Virtual Reality Is Coming to Real Estate

by Steve CookFebruary 10, 2017

Imagine how easy it will be to shop for homes with virtual reality. At your leisure, you’ll be able to “walk through” homes and immerse yourself in the dimensions, perspectives and flow of each room. Without leaving your home you will be able to visit a half dozen of homes in an hour. House hunting may be the perfect application for the emerging visual technology of tomorrow.

In fact, the wait may be over.

On January 20, Matterport, a company that creates 3-D home tours viewable on desktop and smartphone screens, launched a VR app at a New York real estate conference January 20 that makes VR available to agents and home sellers who want to offer virtual reality home tours linked to real estate listings. Prospective homebuyers can use their iPhones in combination with headsets to saunter about 3-D home tours in virtual reality. Home buyers can activate the app by tapping on an icon embedded in a Matterport tour on a real estate listing. Then they can slip their phone into a pair of Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear VR goggles, put it on and explore an immersive VR version of the tour.

Speaking at the same conference, the editor in chief of the New York Times described that to date more than one million readers had visited the Times‘ experimental virtual reality platform where they can access content produced by the Times using a cardboard viewer. “Virtual reality is not an extension of video. Instead, it’s an entirely new, transformative technology that will revolutionize how buyers view homes,” said the Times’ Jake Silverstein.
Virtual Reality VR Goggles Glasses Headset Device 3D Illustratio
Many real estate experts agree with Silverstein. “The day is coming when buyers will slip on a virtual reality headset and be transported to a home where they can wander from room to room and size up whether it feels right without actually visiting. The technology brings your listing directly to your buyers, whether they live in Shanghai or down the street,” reported Realtor Magazine last March.

Several brokerages have been experimenting with virtual reality for two years or more. Three New York brokerages, the Halstead Group, Douglas Elliman and the Corcoran Group, have been pioneering VR tours and making them available to viewers on You Visit Studios’ site. You Visit Studios creates and hosts virtual tour “experiences” for marketers.

With other options available, like 3D imaging, is real estate ready for virtual reality?

“In some cases, the excitement of providing virtual-reality technology to clients has created an outsize sense of the technology’s importance. One company was keeping its VR prototype secret, lest a competitor tries to steal it. But whether the technology is ready for widespread use — and whether consumers really want it — remains an open question,” wrote Jennifer Miller in the New York Times last year.

When real estate listings migrated onto the Internet 20 years ago, some observers predicted the day would come with technology would eliminate real estate agents as consumers toured and purchased homes online. Though most buyers begin shopping for a home online, real estate agents are as central as ever to the process of buying and selling homes. With VR technology change the equation?

“Buying a home completely in VR may be possible, but not for another 15 to 20 years,” says Matthew Hood of Sotheby’s International Realty in San Francisco, which has been experimenting with VR technology since 2015. “There are complications involving homes that require expertise and continue to require third-party involvement.”


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Happy house hunting!

About The Author
Steve Cook
Steve Cook is editor and co-publisher of Real Estate Economy Watch. He is a member of the board of the National Association of Real Estate Editors and writes for several leading Web sites, including Inman News. From 1999 to 2007 he was vice president for public affairs at the National Association of Realtors.

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