Is virtual reality a disruptive technology for real estate?

by Alistair Helm in

I have a sense that by the weekend the term 'virtual reality' and the company Oculus VR will be better known than it was a week ago. When Facebook plonks down $2billion in stock and cash to by a technology company it makes news, not as much as spending $19billion buying WhatsApp, but $2billion is a large amount of money for a company who are still only in a beta stage of development for their VR device.

In the context of real estate the question has to be asked as to the impact this technology might have for the future and could it in anyway advance Facebook's role in the industry. In short, I don't think so.

I know there will be those who hold the view that property viewings could become an immersive experience through this type of device whilst sitting on the couch - with the added benefit of being able to create alternative decor and style to a property for sale. This will certainly be within the capability of the technology I have no doubt. However I sense that being able to have people 'walk though' a recreated virtual version of a home will be of greater value to interior designers, architects and make-over services than to real estate agents.

The virtual reality experience is merely to real estate another version of the photo portfolio, another optional version to complement virtual tours and video tours. The fact is that property inspections in person at an open home are the only true way to experience a property before making that hard and tortuous decision to invest in a property.

I would therefore urge real estate agents and companies to save their tech funds and not rush out to start creating virtual reality portfolios of their listings. Photos are more than adequate to provide the incentive to drive viewings.

Just to avoid confusion there is a distinct difference between the Virtual Reality of Oculus VR and their immersive headset and the more practical and relevant Augmented Reality which as a service has been around for many years mashing together the smartphone property data through geo-locational data to overlay valuable information as you look at properties whilst out and about - that is smart technology of value to the real estate industry.