Is virtual reality the next step in real estate technology? 

Key tips to remember

  • Utilize the latest technologies to give yourself an edge over the competition
  • Embrace virtual reality (VR) to show listings, saving yourself and your customers time.
  • VR will change the face of real estate sales quickly. Get ahead of the game.

Real estate professionals are always looking for an edge when it comes to facilitating sales. That often includes using the latest technology to show off all of a property's features. Now, a relatively new offering might allow would-be buyers to go to multiple open houses in a matter of minutes.

Some real estate pros are now using virtual reality (VR) as a means of showing off their listings, allowing people to get a real feel for a home without ever setting foot inside it. All hopeful buyers would have to do to get the grand tour is put on a VR headset while they sit in a real estate agent's office — or even at home. This technology can help shoppers make decisions that save them time and potentially money throughout the home-search process.

"You're talking about literally taking homes and creating an atmosphere where people can tour them comfortably on a headset from home," says Daniel McCarthy, the CEO of a real estate company. "You can definitely eliminate homes from your home search easily and save yourself a lot of time."

It can take a long time to tour even just a few homes in high-traffic cities. With VR, homebuyers don't have to deal with clogged infrastructure from home to home. Real estate virtual reality also gives buyers the ability to tour properties far away, such as in other states or countries — something that would otherwise be exceedingly inconvenient.

While it may seem like VR is more of a high-end luxury, it could become mainstream in the real estate business relatively soon. The technology may still seem like science-fiction conjecture to many people, but Goldman Sachs estimates that by 2025, VR will be an $80 billion industry. And a good-sized chunk of those billions will stream from real estate professionals.

How does VR work?

There are a number of companies that can make real-world spaces into 3-D virtual environments with ease, thanks to affordable high-quality cameras and rigs designed specifically for VR filming. That footage is then loaded into a VR program, which creates the virtual environment. Best of all, there's no expensive headset technology to buy; instead, most VR programs work with a smartphone inserted into cardboard or plastic goggle-like headwear. It used to be such setups would cost tens of thousands of dollars, but now that price range is several hundred dollars, offering significant return on investment for agents.

Is VR the future of real estate?

Already, many industry experts say they think VR is going to take off in real estate sales in short order. While there isn't a significant market penetration for VR's use quite yet, many think that day is coming sooner rather than later. In general, experts say the ability to travel through a home virtually — with the ability to linger on certain details that might not show up in standard videos or photos — can be extremely immersive. That capability, in turn, can facilitate more real estate sales.

Today, about 2 in 3 Americans say they don't really know much about the technology, and many don't think the opportunity available to them is all that intriguing, according to Horizon Media. Anecdotally, however, many first-time VR users say they find the experience exciting.

As a consequence, agents who move to take advantage of the relatively small amount of VR use in their industry might be able to get that kind of engagement with would-be buyers, providing additional convenience to all involved in the sales process.

Inman declared VR "the future of home showing." And it's not just home tours that may be changed by the technology either; appraisals, inspections, final walk-throughs and insurance processes may be fundamentally transformed by VR as well. The real estate news and advice outlet explained that VR is part of the rise of the digital real estate agent. These real estate professionals will use a mastery of emerging technology such as VR to their advantage.

Virtual tours will give agents an edge over the competition by speeding up the various steps of the home buying process — from the initial tour to closing. As this technology becomes more accessible, real estate professionals should keep an eye on it. It is still quite expensive — the one drawback — but the moment it makes financial sense to invest in VR, agents should make the move.

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