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3D Real Estate Photography Is Now A Reality -- And A Must-Have

A rendering of a light-filled unit at the Hub, the 600-unit luxury rental complex at 333 Schermerhorn Street in Brooklyn. Steiner NYC

A rendering of a light-filled unit at the Hub, the 600-unit luxury rental complex at 333 Schermerhorn Street in Brooklyn. Steiner NYC

Tech disruption of the real estate industry shows no sign of slowing. From Zillow attempting inroads into agent-less offers to multiple players upending traditional broker-agent and agent-client relationships, real estate professionals ignore the changing business landscape at their own peril.

Another level of disruption has come in how clients discover and get to know properties. Until recently, online photos and video tours have been the gateway for potential buyers to narrow down the field of options for their new home. Google Earth and drone video allow us to get to know the neighborhood and the look and feel of the home itself, without the need to schlep across town or across the country to gather that crucial information.

But static photos and videos paint an incomplete picture. When a client arrives to tour the actual home, pictures often, one way or the other, don’t quite do a property justice.

Three-dimensional virtual reality (VR) is becoming one of the latest tech disruptors and Springs Homes, where I run sales and marketing, has embraced the disruptive capacity of this increasingly crucial tool. Here's how it works and some ideas for leveraging it in your own brokerage.

How To Use 3D VR As A Full-Service Brokerage

The visually all-encompassing nature of 3D VR has been a benefit in several ways: First, clients can see our listings in an immersive way, experiencing the home or apartment as if they are there. But 3D can also provide a valuable record of the condition of a property at a given point in time.

For a brokerage or property management team, this is a great way to head off potential conflict around condition before it starts. By creating a full record of the condition of a property, managers can go back and look at the data, account for normal wear and tear and make clearer decisions when a lease expires and new potential renters are exploring option. Buyers and renters appreciate knowing there is a record of what they are signing on to as well, so what is promised is what is delivered. We also use it for tradespeople who have visual confirmation of what needs fixing and where — the less guesswork in these situations, the better.

One benefit we didn't think of at first: for sight unseen leases, or when one spouse is not available to walk through the property, 3D VR is a great tool to expedite decision-making so the client doesn’t lose out on the opportunity to someone else.

Unsurprisingly, 3D VR can give your firm a competitive edge, from the listing appointment through the whole customer experience of the brand and level of service. In a 3D virtual tour, that pile of boxes, that hole in the drywall, has nowhere to hide. It encourages sellers to put their best foot forward and gives buyers and property managers the “same page” to work from in terms of the condition of the property.

New construction is another area a full-service brokerage will benefit from 3D VR. We use the 3D camera to take pictures and do virtual walk-throughs for clients in the building process. When a homebuyer or builder is relocating, the search, the purchase and the build process can be a logistical challenge. With a virtual walk-through, instead of the client needing to make multiple trips, they can simply take a 3D tour at major milestone points. This way, they can look at every nook and cranny on their own terms. Buyers also send these tours out to their friends and family to show progress, which is a special bonus. Our client feedback on this service is overwhelmingly positive, and it demonstrates to the builder that they are a true partner in the transaction.

My firm is now exploring the idea of using this technology to showcase what’s interesting and inspiring about a given neighborhood. The idea is to scan, say, an area rec center or club house, and offer the organization a link to the content created by us that they can share. At the end of the day, we want to be disruptive in the most positive ways possible.

Like any real estate brokerage should, we are keeping our eyes open for the next disruptor on the horizon — perhaps the “Smellovision Open House” app is coming next, with the scent of baking bread wafting through your VR home tour! For now, 3D VR can give your brokerage an edge and added confidence in your work and reputation as a trusted resource in any real estate transaction.

Originally written by Joe Boylan for Forbes

3D videos: A new way to tour NYC real estate up for sale

Home hunting is no game, but some real estate agents say virtual reality can curb the back-and-forth of the chase and make the pursuit more manageable.

After toying with the technology for years, many New York agents use 3-D video tours to showcase condos and other homes available for purchase.

But a number of agents said crafting full-scale presentations for forthcoming residences remains risky.

Many noted virtual reality videos can help agents narrow down where to take clients, particularly international buyers. The technology allows viewers to enter a simulated three-dimensional environment, where, in many cases, they can get a sense of how things would look as they walk through a home and turn their head in various directions.

VR tours can be simple, online presentations that anyone can access, models that require just a downloadable smartphone app and a cardboard case for the phone, and more intricate tours that rely on special headgear or goggles. When such high-tech gear is needed, agents often offer their clients virtual viewings in their offices.

