Virtual Reality Home Tours

It appears that increasing numbers of homebuyers are interesting in using VR technology when searching for their next home.  According to a new Coldwell Banker marketplace survey released this week there a several desirable gadgets that the buyers of today want and one of them is virtual reality home tours.  The survey was released prior to the kickoff of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2018 show in Las Vegas.  CES is the leading trade show that features the newest gadgets, TV’s and leading technology inside & outside of our homes.  For a third straight year Coldwell Banker has sponsored a Smart Home Marketplace at CES.

Growing Numbers of Tech Buyers

The buzz appears to be mostly about the Virtual Reality home tours technology for homes and how a high number of survey respondents state that they want to use this technology.  The online Harris Poll of 3,000 adults asked how important certain technologies were in the home buying process. Not surprisingly 77% said that would like to see a Virtual Reality tour.  That’s a close second to the more common standard video tours at 84% of the respondents.  In fact 62% said that they would choose a Realtor that offers this virtual reality tour service over an agent that does not.

This is an image of a pair of virtual reality viewing goggles. In order to take advantage of virtual reality home tours you'll want a pair that are comfortable, lightweight and that offer the best viewing screen
Having the Right Equipment
The Shiny New Gadget

But I question if a Virtual Reality tour will really be the most desired feature of home shoppers in the near future.  I get it – it’s the shiny new technological toy.  But will home buyers really start donning VR headsets to look through Realtor.com?  I’m not so sure.

Is There Enough Interest?

First, there has to be a large number of Realtors that will need to embrace this technology. Then they will have to learn how to use it.  I’m doubtful that they will do so on the scale necessary for the technology to have any real impact.   That’s not to say that agents can’t do it, rather the question is whether they will be motivated enough to invest their time and money.  The cost is not only in purchasing the equipment but learning how to create these custom tours.  Most will want to hire a professional VR photography company to do it for them.  Virtual reality home tours prices start at $350 and cost as much as $1,200 per house.  At the present, very few agents have adopted this technology now.  The fact is that less than one-quarter of all current listings have any kind of video now so it may take a while before Virtual Reality tours will become standard for the industry anytime soon?

Investing In The Virtual Reality Experience Costs Money

The entry-level for true VR technology is not cheap for the user.  Quality wired headsets will set you back $400.00 to $600.00 for the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, respectively.  Then you’ll need to be tethered to a VR-ready PC with a high-end graphics card to run the software.  That’s an entry-level cost of about $800.00.  How many households currently have this kind of setup and how many of those families are searching for a home?  The alternative is to use the headset/smart phone option.  This setup requires a smart phone and a pair non-connected goggle that mimic the immersive reality experience.  You can start with a pair of Google Cardboard glasses ($15.00) which is literally a folding cardboard “headset” that you place your smartphone in but those are uncomfortable and lack the features of the more advances units.  You have many choices.  There are probably over 20 headsets on the market ranging from $9.00 – $120.00.  Anything around $40.00 will be more than adequate.

 Try Before You Buy

For those not interested in buying the equipment before your start touring, you can still enjoy the experience of moving the viewfinder around a room with a 360 view on VR enhanced listing.  The technology will work on you smart phone, iPad or Desktop PC although the experience of ‘being inside the home’ won’t be as good.

Sample image from a virtual reality home tour which shows tour arrows that guide the user through the property
Navigating a VR Tour
Small Number of VR Tours

There are relatively few VR tours available today.  I will include a link (at the end of this article) to an agent website that uses VR Tours so you can see one for yourself.  Novices may find the technology a little cumbersome at best.  When I’ve shown this technology to friends without VR headsets they end up using their pointer buttons or mousepad to bounce off walls and walk into corners.  It wasn’t the experience that they were hoping for as it shouldn’t be without the right equipment.  In my opinion, for most new users that are older and not familiar with VR technology, they may find that the current home tour videos offer a better experience.  I guess it’s a generational thing.  Like most new technology, your kids will have to show you how to use it!

More Than Just for Virtual Reality Home Tours

Consumers also see more uses for VR technology in their current and future homes.  68% responded that they would love to use the technology for furniture placement and decorating ideas.  There are a few applications on the market currently that will let you digitally arrange all kinds of furniture in any space of your home or workplace.  Apps like Planner 5D https://planner5d.com/vr/ allow you to design an entire space using furniture from integrated name brand catalogues.  Change colors, styles and sizes of each piece.  You can even print & save your designs for making purchasing decisions. All it takes is a little imagination on your part.

Not Quite There Yet

Is it time to embrace the technology?  I believe the technology for home tours will not be very useful until it achieves greater acceptance by both Realtors and the public.  VR home tours take time and skill to create and the equipment can be expensive.  The public may find the novelty exciting but I don’t think they will spend a lot of time with the goggles on.  I may change my mind in a year or two but for now my bet is that the consumer would rather flip through high quality photos or click one button to be carried through the property with a beautiful video then to have to work the controls themselves.  I do want to give those agents credit that have taken the leap and are willing to try something new.  Things are changing so fast.

What do you think?  Please comment below.

Here are some VR enabled properties to look at http://www.teresa4homes.com

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