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Could virtual reality change real estate?

could virtual reality change real estate

It’s easy to shrug off virtual reality as the latest fad or big hype over expensive, limited use gear. Then again, it’s always been easy to dismiss emerging technology. Think IBM in the 1960s — and its Model 360 mainframe — or Apple in 1998, when the first iMac appeared. Thing is some emerging tech eventually becomes consumer staples with a great deal of mainstream relevance. The big question is whether or not virtual reality — also known as VR — is about to break out of the emerging category and into mainstream relevance. Could virtual reality change real estate and the home buying process?

Virtual reality comes of age

oculus rift virtual reality device

Modern VR started with Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset that was originally developed by Oculus VR (which is now a division of Facebook). Okay. When we say modern, we’re talking about whispers and rumours as early as 2014, with a launch of the product (and its rivals) in 2015 and 2016. By then, cheaper VR devices, meant to be paired with smartphones, were already released but it was the arrival of the Rift, PlayStation VR, and HTC Vive that really launched the concept of consumer VR.

So, why aren’t people buying into VR?

Microsoft partner Oculus Rift for Xbox
Microsoft partners with Oculus Rift for virtual Xbox experience

But a funny thing happened: People aren’t buying the devices, at least not at the rate some tech analysts initially expected. Turns out this very new tech is still viewed by many as the future trajectory of gaming. Over the last half-decade online gaming has exploded, with more and more companies setting their sites on tapping into this market). As a result, more VR developers are upgrading their tech and providing devices with more immersive experiences that resemble high-end console video games.

But if you’re under the impression VR is played out — that sales are dwindling, headlines are less frequent, etc. — you’d be mistaken. For one thing, new types of games are still making their way to the medium. The biggest example is casino gaming. While online casino gaming is a late entry into online, immersive experiences, the companies involved are creating some exciting products, such as 3D animation included in the most popular titles in online slots and poker and blackjack moving into live video online formats online.

Applications beyond entertainment

As new businesses see the value in VR, new equipment is developed and rolled out. Even at this early stage, virtual reality systems are being used in education, business, in art and design, and even in treating mental illness and training doctors. The key is that VR technology creates real-world simulations — making it an invaluable tool for teaching, training, practising and communicating in innumerable fields.

VR in real estate

Oculus Rift device used in real estate
Oculus Rift is used to view properties in virtual reality

Perhaps the most exciting real-world application of VR in real estate is the ability to shop for properties from the comfort of your home — but with a level of insight and experience that buyers just can’t get from flipping through digital photos or clicking on videos.

A number of young tech companies are exploring an entirely in-VR experience when it comes to shopping for your next home. These experiences allow buyers to enter search criteria — like price, location, and the number of rooms — and then offer VR tours of the homes that meet the criteria. This new real estate technology can fundamentally change the way people shop for homes.

This new technology allows people to experience a home through a virtual walk-through — enabling buyers to ‘visit’ countless properties and allowing sellers a chance to open their homes to sellers, without the disruption of viewing appointments.

Of course, we’re probably still a few years away from VR-open houses, but with new tech and new drive, concepts like these could completely change how we search and choose properties.

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Zolo Staff is the fastest growing national real estate marketplace in Canada. As a tech-focused company, we combine exceptional customer service with data-driven solutions and real-time technology and this has made us the nation's largest independent brokerage.