Five Game-Changing Technologies for … Home Buyers and Sellers

Virtual and augmented reality, 3D tours, video everywhere… offers a roundup of the technology changing how you buy and sell your home

June 25, 2015

Developers in the US are beginning to use the Oculus Rift Virtual Reality system to show prospective buyers what new condos will look like  — 
The marketing team at the Evolve condo tower in Surrey is using augmented reality at its sales centre and in its sales material to bring the under-construction units to life  — 
3D floorplans, such as this one by Vancouver company Cubicasa, are being increasingly used in real estate listings  — 
US-based BombBomb offers real estate agents a video messaging service so they can reach out to their potential clients face-to-face  — 
MoveTube is a new TV channel in the States, where house hunters can search for properties using their remote control  — 

With new technologies emerging at an unrelenting pace, real estate is seeing truly disruptive ideas that could soon make buying or selling a home a very different experience than before. Over the past few months, has been attending real estate technology events and talking to the experts to get the consensus on what’s truly shaking the industry up, whether it’s for consumers, real estate agents or developers.

Here, we take a look at the emerging technologies that are transforming – or could soon transform – the consumer experience for buyers and sellers.

#1. Virtual Reality Home Tours

Yet to make much of an impact in Canada, an increasing number of US developers, agents and brokerages are starting to experiment with virtual reality home tours. The advantage of virtual reality is two-fold: 1) it offers buyers realistic tours of new homes not yet built and 2) it offers realistic tours to buyers unable to get to showings of presale or existing homes. The latter is especially the case for overseas or remote buyers and investors, who would use either their own wearable tech, such as Google Glass, or headsets at their local brokerage or partner office, to virtually tour the home and buy the property “sight-unseen”.

One high-end development in Queens, New York, has sold out 75 per cent of its condos from its sales centre, which is using the Oculus Rift Virtual Reality system and headset to give prospective purchasers full tours of the as-yet-unbuilt homes. Take a look at this article about it in The Observer

Virtual reality can also offer buyers the chance to change the furnishings, fixtures and fittings to better imagine what the space could look like for them. And the technology is set to advance even further, as sound sculpture technology could allow users with sensors on their hands to “touch” items and surfaces in the room (more on this here.)  

Here in Vancouver, virtual reality is already entering the commercial real estate market, with Colliers International working with local digital effects company Vividus to create virtual reality tours of its commercial properties, again using Oculus Rift headsets. There’s a great article in the Vancouver Sun about it here. With companies like Vividus offering these services, it may not be long before local developers and real estate agents offer the same thing to their customers.

#2: Augmented Reality

Virtual reality still requires headsets or wearable tech, but the great thing about augmented reality is that all you need is a smartphone or tablet. This means it’s catching on much quicker in the real estate industry, including here in Vancouver.

The under-construction Evolve condo tower in Surrey, which recently caused a stir in the media with its sales centre frenzy and unique marketing ploys, is one of the new developments using augmented reality to bring life to its marketing materials and building models. Visitors to the sales centre, or those who have the marketing materials to hand, can download the free Evolve 3D app and then scan the markers. Your mobile device screen will then show you a 3D model of the tower, or a 3D floorplan of a unit, or a 360-degree view of a specific room, which turns as you turn around.

Augmented reality is also catching on in real estate across the US and Europe, as it is relatively easy to execute. Hopefully soon we’ll see the same technology used on real estate agent websites and offices for resale home listings.

#3. 3D Tours and Floorplans

Speaking of 3D technology, it’s not all about augmented or virtual reality. More and more developers and listing agents are using interactive 3D tours and floorplans right in their listings and websites, and if you’re house hunting, you’ve probably come across a few.

Interactive 3D tours use 360-degree photography like Google Street View, and offer prospective buyers the ability to click into a room and turn through the 360-degree view, before moving into the next room.Two Vancouver-based sister companies, The Real Estate Channel and LNG Studios, were the first in Canada to offer this new technology to the real estate industry. In 2013 they joined forces with a Silicon Valley startup that was developing stitching software and offered their expertise on creating architectural animation. For more on this, did a great article – click here.

Keeping it a little simpler, there are also 3D floorplans, now being offered by companies such as Cubicasa, which has a Vancouver office and offers both 3D and traditional 2D floorplans. The 3D versions are becoming increasingly popular as they can be virtually “staged” with furniture renderings and are even better than 2D floorplans in helping buyers see the potential of the space. You can expect to see many more 3D floorplans in listings in the future.

#4. Video Everywhere

We’re not talking about video listing tours, though. We’re talking about video as a communication tool between you and your real estate agent, or the listing agent whose home you’re looking at.

With consumers adopting mobile technology at an increasingly frenetic pace, and Millennials coming into the real estate market with a vengeance over the next few years, video is predicted to be used more and more as a communication tool. On your smartphone or tablet, creating a video message is even quicker than texting, and real estate agents are gradually learning that putting their face in front of you is much more likely to win them your trust – and business – than a faceless text-based message.

For example, US-based BombBomb is a video-messaging service that is growing in its global real estate agent subscriber numbers. It offers real estate agents an app that creates a video message in seconds via their mobile device, configures it to play efficiently on any receiving mobile device, and allows the real estate agent to send it to their client via common email and messaging platforms like Outlook and Gmail.

Another, slightly different, US service is live-video-streaming company Periscope, which streams live home-tour videos just ahead of open houses, via social media, to attract potential buyers through the door.

So, expect to start seeing video messages and video-based social content from real estate agents coming your way in increasing numbers.

#5. Listings Everywhere

It’s no secret that we’re all using our mobile devices more than ever before. But did you know that recently saw more visits to its listings and news pages from mobile than from desktop, for the first time? The balance has been tipped and it seems that consumers are now on their devices more than their computers.

Of course, that means real estate listings sites, whether from individual agents or those such as’s newly fully responsive mobile site, will be increasingly geared towards your mobile search for homes and open houses. So wherever you are you’ll have easy, responsive access to listings, photographs, home tours, open houses and agent information.

But of course, there’s always still time spent at home, searching for that new dream property – and that search could start looking different too. For example, what about listings on TV? It’s still in its infancy, but Eletrick Eye Enterprises in the States has launched MoveTube, an interactive TV channel that allows subscribers to search for listings using their remote control. It is only currently available on Roku 3 but will soon be available on most smart TV platforms in the States.

So whether at home, at work or on the go, you can expect to have full access to home listings and information at all times, making your property search easy and seamless.

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