quarantine and social distancing measures have meant that people have adjusted to using digital tools over the past few months. Moreover, these tools have become more commonplace in people’s daily activities, and buyers and renters are more adept at utilizing them in traditionally offline spheres like real estate. 

Tools like VR rulers and in-tour product recommendations allow clients to decorate before committing to a contract. They can change the layout and design of a property and pick out possible interior design products they may want to buy. There’s also the possibility to test items in specific spaces to make sure that they fit the room’s dimensions and the overall theme of an area. 

Armchair aesthetics are valuable because they improve the transparency of a property – clients are fully aware of its condition and size, so have no sudden surprises when they move in. As a side note, this VR technology boosts inclusion in real estate too, because it makes finding and buying a home more accessible for people with limited mobility. Rather than organizing repeat transport trips, buyers can plan and finesse every detail from a distance.

 

Stage furniture & decorations

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According to a report by the National Association of Realtors, 77 percent of real estate agents say staging helps buyers associate a property with their future home. Prior to VR technology, most agents knew that staging was necessary to market a property, but it would often require a financial investment – especially in newly-built homes. Fortunately, however, VR removes any additional costs without compromising the substantial effect of staging.

Through VR, real estate agents can develop fully-furnished rooms and buildings, and even add trees and flourishes to outside areas to give an impression of the local community. Even more impressive, animations can be incorporated, such as door handles that can be turned and windows that can be opened. These fine points are what establish familiar physics and realism within VR to form the most immersive experiences – ones where clients are more likely to reach a positive decision.

VR essentially enables customers to window-shop properties that haven’t been constructed yet, and so secures more contracts for real estate agents while giving clients a feeling of exclusivity and a head start in the property game. 

 

The next generation of real estate

A study by Goldman-Sachs estimates that the real estate industry will spend $2.6 billion on VR technology by 2025. Companies like Compass and Zillow are already embracing the tech but there has to be wider adoption for agents to fully understand best practices and uses for conversions. Currently, VR is making listings more engaging and pitches more compelling, but its potential can go even deeper in the real estate sphere.

The beauty of VR for Realtors is that it can be included in firms’ wider marketing strategies, showcasing buildings that aren’t finished and highlighting upcoming construction plans. There’s no doubt that VR brings with it a sense of excitement and futuristic qualities, and in real estate, it can make a sometimes frustrating search into a genuinely fun activity.