House Hunting in the Digital Age

No matter where in the world you are looking to rent or buy, it is likely that your house hunting market is overrun with complex, time consuming – and in most cases tiresome – rituals. Whether searching for a shared dorm room or a multi-million-dollar estate, there is usually a seismic shift of emotions when the house hunt transforms from excitement to turmoil. We all know the problems… but is there a solution?! Can technology ease the pain of building a nest?

To put it simply, yes. Obviously there is no miracle solution to real estate agents and landlords, but there are definitely some very cool gadgets, tools and technologies out there to help the average Jane and Joe.

VIRTUAL REALITY

Photography and video are a core tool for real estate marketing. However, these images are far too often and easily manipulated to create intricate illusions of space that simply don’t exist. The practice is so commonplace, it often doesn’t matter if an add includes carefully orchestrated photos, terrible photos or none. As soon as you arrive to look around, the real perspective kicks-in to reveal a broom closet sized apartment (which the agent nonetheless assures you is a bargain).

Virtual Reality is actively combatting this in the Real Estate realm – and I’m going put it out there – it seems like the perfect match for VR. The reasons are simple… To start with, 360 photo and video perspectives are extremely realistic for gauging room size and depth without any tricky camera angles (even with a cardboard / smartphone combo). Not to mention, with the Samsung S7’s combination with the GearVR you can expect some great resolution for a mobile phone VR!

Secondly, the costs for production and consumption are unbelievably cheap compared to the costs you would expect for the production of traditional high-quality image films. To view a property all you need is a smartphone – which most people have – with the option of an additional cardboard, GearVR or Daydream. For production you just need a 360 camera (with high end cameras starting at $399), a 360 app platform (monthly subscriptions starting at $200) and no experience with either! The affordability – especially since the camera is a one-off cost – and speedy production make VR a very attractive tool for agents with a high turnover of properties. For hotel owners the opportunities here are even more sustainable.

Now stick a 360 camera onto your drone. Need I say more…

DRONES:

Did you say drones?! Well… commercial drones are now being used to attain sweeping aerial images of properties before rent or sale to avoid arriving at a viewing only to discover that your future neighbour is in fact a construction site and soon to be multi-level carpark. A 2016 NAR survey of over 150,000 US real estate agents found that 23% of real estate agents are already using drones to market their properties and that a further 20% were considering using them. This spark in drone interest is not without cause… the results are fantastic! Not only do house hunters get a great view of the surrounding neighbourhood, but also a full aerial view of the property – no more broken roof tile surprises!

The extensive overviews provided by drones are simplifying the elimination process faced when painfully sifting through thousands of property ads. With a more realistic overview, house-hunters are able to efficiently limit their viewings to the properties that are of most relevant to their needs – no more wasted time consuming appointments and most importantly… no more wasted weekends! The drones are even getting so small that they can fly inside! Don’t believe it? Here are few examples and a list of some of the best drones to make it happen.

AUGMENTED REALITY

Real Estate VR is already here, Real Estate AR is the dark horse with huge disruptive potential. Imagine walking through your dream neighbourhood with an app that uses your smartphone camera to show holograms with key information on the houses or flats that are up for sale or rent.

These markers could even include filter functions for price or key features so that you only see the properties that are relevant for you (because what’s the point of looking at a place that doesn’t have a hot tub). Just click on the hologram to see inside the property with 360 photos and videos. Like what you see? Then contact the agent in real-time to remote unlock the front door and have a look around. The app could then even point out holographic points of interest inside the property! Send your rental application through the app and your done!

The crazy thing is that this technology is not so distant. The Google Tango technology is already being used with depth sensors to map environments and show additional information.

It is also expected that the upcoming iPhone 8 will include AR technology as a standard camera feature. In general, the Augmented Reality technology to make this happen already exists… It is only a matter of time until it explodes as an everyday feature of existing apps. Again, for the hotel industry there is astronomical potential here – just stand in the city centre with an iPhone to find a room with AR, view it in VR and then book in seconds!

So there you have it! This is just the tip of the iceberg for some of the cool technological solutions out there for house hunters and real estate agents alike. Existing VR camera and platform technology as well as drones and remote access is already available. Many of us are already working in smart offices with connected systems or living in smart homes which IoT solutions turning on the heating and lights as we arrive home at night. The possibilities are expanding and Augmented Reality is at our doorstep…


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