The Next Big Thing in Buying and Selling: Virtual Reality

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If you consider virtual reality options to be limited to gaming, you certainly aren’t alone. But the real reality is that this technology could soon help you to buy or sell your home.

While 37% of adults have never left their hometowns, the majority of us have had to move to a new community at least once in our lives. If you’re moving to an entirely different state, the process of buying a home can be an expensive endeavor — and that’s before you even find one you like. The costs associated with traveling in and out of state to purchase a home can add up quickly. And if you’re in a whole new place, you’ll want to know what you’re getting into before you sign on the dotted line.

That’s just one of the ways in which virtual reality technology can be helpful for homebuyers. Matterport, a San Francisco-based media technology company, provides real estate agents and brokers with 3-D cameras that will capture the entire interior of a home. Then, the company pieces the images together in order to create a complete walkthrough of the home. Matterport uploads this walkthrough to a cloud hosting service, allowing prospective buyers to view 3-D models of the property using a computer, tablet, smartphone, or virtual reality headset.

Matterport is also experimenting with augmented reality elements in these walkthroughs. CEO Bill Brown says that “in addition to being able to walk through the space, people can mark in objects within the space, and they can annotate those objects.” That means that future buyers can make note of features they like, such as appliances with energy-efficient features or desirables like granite countertops.
In highly competitive markets, having access to this technology can be a real asset. These virtual reality tours can actually reduce the number of physical walkthroughs an agent needs to conduct. That’s because they can help buyers to zero in on the home they want before ever stepping through the door. Brown states that he’s seen buyers who are ready to make an offer at the first open house. “It just builds momentum around the transaction much more quickly,” he says.

And these technologies aren’t limited to existing homes, either. Another San Fran-based company, called Circle Visions, is developing virtual reality technology that can create properties that don’t yet exist in the physical world. This can be immensely useful for those who are building their own home or who want to do a remodel on their current property.
“When you look at a blueprint, you don’t really get a sense of how it feels to be in that property, whereas with virtual reality, you’re right in it,” says Circle Visions president Bob Yuan. “You can open doors, you can turn on the lights; you get a feel for the scale or the sense of that room.”

While buyers may currently have an issue locating a broker who uses these virtual reality technologies, it may not be too long before they become an industry standard. They benefit both realtors and clients. But until they become more widespread, there’s no real replacement for an in-person home tour.

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