“In VR video you can’t hide wires, and you can’t hide lights, so everything is as it is,” said Randy Baruh, a real estate agent with Corcoran. “You see a lot of photos ... and everything is perfect, and it’s not really exactly what it’s going to look like.”

Halstead hired staff to create 360-degree videos for about four to five homes a week that may then be viewed on the firm’s website.

But Halstead’s chief marketing officer Matt Leone said it has only worked with a few clients interested in creating a virtual tour for not-yet-complete residential projects, which Halstead is not set up to do in-house.

“That expense is probably not worth it at this juncture, based on the development cost, unless it’s a very expensive space,” Leone said.

Eydie Saleh, a salesperson at Mirador Real Estate, argues the costs have already dropped enough to make it economical, as long as developers view the virtual tours as the primary marketing tool, and not a bonus tactic.

She persuaded a development firm planning condos in Park Slope to avoid the common tactic of renting space where prospective buyers are invited to tour a model unit.

Instead, Saleh will send floor plans to a tech company that will create a remote-control navigable virtual tour, which Saleh says will appeal to the millennial generation that grew up playing video games.

“It saves an enormous amount of money — like hundreds of thousands,” said Saleh, who plans to show samples of materials available in condo bathrooms and kitchens alongside the VR tour in her office.

For not-yet-built projects, virtual reality services at Anyworld start at $3,000 for a condo and vary, depending on whether the virtual reality agency is showing the exterior as well as the interior, or adding furniture and making other staging decisions.

By contrast, Anyworld’s founder Filip Baba said the company charges 25 cents per square foot for videos of existing homes, which means a typical, 1,000-square-foot condo can be done for just under $300 — or about the cost of hiring a professional photographer.

He said VR technology is not yet cost-effective for many rentals, but that may soon change.

“If you study the history of even regular real estate listings, photos were even a big deal and it took a while to even roll that out,” Baba said. “I predict the consumer market will demand [virtual reality] more within a couple of years.”

Originally written by Sarina Trangle for amNewYork

4 Ways Virtual and Augmented Reality Can Reshape Real Estate

Jessica Lee Star/Digital Trends

Jessica Lee Star/Digital Trends

VR and AR technologies can help real estate agents save time and deliver a more alluring experience for clients.

Imagine being able to take an open-house tour of a home for sale in your town without actually driving to the property; or, while walking your dog, taking a photo of a house in a nearby neighborhood and finding out how much it last sold for. These kinds of experiences are coming from a real estate agent near you, if they haven’t already.

Virtual and augmented reality are poised to grow in all kinds of industries in the years ahead, from manufacturing and logistics to healthcare. IDC predicts that worldwide revenues for the VR/AR market will reach $13.9 billion in 2017, which would be an increase of 130.5 percent over the $6.1 billion spent in 2016. The research firm expects to the market to then explode over the next few years, reaching $143.3 billion in 2020.

While VR produces a computer-generated reality that users can interact with (usually via a headset), augmented reality involves digital information being brought into a user’s field of view and overlaid onto the real world, which they observe usually through a smartphone’s camera.

One industry that VR and AR have already started to transform is the real estate business. Long associated with in-person tours and the enticement of empty apartments or houses (preferable to those filled with the current owners’ furniture), house hunting stands to gain as AR and VR make the process more convenient for real estate agents. The technologies can also deliver a more engaging experience for potential buyers and lead to increased sales.

Here is a quick primer on the ways in which VR and AR can reshape the real estate market.

1. 3D Tours Offer an Immersive Experience

Virtual reality allows real estate companies to provide prospective buyers with immersive, 3D tours of propertiesMatterport, a 3D camera technology company, is working with web-based real estate firm Redfin to provide 3D walkthroughs.

“We’re making a digital copy of the inside of the world,” Marc Rehberger, Matterport’s director of commercial real estate, told Forbes. “It increases the amount of time spent on an ad between three to six times when there’s a Matterport model on that ad. ... It’s very, very sticky.”

Matterport has scanned more than 550,000 properties since it started in 2011, and the company, according to Rehberger, is “supplying a dimensionally accurate model of the space exactly how the human eye would see it. People who are investing, people who are using [and] people who are buying love the ability to understand the space because it’s natural. It’s exactly the way it is.”

Prospective renters in Arlington, Va., can now tour apartments using VR. Developer CRC is partnering with Immerse Virtual Reality Nation to create a VR tour of a new apartment building still under construction, according to an ARLNow report. “Using an HTC Vive headset with two motion sensors, residents can experience a realistic, 360-degree home tour of what their apartment will look like after construction,” the site reports.

