Anyone who has ever bought a property knows how important the walkthrough process is. Pictures do a horrible job of conveying space. Blueprints show layouts from a top down angle that is not relatable to most. What buyers really want is to understand what it’s like to be standing in the space. For prospective purchasers from out of town, virtual reality is becoming a way to digitize the walkthrough process. This trend has been underway for a while with ultra-luxury homes due to their bulky broker commissions and high likelihood of out-of-town or busy buyers.
Many I talk to say that while VR is a great tool, it will not take the place of traditional walkthroughs for the majority of residential purchases and commercial leases, at least for a while. While I tend to agree with these naysayers about the importance of buyers actually experiencing a property pre-offer, I think that they are missing the point. Augmented reality gets thrown into the conversation about VR as a side note (“How VR/AR are changing CRE”) because they utilize the same technology. But they have very different use cases for real estate. VR is used as a substitute for a tour, but AR can bring the tour to a whole new level.
Picture this: you are inquiring about space in a brand new building. The layout is modular, allowing you to pick your desired arrangement of rooms, furniture, etc. Now, you can tour the space with a headset that will let you see your new office as if it was already fabricated. Moreover, you would be able to change the layout on the spot, walking through your changes as you make them. As one person is seldom the sole decision maker, this process can be done by a whole team, critiquing each other’s changes as they are made. The landlord would happily facilitate this design state being that their ultimate interest is making you happy with the space.
The most costly thing in design and construction are mistakes. It add no value, so the cost benefit ratio is incalculable. AR can be used to reduce these mistakes because repercussions of decisions can be easily ascertained. Awkward and unuseful spaces are easiest to identify in reality, virtual or analog.
Companies are starting to cater to the trend of customizable design. Matterport is the best I have seen at rendering space. Their cameras can 3D model a room in less than a minute and they have a growing number of uses for their technology.
I imagine a world where many industries are transformed by augmented reality. Construction workers wouldn’t have to layout or measure anything during the build process. They could just make sure to put their hardware exactly where it shows up on the display in front of their eyes. Rescue workers could study their entry options for every building on the way to an emergency. But, likely long before this happens, the real estate community will learn to monetize AR. Virtual walkthroughs are becoming accessible to consumers but, the walkthrough itself is not dead. Instead it will soon be augmented, making it a more productive process than ever before.