VR in Property: a real selling point
As the sun streams through impressive windows, you enter a large reception room expertly furnished in a luxurious palette. You’re half expecting the smell of freshly ground coffee and vanilla candles to waft through as you continue on into the kitchen. You remove your virtual reality headset, only to be greeted by your shoebox flat. Clearly, it’s time to move. The real estate industry is no stranger to using 360 walkthroughs and virtual tours, but as the world of VR develops, what role will it play in selling houses?
A picture paints a thousand words
Photos can be deceiving. With just a few tricks of the trade, those pesky but talented photographers can turn a 1-bed cupboard into a palatial pad. Forget camera trickery, with VR, no longer will you arrive at a house only to be presented with something far from what you were expecting. In fact, you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your own home.
Virtual Reality tours are now being used by estate agents and property developers, allowing potential buyers to see real estate in greater detail. Companies like Manhattan Loft Gardens and 1508LONDON have been using it to reach a larger and perhaps geographically challenged clientele. With a VR property tour, viewers can gain more of a sense and feel for the place – and it’s not just potential buyers that are set to win.
Advertisers and property developers can use VR to curate this ‘sense and feel’ in order to advance their brand identity. An example of this is Manhattan Loft Gardens, a luxe apartment development in Stratford, which utilised a specially curated VR experience with commentary from influential people in the industry – including the fashion features director of Vogue. This created a sense and feel that their developments are not only an exciting investment but at the top of the high-end spectrum.
It’s not all bricks and mortar
The property industry as we know is not just bricks and mortar, it’s also about promoting enviable lifestyles. In the UK, VR is mainly being used to sell prime London real estate (think the blue and green end of a Monopoly board), to wealthy international buyers. These potential clients will often expect the best and this tech is an excellent tool to demonstrate what developers have to offer.
Virtual Reality experiences can be used to show off local culture, history, cafes and nightlife. The estate agents Foxtons created a VR experience to promote some of their more premium properties – aiming their adverts at the well-heeled investors from Western Europe, North America, and the Middle East, who currently dominate the London property market. A virtual reality tour of their Fulham Reach development explores the surrounding neighbourhood and amenities, as well as allowing you to look about the impressive waterfront apartments.
If technology keeps developing and the influx of foreign buyers keeps increasing, there could be scope for VR tours to replace physical viewings altogether. VR lends itself perfectly to buyers from the other side of the world as many are buying properties after only seeing images. This could spell the end for showrooms – why bother building an expensive sales building for a luxury development when your main target market is foreign investors? They can hardly just jump on the underground or grab an Uber to see it.
Try before you buy
But would those that can physically get to a property pass up the chance to try a VR experience? Well, we know that virtual open houses are already a popular concept. Live-streaming apps like Periscope are cutting out the long hours of people milling around your home, whilst at the same time, actually increasing the number of people that do, albeit virtually. As VR becomes more popular and headset ownership increases, the majority of open houses could too become a virtual reality experience.
Can’t decide which wallpaper matches your lamps? Is your coffee table just too big? Well, tech is now letting potential buyers visualise their own furniture/style before they buy. Google’s Tango will let you build apps to measure any environment. This form of augmented reality will let you place your own furniture to see what it looks like or experiment with different styles. Tango can see the décor of your space and will even suggest furniture to fit it – a great tool for retailers as well as property developers. Perhaps, as the role this technology plays in property grows, estate agents and developers will offer both VR and AR experiences to truly immerse their customers.
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In 2016, Virtual Reality in the property industry was worth roughly $1bn, with Goldman Sachs predicting that this figure could more than double by 2020. Clearly this an industry being taken seriously by both potential buyers and property developers. Although, whilst VR is used in fast-paced markets like London, it has yet to make its mark in quieter UK regions. With more accessible companies like RightMove investing in VR, that may be set to change.
With this in mind, we think there are a few things to consider when selling in VR to clients. Firstly and perhaps most importantly, VR will allow you to fully immerse the consumer in an ad. They are likely to digest messages at a greater and deeper rate, so VR content needs to be of a high standard. Secondly, for VR to be even more effective, complementing it with developing AR technologies such as Google Tango, could offer an even more in-depth experience and better the product or service you have to offer. Finally, as a consumer moves virtually around a VR property, they may have the opportunity to interact with elements in it. Perhaps, by clicking on the sofa, they will be redirected to a relevant retail website or more content of your own.
Maybe one day even those trusted Location, Location experts, Kirsty and Phil, will be donning a headset. In the meantime, how we buy property is likely to remain a combination of both physical viewings and immersive virtual experiences, but the future truly is bright for property VR.