Somebody once said, “If you find something you love to do, you’ll never do a day’s work in your life.” Keith Macmahon from Venture view is one of those people! He is Mr. Virtual Reality and his passion for the technology is infectious.
Having seen how US real estate has benefited from using virtual reality to market their properties, Keith is on a mission to do the same in the UK. There’s one report from across the pond that claims a 95% increase in the number of telephone enquiries when a virtual tour is offered.
Cost was probably one of the early objections for the UK agents. Also, they may have had their view clouded by the terrible excuses for virtual tours that we’ve seen agents use. These early offerings are at best like a bad PowerPoint presentation with images just being zoomed in and out of. This is hardly an immersive interactive experience!
Another initial concern was the idea that you would need a whole range of expensive kit or constantly have to be wearing the rather unflattering headsets. The only equipment anyone needs now is a phone, tablet or computer with a browser. If you have Internet access you can experience virtual reality with no issues at all. Headsets are no longer needed but if you do want one, the cost has come down considerably and can be easily be purchased on the high street.
The hardware and software that Keith uses is supplied by Matterport. The Matterport camera, which costs several thousand pounds, collects extremely accurate visual and spatial data to map entire areas in minutes. You really do get a new perspective with the various viewing options available without the need for any headsets! With the Dolls House view you see the whole property in 3-D which you can move around and rotate, entering any room or level at any point.
When switching to the inside view you get to walk around as though you’re actually there. It’s a smooth experience as you transition to and from rooms and levels.
To finish off, the floor plans give you that traditional top-down perspective. ‘If you consider that the images can be used to prepare property details and that most agents pay for a photography and floor plans anyway, the relative cost of going for virtual reality is minimal.
The camera uses HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography to balance the dark and light areas of an image so no special lighting or lighting equipment is required. A four bedroom property can easily be scanned in under 90 minutes. Matterport uses WebGL (Web Graphics Library) which is the modern standard for 3D content on the web and is supported by Chrome, Firefox Safari, Internet Explorer, iOS and Android.
So what are some of the immediate features and benefits of virtual reality for property?
Well first off you can capture remote customers, those people that can’t physically get to see inside a property such as overseas buyers. New homes builders with show homes typically don’t have every design available to view but with virtual reality you can let people go around every single house on the development. Because you can add links within the virtual reality environment, buyers can link straight through to the various options such as kitchens and bathrooms.
Where it gets really interesting is bringing in other pieces of data or linking to back-end systems. For lettings, or auctioneers items can be tagged and linked to inventory for stock analysis.
It’s not too much of a stretch to imagine linking the virtual reality property to my John Lewis or IKEA store card. They would know if the sofa or dining room set that I have previously purchased is going to fit in my new home. If it doesn’t, they could recommend what would be based on previous buying criteria. One of the big furniture suppliers could actually have a ready-made list of stock that would fit into that room you could then drag and drop and see what it looks like whilst mixing and matching colours.
Market Expectations for virtual reality certainly predicts a massive uplift. According to Business Insider, virtual reality and augmented reality was a $5.2 billion industry for 2016. Their expectation is that by 2020 the market will be $162 billion.
In the same way that you’re still going to need removal people to physically take your goods and possessions into a property there is still no substitute for actually seeing the property in person. What virtual reality gives you is the next best thing to physically being there. If we consider how accessible virtual reality for property has become in the last 24 months I think the next 24 months are going to be very interesting. We need to look to some of the suppliers already in the proptech space to open up their offerings and allow access to their data to add value and enhance the virtual reality experience.
I don’t think this is going to be a technology that every estate agent can use. For smaller properties, it’s probably going to be a bit of an overkill. With larger more interesting houses, this is a great marketing tool
It could also be another reason to get people into the office. The virtual reality can be set to run automatically so that you’re naturally guided through a tour of all your properties in a continuous loop. This could be just playing in the background on the screen in the office or when you’re closed work with the through window products that are available.
Matterport publish figures around increased engagement and drops in unproductive viewings. More time in the office or more time in front of customers has got to be a good thing. Speed of marketing new instructions along with a more immediate feedback method provides a complete property experience and is a great instruction differentiator.
As for the headsets, Keith is so confident that you will get used to use to them that he will offer a free one for every paying virtual reality tour. This means you can have spare headsets in the office or you can have them branded and leave them on appraisals.
Done properly virtual reality is a fantastic way to stand out from the crowd. Engage with somebody like Keith whose passion and understanding will help you tailor your first virtual reality experience.