Yet more innovation in the marketing of property for sale

by Alistair Helm in ,

I often vacillate between a fascination for the latest shiny bauble of technology and the fundamental mantra of KISS (keep it simple, stupid). So it is with real estate marketing. Great photos, contextual information that sells the real benefits of the property; forget the videos, augmented reality and virtual tours!

But every now and then a piece of technology appears that distracts you and I find myself resetting my perspective. So it was when the iPhone was launched. I could see the impact the locational capability would have upon the real estate industry and the experiences surrounding the process of buying a home.

Equally I have long held a dislike for virtual tours which thankfully have become less popular over the past 3 years as video seems to have surpassed this early multimedia presentation. I found one example online to remind me of how nauseating they are - that sense of vertigo they create as you seem rooted to the spot as the property spins uncontrollably around you. You can sense my dislike!

So when I first heard of 3-D virtual tours I recoiled in horror at the concept of these nauseating images - but with 3-D glasses!

How wrong I was, as it turned out, and what a surprise I got. I first came across 3-D virtual tours at the annual real estate tech start-up competition called FWD Innovation Summit organised by Realogy (The largest global franchise real estate company). Inaugurated last year this competition offers the winners US$25,000 in an attempt to stimulate innovation and ideas focused on real estate. This years winner at the event held in June was Matterport the makers of a new camera technology that creates a true walk-through experience for any space, but clearly of great value for home viewings.

The Matterport camera costs US$4,500 and is more a data analysing device than a traditional camera. You simply place the camera on a tripod in various points around the home and it ‘absorbs’ the images from all around and then ‘stitches’ them together to create a complete smooth immersive walk through of the property.

No 3-D glasses, no headsets and importantly no nauseating virtual tour this is a self managed drive through, so the term “3-D Virtual Tour” is actually incorrect, it is a self-guided remote viewing for a home (bit of a mouthful!).

As ever the proof is in the pudding or in this case the viewing, so to get a sense of the power of this technology have a look at this real example of a actual listing from the embedded player below. The size of the data file could take a few seconds to load and then just dive in to virtually walk around the property with your mouse of finger in exactly the same manner as if using Google Street View.


This technology is smart and has been quickly embraced by one of (if not the) most progressive real estate companies I have come across - Redfin. They are planning to utilise this technology on as many of their listings as they can as quickly as they can. This is just the type of game changing advancement that a smart real estate company should and will adopt - so who will be the first such company in NZ to adopt this and show leadership.

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.