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Virtual reality: what does it have to offer the property sector?

Industry Insight December 2nd, 2016
Virtual reality: what does it have to offer the property sector?

Arthur takes a look at virtual reality technology and its potential to revolutionise the property sector.

Technology has really started to have an impact on the property sector during the past decade with so many new applications and websites on the market. Spotting the next big thing in the property market is crucial in order to stay ahead of the game. Industry experts are putting their money on virtual reality revolutionising the sector next… but what exactly does it have to offer?

What is virtual reality?

Virtual reality (or VR) uses software to generate hyper-realistic 360° 3D images that can replicate a real environment (or simulate an imaginary world) by enabling the user to interact with the virtual space in front of them. The user is normally required to wear a headset, but might also need to wear haptic feedback sensory devices on their body to allow them to ‘feel’ elements in the virtual reality. During the past few years, VR technology has drastically improved, making user experiences more realistic than ever before. Virtual reality has really taken off in the gaming & entertainment sector and in recent years many people have started to buy their own VR headsets to use at home.

So, what does this have to do with the property sector..?

Virtual reality is promising to revolutionise property viewing. On average, buyers see between 10 and 15 properties before making a purchase, which also means that estate agents spend a huge amount of time showing homes to these potential customers. Seeing as estate agents don’t usually have the capacity to show more than two properties per hour (including travel time), we would guess that on average they work between 5 and 7.5  hours before making a sale. Buyers often travel huge distances to view a property too, for example, research from Knight Frank in 2014 showed that 49pc of all new-build property purchasers were from overseas. And the reality is that 9 times out of 10 viewings don’t result in sales. So what if these people could have the exact same experience of viewing the property directly from the estate agent’s office, or even from the comfort of their own home?

Well, that’s exactly what virtual reality is promising! Many estate agents, such as Knight Frank, Strutt & Parker and Savills, have started buying into these virtual reality headsets in order to give their customers as much information as possible about the properties they are interested in before they actually visit them in real life.  The headsets allow prospective buyers to take a virtual tour of the property where they can see intricate details like door handles, bathroom fittings, wall colourings, ceiling heights etc. This gives them access to details that may not have been obvious from the photographs in the brochures.

There is also huge potential for virtual reality in selling new-build properties that are yet to be completed. The headset software can be programmed so that the interior decor of the incomplete home is customised to the taste of the prospective buyers. For example, if the buyers were expecting a new baby, why not customise the ‘virtual’ property so that one of the bedrooms was decorated for a newborn? This would surely boost sales!

As you can see, these digital developments are truly going to affect the way we buy and sell property. VR’s capabilities are extremely far reaching and have already proved successful in closing property sales across the country. Arthur can’t wait to see what new doors are opened by virtual reality over the next few years as it becomes more prevalent and the technology continues to improve…


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