Virtual Reality: And How It Is(n’t) Really Going To Change the Industry

Suzanne DranowIf I had a dollar for every time a vendor told me that their new technology or product was going to revolutionize the way I sell properties, well, I’d have enough money to fund an actual revolution.
That said, if I also had a dollar for every product that failed to revolutionize the way I sell properties, I’d have enough money to fund a formidable counter-revolution.
And so I am putting my thoughts together on the newest revolutionary trend in real estate: Virtual Reality (aka VR). Several vendors have invited me to presentations, launch parties and demonstrations of their newest and greatest game changing platform. 

Let me first heap praise: After putting on head-gear that made me look like a character from StarTrek, I have to admit that VR is very cool. One minute I’m in a hotel conference room, the next minute I’m previewing a view home in the Palisades… Then, with the flick of a switch I was “walking” around a downtown loft apartment, and a moment later, I was “looking” at horse property  in Hidden Hills. The promise being touted by VR professionals is that a buyer in Hong Kong will be able to “visit” my two acre golf course listing in Bel Air… as long as they are also fans of StarTrek and have a compatible VR setup in their home. And truth be told, this is an intriguing advance in listing technology. But is it revolutionary?
And now let me heap some tempered scorn: First off, I needed to don head-gear that made me look like a character from StarTrek. Though not uncomfortable, I wouldn’t call it comfortable, either. Comfort and aesthetics aside, the real issue comes once the novelty wears off and the reality reality kicks in — the buyer for my $7.8 million listing isn’t going to put in an offer based on the VR tour, they will still want to see it. And I know that the VR tour is supposed to pique their interest and get them to want to visit the property, I don’t think it will be more effective in achieving that than me calling my client and saying, “You’ve got to see this one. Fly on over.”
Technologies that were supposed to “revolutionize” my business marketing have rarely, if ever, lived up to the hype. Let’s go through a list of a few of them, shall we? 
QuickTimeVR [A Loser]. 
3D-Rendering and “Fly-throughs’ [Another in the “L” Column]. 
Drone Photography [Tie — Pretty cool, until you realize that you won’t usually be looking at your property from 300 feet in the air].
Electronic Signatures [Grand Slam Winner]
QR Codes [Cumbersome Loser]
Texting to get Property Information [Because websites don’t work? A Loser]
Virtual Reality Tours [A mixed bag]
VR will excel when used to tour unbuilt projects (such as spec properties and to-be-developed high-rise spaces), but I don’t think it’s going to be the game changer that people are currently so excited about.
But when it comes to Augmented Reality… Now there’s where I see a game changer. When working with buyers (at any price-point) one issue I deal with is a client being negatively impacted by what is there — and by “there” I mean unfortunate paint colors, poor staging, horrendous closets, and bad landscaping. Augmented Reality would allow a client to come see the space, experience the layout and the surroundings, but would allow them to use a cell phone or tablet to “look around” the home with more suitable furniture, different wall colors, greater closet space and inviting plantings. An off-shoot of “virtual staging,” I think AR it is really going to move the needle when it comes to  helping clients get a sense of what the space will look like when it is theirs.
That said, until AR becomes more useable I’ll just have to entertain myself watching people walk into light poles and buildings as they play “Pokeman Go.”

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