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"The buildings weren't even up yet, so it was nice to get a sense of what it would look like," Sazama said.
Virtual reality, or VR, is expected to reshape the real estate industry in much the same way internet listings did. It may not be long before your first view of your next house or apartment will be through a View-Master-like headset.
The time is right, many say. The technology has gone down in price and is now easier to use, buyers and their agents aren't as afraid of technology as in past years, and real estate markets are more global than ever.
"It is a foregone conclusion that we'll be evaluating real estate this way in the future," said
Already, "virtual tours" sans goggles are joining aerial drone tours as standard fare for many real estate agents, enabling house shoppers to more easily narrow their options without ever having to set up a physical showing. Agents are hiring companies that use sophisticated software to stitch together still photos that give house shoppers interactive, 360-degree room views that you can't get with a traditional photo slide show.
Though these "virtual tours" are technically not three-dimensional, they provide a much more comprehensive look at every interior surface.
More important, it's a tool with the power to create an emotional response that a single, static view of a room can't, putting buyers into spaces that could be hundreds of miles away.
"Pictures are just pictures, but when you can spin around inside those rooms, you can really get a good feel for what that house is like," said
Her grandmother had a place on Lake
While casually - and spontaneously - perusing online listings in the area near her family's lake place, she happened across a property that caught her attention. The online listing for the 13-acre property included a virtual tour that enabled Lawton to explore the log-sided house and essentially walk the shoreline.
"You really do get a tremendous appreciation for what the property is really like," she said.
She was quickly smitten and felt confident enough to schedule a showing and make the 7 1/2-hour drive. Setting foot on the property confirmed all of her initial impressions based on the 360-degree photo tour, and she was able to quickly make an offer.
"In most respects, it matched what I was expecting," she said.
The situation was a particular coup for the listing agent,
In addition to having the ability to tug at the heartstrings of sentimental shoppers and create momentum when there was none, such tours also make it difficult for sellers to conceal unsightly elements they'd rather buyers not see.
"Once you can look into a headset and get a sense of the space, you don't have to miss out on the one corner they didn't take a picture of," said
The new VR technology, used with goggles and headsets paired with a cellphone or computer, uses the kind of technology gamers have been using for years, with computer-generated imagery and environments. Such a perspective makes viewers feel like they're part of the image, and not just from a distance or from a single perspective or angle.
Accessibility to this technology reached a turning point in
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VR viewing devices are now available in a variety of styles and price points, from cardboard goggles that cost a few dollars to sophisticated headsets with hand controllers that cost hundreds. At the same time, the software that helps transform images into multidimensional environments has become far more sophisticated and accessible.
Several years ago,
Munster, the tech analyst, said there are now 20 million people who use VR in one form or another at least once a month, and he expects that number to reach 50 million by the end of 2017 and 1 billion by 2023, creating the kind of market saturation that will force technology companies to create cheaper and easier-to-use devices for all VR applications.
So far, adding VR has been working for
It's difficult to measure how many people have signed leases based solely on the VR technology, but it's one more tool for leasing agents to use. Marketers have been out to Burrito Loco and other campus watering holes to offer the virtual tours - and free shots of booze in a lit-up shot glasses - to help promote Spectrum.
"We're early adapters," said CPM co-founder
(c)2017 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
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