Right now, the rich and famous are touring homes in virtual reality—and in a few years, so could everyone.
The Matthew Hood Real Estate Group at Sotheby's International Realty (bid) has begun experimenting with Samsung Gear VR as a new showcase for multi-million dollar homes based in Los Angeles, as well as luxury residences in the Hamptons and in New York City.
Hood says the types of homes this works best for today are high-end homes, because the cost of scanning a home for VR ranges from $300-$700. The real estate agent first experimented with filming 360-degree video of homes using a stationary camera set-up with 10 GoPro cameras, but 3D scans allow a customer to walk through a house using a hand controller for navigation.
VR lets Hood show homes from across the country or across the world, and get the same view as the buyer.
“I can lead a VR tour remotely and even see where the client is looking, which allows me to address things like a kitchen counter style while they’re looking at it — just as I would in a real world tour,” Hood says.
Hood is pushing to create a network across Sotheby's offices, so that when he has a listing like a $7 million Venice, Calif., home he just 3D-scanned for VR, the San Francisco office can access that content for Silicon Valley companies. (Venice has been dubbed “Silicon Beach” because of all the tech companies that have opened there recently.)
Los Angeles, in particular, is a city that was built for VR real estate tours, according to Hood. It can take two days to visit 10 houses because of traffic, which is a lot of time for an executive to take off work. VR also allows buyers throughout Asia and Europe to check out homes before flying in to finalize a deal. On the seller side, VR allows celebrities and owners of expensive homes to focus on only buyers with legitimate interest in purchasing.
Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter believes one of the reasons Facebook (fb) purchased Oculus VR last year for $2 billion is because of VR’s real estate potential.
“You could do real estate open houses with 360-degree views and have a client come to your office and check out 50 homes through a head-mounted display and then pick the top ones to visit in person,” Pachter says. “Facebook looks at VR as skipping the realtor completely.”
Hood doesn’t believe that will happen any time soon.
“Buying a home completely in VR may be possible, but not for another 15 to 20 years,” Hood says. “There are complications involving homes that require expertise and continue to require third-party involvement.”
Hood believes VR will trickle down to lower-priced homes for everyday sales within five years. He sees the floodgates opening once the Zillow of VR is created.
“A number of young tech companies are exploring an entirely in-VR experience where you enter search criteria like price, location, and number of rooms and you’re presented a number of homes and you can virtually tour,” Hood says. “Once that happens, you’ll look back and say, ‘How did we do this before?’”
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