A Virtual Foot in the Door: VR for Real Estate

Virtual reality is destined to be huge in real estate. The immersive experience it provides will make visiting property much more efficient.

The real estate industry is already hinting at the need for these immersive visits. Right now, high-end properties get their own 360 virtual visit with drone footage.

But how do we prove to everyone that a virtual reality visit is better than website pictures or a video?

To help, I started a new HTMLFusion lab experiment virtually showcasing a for-sale property.

Architect home

First property viewer prototype

I created a quick prototype based on a property my friend has on the market and put it to the test, using the Theta for the photo and Unity 3D with Google Cardboard SDK, Google’s inexpensive virtual reality hardware, to create the viewer application.

I performed the first round of tests with a few co-workers, friends, and even a few real estate agents. For most users, it was their first virtual reality experience, so it was difficult to distinguish between the excitement of the experience and the real value for assessing a house you want to buy.

Second Architect home

It was interesting to see that the testers looking for a new house or apartment were incredibly engaged. They went through almost the entire house in the virtual reality viewer.

With this first prototype, I was able to validate some of the usability and general experience.

Initial thoughts and feedback:

I was afraid the picture quality would have a negative effect, but nobody mentioned it directly or indirectly. The main issue with the first version prototype was users having difficulty transitioning from one room to another.
Users got lost in the house. They asked for a map to tell them where they were.
The real estate agent who tried it liked it, and all were open to test it on their properties and with their buyers. The users were more enthusiastic about it than the agents.

third architect home

Second property viewer Prototype

While testing the first iteration, I felt there was a blocking issue when moving between rooms. So I created a second prototype where the selection of the door was much more obvious.

Once that was resolved, we had an issue with Google Cardboard’s magnet button. With Cardboard, users give commands to Google Cardboard through this button, and initially during this test, the button wouldn’t always trigger. This created friction for getting users started, but once they learned how the magnet trigger worked, they flowed through the house just fine.

Next step

I feel the prototype is good enough for me to validate the value of the concept.

I propose an application which will allow us to take remote pictures, link all the rooms, and share the listing with selected prospective buyers. Real estate agents will be able to navigate properties using their cell phone and Google Cardboard as part of a complete kit for purchase, which would include a 360 camera, stand, 20 Google Cardboards, and our application. I want to add more properties to the app and put it in the hands of prospective buyers.

Contact us if you know a real estate agent in Los Angeles interested in participating in our testing phase. We’ll scan properties for you at no cost. (limited to 10 agents and 2 properties for this round of tests)

Photo Credit: Anthony Caldorani