Online shopping has become commonplace and homemakers can buy groceries today with no need to set foot inside the supermarket. But will virtual reality change the way prospective buyers choose homes? It seems that’s a possibility that offers a great deal of potential to both real estate agents and out-of-town buyers, as well as to builders of new homes.
Saving Time and Narrowing Options
Even though it may be overly optimistic to believe that buyers will sign a contract without actually making an onsite visit, many think that donning a headset to take a virtual tour is “fun,” and can have decided advantages. Virtual tours provide a unique, multi-dimensional experience. They offer an enhanced view of a home that two-dimensional photos cannot provide, and may even aid in selling the home faster. Even videos lack excitement when compared to the experience of actually “walking” through a home with the assistance of a virtual guide to point out special features. Some agents insist that VR or augmented reality is simply another real estate tool and that it has little to do with “reality.” But even agents who believe that technology will never take the place of a personal tour agree that a virtual tour has advantages.
So, what are those advantages?
Various agents view the technology in different ways, especially when used to market existing homes. First, according to John Mazur of Homesnap, it allows prospective buyers to “filter out” homes they don’t want to see, saving time for both the agent and the client. Using this graphic visual aid helps buyers prepare a short list of homes they would like to consider. Virtual reality frees sellers from having to maintain a home in show-ready condition at all times. “Tire kickers” can be minimized too, which eases the time burden for agents. Agents have the ability to show a single home to multiple buyers at the same time, simplifying scheduling requirements, maximizing marketing efforts and, ultimately, making sales easier.
Developers of new projects or subdivisions are intrigued by the possibilities of virtual reality on many levels. It unlocks the potential to give buyers a unique, personal experience. Forget that it isn’t “reality,” they say. A virtual tour places a prospective buyer in the midst of an environment that they control. Viewers can choose where to go and what to view, unlike the static “on the outside” quality of a video. Visual reality is also a tool for architects and remodel contractors to show how space can be altered or renovated to meet buyer demands. Sales rates have increased since virtual reality was introduced to help promote pre-construction reservations, according to The Pulte Group, a nationwide company that has used VR to sell condos in New York as well as single-family homes in Florida. A prominent Texas builder notes that while a model home might cost upwards of $300,000, a VR tour bears a price of about $20,000. From a strictly financial standpoint, they see VR as a major benefit for the future. Finally, perhaps the greatest attraction of visual reality is that it allows buyers to explore housing options anywhere in the world. It expands the field for buyers, sellers, and real estate agents equally.
Virtual Reality in the Future
The future will arrive soon enough and it will require greater awareness of new technology. One caution, notes Chris Ryan of the Luxury Lifestyles Group of Re/Max Crest Realty Westside, is that VR is a strictly visual medium. Buyers want to experience a home with all their senses, so the on-site visit is not likely to disappear. However, he adds that agents must adapt to what he believes will become a standard tool within the next decade. Lynley Sides, REX – Real Estate Exchange, has a slightly different view. She points out that one in five home buyers makes a property offer sight unseen. She views the immersive VR experience as one which will gain importance in coming years as more international buyers look at property around the world.
In the final analysis, despite the belief that VR is still in its infancy today, there is a distinct belief that it will become a “game changer” for the building and real estate industries. Expect the technology to “blossom,” predicts Builder Homesite CEO Tim Costello. He agrees with other builders and real estate professionals who think that “virtual reality will reshape and transform how new homes are designed, marketed and sold.”
Anthony Gilbert is the owner of The RealFX Group. Anthony specializes in real estate, real estate marketing, managing the team and achieving set goals.