Such tours cans save real estate agents time. “Ask any agent about the time suck involved in showing clients houses,” John Mazur, CEO of real estate app Homesnaptold Forbes. “VR/AR is going to change the game here and allow potential buyers to ‘experience a home’ at another level and better filter out homes they do/don't like, saving agents time.”

2. Digital Furniture Lets Buyers Make a Space Their Own

Open houses often mean that potential homebuyers are walking through a house fully furnished by the owner who is selling. AR allows potential buyers to see the home with their own furniture or styles in mind.

Virtual staging technology company roOomy allows buyers to visualize any apartment or room in a house in the way they would want to decorate it.

“Drawing from a catalog of more than 100,000 furniture and household items, roOomy allows you to upload a picture of a room and virtually decorate it to reflect your personal tastes,” Forbes reports. “Agents, investors and buyers alike can take advantage of these amazing tools.” RoOomy works in concert with Google’s Tango, an AR technology.

3. Virtual Walkthroughs Sell Buyers on an Unbuilt Location

VR can also help backers of a real estate project visualize the property for potential buyers before construction even starts.

One company, Virtual Xperience, uses 3D modeling to let users wearing VR headsets access full walkthroughs of properties that are in development or under construction.

Developers can use the company’s technology to create customized color palettes, materials, furnishing and lighting conditions, to help buyers personalize and visualize the unbuilt properties, Forbes reports. The company offers 2D images, 3D walkthroughs and a 3D flythrough video experience.

“As a developer, it's often hard to have a prospective buyer visualize the end product. This causes longer sales times, reduces the ability to pre-sell projects, leaves funds stuck in projects longer and delays the cycle,” Ridaa Murad, founder of Breakform Realty Ventures, told Forbes. “With VR/AR, you can now show prospective buyers what the end product will be, adding a concrete level of tangibility and increasing the ability to pre-sell projects.”

4. Gets Details on a House While Walking Your Dog

Want to get the details on a house you like in the neighborhood without looking up the listing? Realtor.com’s updated Android application now has a feature called Street Peek that uses AR to display details about a home when users point their phone's camera at it. “Even if the house isn't for sale, you'll still see all the important details from the real estate website's database,” Engadget reports. The app offers details like listing or rental price, recently sold price, estimated value and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms in the house, and can even deliver that info on groups of houses at the same time.

Originally written by Phil Goldstein for BizTech

Real Estate Firm Adding Virtual Reality To Every Office

Virtual reality may be noted for its gaming capabilities, but businesses are starting to look at it as a component of their business.

One major use identified is in real estate, where one global real estate firm has jumped into virtual reality with both feet.

The details of the why and how were detailed at the recent MediaPost IoT Marketing Forum by Anthony Hitt, CEO of Engel & Völkers, a luxury real estate company based in Germany with its North American headquarters located on Park Avenue in New York. The company has 9,000 real estate advisors in 750 locations around the world.

Virtual reality may not be as big as augmented reality, as I wrote about here yesterday (Facebook, Snapchat Power Augmented Reality Well Past VR), but it is growing rapidly.

In his presentation, Hitt said that 171 million people will be using VR hardware and software by next year, making it an attractive option for the firm.

“Something happened about a year ago that changed the landscape,” Hitt said. “The New York Times distributed 1 million Google Cardboard viewers to the market. A lot of us in the virtual reality space believe that was the tipping point. That’s when, all of a sudden, there were enough consumers out there for this to make sense.”

The real estate firm built a VR platform for a new experience and selected a Ricoh camera and then outfitted all of its North American locations with the camera and its own version of Google Cardboard viewers, Engel & Volkers branded, of course.

This came to less than $1,000 per location. “For less than $1,000, we were now in virtual,” Hitt said.

Real estate shoppers now can go into any Engel & Völkers office, put on the viewers, and see any of the real estate listings and tour the properties via virtual reality. The real estate broker simultaneously sees what the shopper is seeing on a separate screen, so they can aid in the virtual tour.

The company decided to get 90% of its listings on VR within the first 90 days of launch, and is now halfway there and halfway through the time, Hitt said. The process involves re-photographing every listing.

“We’re already the first real estate brand in the world to have this virtual experience,” Hitt said. “Our offices in the rest of the world are doing the same thing.

“Virtual reality is something that’s here now.”

