Technology

How virtual experiences are shaping home shopping

What it means when a consumer can walk through a house without leaving home
  • The vast majority of homebuyers insist upon seeing photos or a virtual tour of a property before visiting in person.

Technology is omnipresent. It has made its way into nearly every aspect of our lives.

This is especially true for those of us in the real estate industry.

Technology has made potential homebuyers much more accessible to real estate agents, and it allows real estate professionals to show off their listings with more details than ever before.

Potential homebuyers expect to get a complete feel for a home before having to take time out of their schedule to take an on-site tour.

In fact, Contactually says that 83 percent of homebuyers insist on seeing photos or a virtual tour of a potential property before visiting it in person. In stark contrast, only 9 percent of Realtors in 2016 used video or virtual tours to promote their listings, according to the 2016 Real Estate Tech Trends Report by Properties Online, Inc.

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Using technology to drive efficiency

More real estate agents are realizing the importance of adding 3-D virtual tours to their listings. These allow users to do a “walk-through” of a home from the comfort of their couch.

Users can navigate through each room, using a computer mouse to click through or zoom where they would like.

This process can actually save real estate professionals significant time in the long run, as a virtual walk-through is usually enough for a potential homebuyer to initially rule out a listing or decide they would like to see more.

Overall, real estate professionals can create a much more efficient process in weeding out potential buyers by offering this tool on their listings.

Virtual tools for real estate professionals

There are a few different options on the market for real estate professionals looking to add virtual tours to their marketing efforts.

RTV offers virtual technology software designed specifically for home walk-throughs.

This technology allows agents to record their voices over the tour, adding additional detail to what the viewer will experience. It is relatively affordable, but it will require some photography chops.

For luxury homes, some agents are opting for virtual reality (VR) tours. This technology requires scanning the home and allowing the buyer to utilize Samsung Gear VR to enter into the virtual reality of the listing.

This technology is so realistic that industry professionals believe buyers will soon be comfortable completing the buying process before stepping into the home — making long-distance moves much easier. However, the technology is expensive, costing around $300 to $700 per home just to scan for VR.

Augmented reality and the home

Utilizing technology to augment certain aspects of the purchasing process is also finding its place in other aspects of buying a home, particularly remodeling.

Take, for example, Cabinet Collection, an online platform for cabinet purchasing that allows users to see cabinet design variations in their kitchen and/or bathroom through several virtual tools, eliminating the need for traditional brick-and-mortar showrooms.

Home Depot is another brand implementing elements of augmented reality into the home. The company released Project Color, a mobile application that allows users to see how different color paints will look on the interior and exterior of their home. Users can implement “live view,” allowing them to walk around the home using the camera on their smartphone to see different possibilities for their home in real-time.

These tools represent a shift in the mindset of homeowners toward utilizing technology first to transform the way they make decisions for their homes.

Whether it is the home itself or the hardware and decor for the interior, virtual technology is making these decisions more efficient and strategic for the consumer.

Maintaining personal connection despite technological advances

Personal connections have always been a hallmark of the real estate industry. In a future centered around technology, it’s important to find ways to blend a potential client’s technology preferences with your personal interaction as an agent.

For example, after a potential homebuyer does a virtual tour of one of your properties, use custom sign-up forms via Mailchimp or a similar service as a call to action to drive lead generation.

This helps maintain the traditional relationship between real estate agent and buyer while still saving time for both parties.

In real estate, along with most industries, the best use of technology is not as a replacement for something we are doing today, but as a tool that allows us to work smarter and more efficiently.

Another item for your marketing toolbox

What are your thoughts on the rise of virtual technology in real estate? Is this a marketing tool you would consider implementing for your business?

As virtual technology makes its way into other industries, this may be an excellent time to jump on board. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Sean Killian is a consultant with Calcagno & Hamilton Real Estate in Santa Barbara, California. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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