How Virtual Reality is Transforming Real Estate

While virtual reality and augmented reality may have first been introduced as a means of playing a better game, the technology has been adapted for a variety of other uses. From healthcare to travel, virtual and augmented reality technology is changing how we interact with our world.

Now, it has been adapted by the real estate sector to help those who either want to buy a home or remodel their existing home. By learning more about these technologies and the ways they’re used by your real estate agents, you can begin to take advantage of the benefits they provide.

What’s the Difference Between Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality?

Before you begin to discover what real estate technology can do for you, it’s important to understand what it does in general terms. While virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) might seem synonymous, they’re really two different types of technology, each one providing unique advantages of its own.

Virtual reality submerges the user into a completely computer generated environment, which is programmed to provide a simulated experience. Depending on the sophistication of the system, users may be able to interact with objects in the virtual environment and cause changes. This is usually done through hand controls or motion sensors. Users must wear a headset, which is often connected to a computer or gaming system. However, Google Cardboard is a standalone headset that works independently.

Augmented reality, on the other hand, does not place the user in a computer generated environment. Instead, you view the real world as it is, but computer software adds computer generated imagery to the environment, which you can only see through a machine, such as a smartphone or tablet.

The most popular example of augmented reality was the Pokemon Go video game, which prompted people to search for video game pieces in real world locations via their smartphones. In addition to mobile devices, AR images can also be used through special headsets, such as Google Glass.

VR Uses in Real Estate

There are already a long list of apps that make use of virtual reality as a form of real estate technology. For instance, Matterport makes use of a home listing’s photos and walk-through videos to create a virtual reality environment for the home buyer. The system lets a user take a 3D tour of the home right from their computer via the Matterport software.

The company first introduced their VR technology in 2011 and, since that time, it has been used on more than 550,000 home listings. The best advantage to Matterport is that the images are dimensionally accurate, so the user gets a good sense of the property’s size and characteristics.

Meanwhile, other apps, like roOomy and Google Tango, allow users to visualize a room with their own decor. Many home buyers aren’t interested in keeping their new home the way they found it. Instead, they want to add their own tastes and give it a unique look that says something about their personalities.

These apps let users upload an image of the room and offer decor to help them customize it. By viewing what the room will look like with their own furniture or color schemes, home buyers are more likely to find something worthwhile.

For people having their dream homes built, there’s Virtual Xperience. 3D modeling and VR headsets allow investors or individuals building their homes to see the finished product, even before construction begins. The software allows the user to tour the property in a virtual representation, so they can make sure their impressions are accurate. The system allows users to apply color patterns, lighting changes, furnishings, and other features to see how it will appear when finished.

AR Uses in Real Estate

Augmented reality may be even more useful for those interested in remodeling a home, either one they currently occupy or as they seek to buy a home. This is because it lets the user see how changes will look, once complete. For instance, Cambria, a countertop manufacturer based out of Minnesota, has developed its own app that lets users see how their countertop choices will look in their homes. The special app must be downloaded to a smartphone, but that may be the most difficult part of the process.

Once the app is installed and open on your smartphone, simply point the phone’s camera lens at your countertop. As you select different countertop options, the app overlays a digital representation of your selection over the image of your counter. This helps you see how the colors and materials will compliment the rest of the room. There’s no more buyer’s remorse, because you already know how it will turn out.

Cambria isn’t alone. Furniture manufacturers Ikea and Wayfair provide similar apps, helping customers envision how new furnishings will look in the home. This capability is so helpful, that tech experts anticipate AR overtaking VR in just a few short years. From home redesigning to buying furniture, the capabilities and advantages of augmented reality seem boundless. It’s helping consumers make better choices by showing them how their purchases will fit into their home.

In addition to envisioning how new decor will look in a room, AR technology is helping homeowners and contractors make better remodeling choices as well. An AR program can apply structural changes to a room to show how it will appear and to help the contractor identify potential problems ahead of time. This prevents errors in construction that might not have previously been avoidable.

While augmented reality may be used in a number of ways in the real estate sector from construction to home touring to open houses, one might be left wondering who, other than IT experts, can develop these apps. The answer to that is anyone. From your real estate agent to an individual home buyer, absolutely anyone can develop an AR app with the use of programs like Apple’s ARKit.

Additionally, Apple’s latest iPhone was designed to be AR compatible, making it even easier to run the technology on your Apple device. Other than Apple, Google presented their ARCore and Facebook recently put out their Camera Effects app. By the time we reach the year-end, experts anticipate seeing more than 900 million AR compatible smartphones and tablets circulating the market. Before long, devices incapable of running AR apps will be obsolete.

As virtual reality and augmented reality tech changes in the near future, we’ll likely begin to see even more beneficial features. These technologies are helping us to make smarter choices, when it comes to buying or building a home, remodeling a home, searching for homes online or just investing in some minor changes. Getting an accurate depiction of what the environment will look like after the changes is helping Realtors, contractors, and home buyers save time and money.