It doesn’t come as a surprise to most that technology has become a standard part of the home buying and selling process. It would be hard to imagine a house hunt that didn’t involve combing through online listings that contained virtual tours, or at least photographic slideshows.
But did you know that according to a Redfin survey 35% of homebuyers in 2017 purchased their house without even setting foot in it beforehand? That number jumped up to 45% when they looked exclusively at millennials, the most recent generation of homeowners.
“5% of homebuyers in 2017 purchased their house without even setting foot in it beforehand.”
In the Realtor.com article, I Bought My House ‘Sight Unseen,’ and Here’s What Happened, buyer Audrey Ference writes about her experience, “This is it,” I said, and turned the key in the lock, praying we hadn’t made a very expensive mistake. The door opened. We walked inside to find … exactly what we’d expected. Our new home was cavernous compared with our Brooklyn apartment. In fact, everything looked even better than in the few photos and video footage we’d seen.”
The advances in real estate technology are a big reason why homebuyers like Audrey are getting more comfortable making one of the largest and most expensive decisions of their lives from their laptops. REALTORS® are now able to do things like using drones to take aerial photographs – giving prospective homeowners a virtual birdseye view of potential properties and neighborhoods.
Below, are three innovations that are making virtual home shopping a reality for buyers and the process of putting a home on the market easier for sellers.
AI, Artificial Intelligence
While you won’t have to give your real estate agent a Turing test anytime soon, AI actually has been used in real estate for a while now. Some of the websites you may have visited in your home research, or let’s be honest, just for fun, like Redfin and Trulia have automated their property recommendations using AI.
According to readwrite’s article, Where Will AI Take the Real Estate Market in 10 Years? Redfin’s matchmaking AI knows what you want more than you do since users “click on the matchmaker’s suggestions more often than on properties that fit their own search criteria.”
The company Zenplace is working to make it even easier to buy your home sight unseen. “The startup developed a bot that comes with a tablet attached to a pole on wheels. It streams a live feed of a real estate agent who conducts the tour and steers the robot.”
VR, Virtual Reality
Up until recently, an online real estate listing would typically have either a photographic slide show or a 360 degree virtual tour. If you aren’t familiar with what a 360 degree tour would look like, imagine standing in the center of the room and turning in a circle to get the full scope.
Listings that use VR allow you to leave the center of the room and actually “walk” around rooms, providing a more immersive experience. Opendoor’s article, 5 technology trends that make buying and selling a home easier states that VR tours “can feel almost as real as being physically present in the space. Users can virtually look up and down, zoom in and out, spin around, climb stairs or walk from one room to the next.”
The article mentions that the San Francisco based Matterport is one of the leaders in the VR real estate field. If you own a pair of VR glasses, or want to DIY a cardboard pair for yourself, you can take a tour on Matterport’s website of a luxury home in southern California or a loft in Chicago’s west loop.
AR, Augmented Reality
Trying to sell an unfurnished home can be tricky as you are completely dependent upon the potential buyer’s imagination. Some prospects will be able to mentally fill the space up with their furniture, while others are more likely to buy if the house is staged with furniture and accessories.
But staging does not come cheap. According to Realtor.com homeowners can expect to spend $300 to $600 just to meet with a professional home stager – and then an additional $500 to $600 per room for staging. The budget for staging a room using AR is much less expensive, averaging $40 to $50 per photograph.
There are quite a few virtual staging companies out there, some will only work with your REALTOR® and others like Virtual Staging Solutions will work directly with homeowners. The type of services that companies like Virtual Staging Solutions provide can also be useful for buyers who want to visualize what a house for sale would look like with renovations before deciding to extend an offer. They can virtually knock down a wall or switch out the kitchen cabinets to glimpse at future possibilities.
There is no “right way” to buy or sell a home. If you’re not comfortable using technology in your home search or sale, your REALTOR® will work with you in whichever manner you prefer. But if you’re too busy to physically view every home you’re considering, or need to decorate an empty house without a furniture budget, the options to do so virtually are there for you.