The first thing that any prospective real estate buyer or tenant wants today is an idea of what their unbuilt property will look like. Not just physically but also emotionally – they want a deeper connection, to understand how they will actually feel when they are in the property. Most companies resort to 2D computer images/renderings and/or physical dollhouse mockups to accomplish this.
But this means prospective buyers are also overwhelmed sometimes with so many images that bear a resemblance to each other that at some point they cannot tell one property from another anymore. There is also the fact that 2D and 3D images rendered on a 2D screen simply do not invite an emotional connection from a prospective buyer since there is no sense of scale – which is important for humans to relate to their environment.
When everything in the real world is viewed and comprehended from a first-person perspective, renderings can easily exaggerate how spacious a property really is with the use of wide-angle lenses and other equipment that could distort one’s interpretation of that space. Often times this is the reason for a prospective buyer visiting a property all excited and then feeling disappointed at what they see.
But all that is changing.
We are now at the cusp of yet another revolution in the way new properties can be showcased to prospective buyers, in a manner that conveys a builder’s vision for the space and also offers a never-before-possible emotional connection for the buyer. This is the promise of room scale, immersive virtual reality (VR) experiences of an unbuilt property.
When wearing a VR headset, one can fully immerse into an environment as though in real-life, connecting virtually in an emotional way that has never been experienced before. In fact, VR has often been described as an empathy engine, affording the opportunity to connect with a space at a personal level that renderings on a screen simply do not allow.
With VR properties being computer generated, modifications can easily be accommodated to align with the design vision as required. In fact, once the entire property is built out virtually, you can try different palettes, lighting solutions, furniture layouts and styles, view from multiple angles, and include other options through user control within the VR environment.
For brokers and developers, the benefit is that by showcasing properties virtually, they can list their properties earlier, sell faster and decrease development risk. For prospective buyers and tenants, the benefit is that they can make a rationally informed decision via an emotionally compelling experience of the property. It’s a definite win-win for both parties involved.
Additionally, real estate brokers who want to offer more exclusive listings can extend Virtual Reality tours to prospective buyers to differentiate their services. For example, Outer Realm recently implemented room scale VR tours for high-end luxury properties in Aspen, Colorado, for Aspen Starwood properties. This was a huge success with prospective buyers and translated into real business value.
Sotheby’s broker Andrew Ernemann and real estate developer Aspen Starwood Properties wanted to showcase their new, in-development luxury properties in Colorado to prospective customers even before they were built.
This way, they would be able to generate customer interest and commitment and reduce their financial risk in a business that requires significant upfront capital expenditure. However, they wanted to go beyond glossy brochures and 2D images and really showcase the properties in an honest and emotionally engaging manner.
Through extensive research, Andrew determined that virtual reality technology had now evolved tremendously in just the past 5 years to the point where, when done right, it is really able to deliver emotionally compelling experiences that really draw the viewer in.
Andrew engaged with my company ,Outer Realm, to develop their VR property showcasing solution.
This led to the implementation of a high fidelity, immersive, room-scale VR showroom solution – The Aspen Property Experience. The showroom was built using both HTC Vive and Oculus Rift headsets, with visitors encouraged to wear the VR goggles and explore an entire under-construction home as if it were already built. You can check it out here: http://www.aspenvirtual.com/the-aspen-experience/aspen-property-experience.
As of 2018, the showroom has been actively used for around 2 years now. Busy, high-end clients who are pressed for time come in and experience dozens of listings within minutes.
Unlike staged listing photography, rendering 3D imagery of potential future property showcases a more realistic look at what’s to come. From a kitchen island’s scale to floor-to-ceiling outdoor views, clients see it all.
This also means potentially sell property faster, due to the “wow” factor and the design possibilities the technology sparks in clients. In fact, they sold a multi-million dollar property very soon after opening the VR showroom, which they believe was directly tied to the VR tour experience.
The showroom also attracts local residents fascinated by the technology, which has turned the showroom into a community hub of sorts.
The Aspen Property Experience Showroom has generated media buzz and awareness. Plus, it positioned Andrew and Aspen Starwood Properties as real estate industry innovators willing to go the extra mile to improve their customers’ buying experience.
Low-resolution screens and clunky headsets are a thing of the past as VR becomes increasingly accessible and capable. There is a whole younger generation of clients that is comfortable using VR and other technologies who are of home buying and apartment leasing age. Real estate brokers and developers who cater to that market now can gain an early advantage selling to that demographic.