Originally written by Chuck Martin for mediapost.com

Selling the World, Virtually

Spatial computing is beginning the slow crawl to maturity. As the technology develops into something simultaneously more complex and also more stable, new areas of possibility open and grow. Since the beginning, avid enthusiasts have seen hope of a reformation of the real estate industry with the help of spatial computing, but it’s only now that real solutions are starting to be feasible.

Augmented reality projection rooms. Virtual reality walkthroughs. Mixed reality remodelling. These are just some of the potential ways that the act of buying and selling property will begin a seismic shift. We’ve collected five different projects that are using spatial computing to revamp real estate — plus, our breakdown of how successful we think they will be.

#1. 360 Walkthrough

The idea of a 360 walkthrough isn’t new, but until recently the technology has limited these “previews” to a flat experience. You could view a home on your computer, running around a space using the same drag and drop technology that Google Maps used to let us explore the world. Thanks to head mounted displays, those 360 walkthroughs are now even more immersive, and because 360 cameras have gotten so cheap and easy to use, every realtor can and should be adding a 360 walkthrough to their listings.

Because the cost of entry is so low, 360 walkthroughs are still a smart place to start, but this technology is quickly being overshadowed. There’s no real sense of immersion, since your point of view is limited to wherever the camera was initially placed; viewers don’t have the freedom to walk around, putting themselves in corners or experiencing the room from any angles the camera didn’t capture. We doubt this technology will survive more than five years, though for now the cost of hardware for alternative options will keep it afloat.

#2. Lightfield Volume Capture

Speaking of alternative options — we’re a little obsessed with light field volume capture at Hammer & Tusk, but it’s hard not to be. These cameras capture 360 video with 6 degrees of freedom, which means they can reproduce a location in photorealistic detail, and then let a person wander through that space. While creating video with this technology is still in the “so many hurdles to overcome” camp, the great news is that still pictures are ready for their mainstream debut.

There are a ton of companies working on this hardware, but none that we know of specializing specifically in adapting it for real estate. It’s a wide open playing field.

#3. Building in a Virtual World

Getting to consumers is a huge part of real estate, but what about creating buildings in the first place? If you’ve ever seen someone painstakingly hand-paint 400 tiny fake trees to put on the outside of an architectural model, you know the discipline is rife for disruption. Enter software like Vividly, which lets you create life-sized 3D models of real estate.

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Walk through your creations, share them with colleagues or clients, and even convert existing 3D models from traditional architectural software. The world is your oyster!

#4. Remodelling the Future

Okay, so you’ve bought a house, but now you want to see what it would look like with granite countertops instead of marble; or maybe you want to knock down that wall into the kitchen and create a pass-through. If that’s the future you’re imagining, you’re not alone! So many people are entering this space that it’s hard to call out just one or two.

IKEA will be taking on remodelling thanks to Apple’s ARKit, which will improve the quality and ease-of-use of previous offerings that IKEA has tested over the years.

Cadsoft is a less proprietary company; no matter which construction company you’re using, or where you’re getting your fixtures, Cadsoft will create 3D renderings and provide them for viewing in a headset or on your computer. VR viewings avoids the mobile-first issue of realism, but adds on the headache of needing the right hardware, which is solved by the backup plan of computer mockups.

The upside of this technology is that you don’t have to try to picture how a remodel will look; the downside being that you still need some imagination to turn these digital creations into their life-life alternatives.

#5. The CAVE

This technology is not technically being used for real estate today, but it has huge potential for future use-cases. CAVE is an open-source software system paired with projector hardware that primarily exists in university research settings.

Think of it has a modern Holodeck — a large room whose walls are actually rear-projection screens or flat panel displays. The images on the walls are controlled by the motion of the person inside the CAVE, allowing a sense of real immersion as the room moves realistically along with the user.

The applications for real estate are incredible. Imagine going to your realtor’s office, and instead of driving around the city to thirty showings, you could walk into the CAVE and see every home from there. You would walk around a pre-filmed environment, check out the layout, even peer into cupboards! As long as a camera captured it, you could view it.

The strength of this technology is the ‘teleportation’ factor, and the ability to have more than one person experiencing the virtual environment at the same time. Downsides are that you’re still restricting to four walls and a small space, so things like moving up and down stairs will never feel entirely real. Plus, these setups require motion-capture technology and head-mounted displays, so comfort and setup would be a concern in a commercial environment.

Academic institutions aren’t the only ones working on tech like this. We’re seeing commercial applications, too.

Originally written by Wren Handman for www.hammerandtusk.com.