Written by Anne-Marie Siudzinski What is the next technology to revolutionize the real estate world? Virtual reality (VR), of course. Put yourself in this situation: you own a company in Shanghai and want to expand to the United States—San Francisco, to be exact. You have two options—fly to the United States, look at several office spaces in a short period of time, fly home and make a decision with a limited amount of information. Or, have a commercial REALTOR® walk you through several prospective office spaces at your convenience. You can leisurely tour the space, ask questions, get all the details you need and make a decision at your convenience. This new technology also works for residential real estate. You live in Tulsa and are being transferred to the Chicago headquarters in two months. Where are you going to live in Chicago? You could fly out for a weekend, viewing prospective homes in a rush. Or your REALTOR® can provide virtual reality tours of several homes to narrow down your choice while still in Tulsa. Once you have settled on a home, you can fly out to Chicago and look at the home that will best suit you and your family.
For residential real estate, virtual reality tours allow the buyer to “walk” through a rendering of unbuilt property, checking out all the rooms in 3-D and looking out the window to see the exact view. For out of town or foreign buyers, VR tours can save money and time. Customers don’t have to fly in from Seattle or Shanghai to look at blueprints or brochures. Buyers from anywhere can also look through a selection of existing properties and narrow down the choices about which to visit in person with a REALTOR®, cutting down on wasted driving time. Like residential buyers, commercial property buyers and sellers can also benefit from this new technology. Tenants can examine unbuilt space, instead of waiting to tour the built property and then sign a lease. VR offers an immersive experience, instead of viewing blueprints or still photos. For instance, one shopping center developer used VR technology to show a renovation of an existing shopping center and a luxury shopping center still in development. Costs may be a barrier to using this new technology, with prices ranging from $25,000 to over $1 million, depending on the size of the project. Virtual reality headsets are slowly coming on to the market; Occulus Rift and Vive Pre are being released this year. Google Cardboard uses a smartphone and apps for a VR experience and Samsung Gear VR works with certain Galaxy smartphones. As VR headsets become cheaper and more available, this new technology will flourish and become more commonly used. Alternatively, clients can view the tour on large screen television, using an iPad to move through the space.
VR is slowly entering the commercial real estate market—will it take off in the future and revolutionize commercial and residential real estate? Only time will tell.