What is it about virtual reality and real estate that seems to work so well together? Well, for one, COVID-19 has completely changed the way people work, and businesses operate. We, as a society, had to change our practices – things and situations we were accustomed to – to survive the current pandemic. Because of this, the growth of artificial intelligence and virtual reality skyrocketed, not just for real estate but in almost every industry that exists today.

Real estate is perhaps one of the most dynamic industries truly maximizing the use of virtual reality technology. Research from Goldman Sachs estimates that the market for virtual reality in real estate alone could generate as much as $2.6 billion by 2025[1]. That is because sizeable investments are being made into virtual reality technologies within real estate. About 90% of real estate agencies have started using these technologies to provide better services for their clients [2]. These services range from printing catalogues to a virtual presentation of the properties; that was how it was before the integration of virtual reality.

How Has COVID Affected Today’s Real Estate?

Undoubtedly, the ongoing pandemic has systematically changed the way our society works – from social distancing, the shift from in-person to remotely online, amongst many other changes. The real estate industry is not an exception; personal viewings had to be postponed, open houses were limited, sanitation increased, and a lot more precautions had to take place before buyers had a chance to view potential properties. In addition, agents had to make arrangements to ensure that can complete the process of buying or renting online.

Needless to say, although there were a lot of unprecedented setbacks due to COVID, this situation also created new opportunities that can and will impact the real estate industry in the long run. While in-person viewing was limited and the supply chain was interrupted, COVID forced people to gain a new appreciation for the value of the ‘home’ [3]. On top of that, people were allowed to be more creative and innovative in their personal and professional lives.

For an industry traditionally built on physical meetings, it is safe to say that the real estate market has successfully adjusted to current conditions; they are creatively utilizing technology to operate and flourish in the new normal. Virtual reality is being adopted for walkthroughs, 3D mapping, and drone surveys of residential properties. This technology has been so well-received that there are now signs it could be leveraged on a long-term basis in the real estate market[4].

How Does Virtual Reality Assist with the Real Estate Market?

Virtual reality technology is so versatile that there are so many ways a client can explore a property in detail and actively engage with what they see. The most common use of this technology in real estate is the virtual tour of the property. This function provides a 360-degree view of the home, 3D floor plans, and an interactive location experience.

The 360-degree view of a property is created by strategically placing cameras at different points of the property to create a smooth and continuous view at all angles. The footage is edited together for a seamless, real-life, 3D experience. This virtual experience allows clients to feel like they are in the actual physical home without actually being in it.

Meanwhile, 3D floor plans allow users to make measurements and learn dimensions within the home. However, it is primarily used to gauge an emotional appeal from potential buyers since it provides them with a chance to “feel” the property. This technology also adds a layer of depth compared to the previous use of two-dimensional videos and traditional real estate photography.

Today's Real Estate Market
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Elements of virtual reality can also be included in real estate agents’ more comprehensive marketing strategy. This is significantly more prevalent now that tools like Matterport’s 3D data platform have made virtual reality much more accessible and affordable[5]. Real estate agents now have the power to showcase properties that are not yet finished and also project a furnished interior for unfurnished buildings. Not to mention, digital walkthroughs can be replayed from various angles and are added as futuristic content to agents’ websites. Statistics show that real estate agents who advertise using drone shots sell homes 68% faster than those who do not know because of the property’s more comprehensive visual presentation [6].

For realtors, virtual reality technology can be used as a tool that contributes to higher sales success, plus a more accessible experience with greater transparency. Similarly, it makes listings and pitches a lot more compelling; it also portrays sellers who are embracing advanced technology in a positive light. With virtual reality, people do not have to repeatedly welcome or visit strangers, and they are not disrupted during the search process. Although it may seem reclusive, the reality is that many people prefer to view properties at their own time and at their own pace; virtual reality technology gives people more freedom to do so.

What Are the Benefits of Using Virtual Reality in Today’s Real Estate Market?

Although virtual reality has been an effective way for real estate to adapt during COVID, it will no doubt reach a stage where it will become a permanent part of the industry. Many sectors are choosing to embrace various digital means and advanced technology. Virtual tours and virtual staging technologies have the capability to benefit both potential buyers and developers. But for what reasons, really?

Easier Viewing

A benefit of virtual tours is that prospective buyers and renters can view properties directly from their own personal devices like computers, tablets, and phones. These tours can create a sense of ownership where viewers can envision themselves in the space. To which an added perk is that clients do not necessarily have to see the physical place to be convinced to strike a deal. This also allows real estate agents to have a 24/7 open house, with no restrictions on viewings or time clashes – ultimately, maximizing the client pool [7].

Saves Time

Through the use of virtual tours and virtual staging, the search and assessment of a property can be done on a much quicker basis. As mentioned beforehand, clients will no longer need to travel to a property’s physical site in order to get a feel for the property [8]. This saves time for both clients and realtors. On one hand, clients will no longer have to spend enormous amounts of time and energy viewing various properties. And on the other, realtors can showcase the same property at the same time through means of virtual reality.

This is also a great bonus for those who are looking for a property at another time zone and/or across the world. They can view properties at the comfort of their own, at a time that is most convenient for them.

Cut Down on Costs

Developing feature-rich 3D virtual tours may seem expensive but think of the investment in traditional real estate marketing. Not only do you need to stage properties, but you also need to provide high-quality pictures and lots of print materials, especially for new properties entering the market. In actuality, virtual reality cuts down on the costs for a lot of the marketing materials. That is because, making a guided video tour around a property today requires just a panoramic camera and basic rendering[9]. And at this day and age of modern technology, these means are not as complex as they used to be.

Today's Real Estate Market
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The Final Rundown

Sometimes, it takes more than just one viewing for clients to fully convince themselves that the property they saw, is the one they truly want. Virtual reality technology allows potential buyers to view the property – once, twice, or as many times as they like. Virtual reality provides a more immersive and true-to-life experience of viewing properties without the inconvenience and time commitment of physically viewing the properties. While technology alone cannot sell homes, it can certainly help buyers make decisions more quickly with more accurate information, resulting in less hesitation and reduced buyers’ remorse[10].

Consumers are now, more than ever, wanting to see homes on their own, without the presence and involvement of agents. Meanwhile, agents want to leverage this technology in order to create more traction with their sales. For these reasons, the demand for virtual reality technology has greatly increased, and will only continue to increase moving forward.

Some people don’t like change. We think change is good. Whether we purposely try to change, or situations force us to change, change is the one thing in life that is constant and inevitable. In this case, the change is transformative and gives us a sense of what the future will be like in the real estate market.