When it came to integration of new technology, real estate always seemed to be a dinosaur. From real estate sales to property management, it was typically business as usual. But what a difference a few years can make. The real estate tech industry has exploded, and now, companies are vying to integrate technology as quickly as possible in order to keep up with their competitors.
Consider virtual (VR) and augmented reality (AR). Its applications in the real estate industry expand far beyond attracting people to your building by offering rewards on Pokemon Go. We believe VR and AR will have tremendous impacts on property management, in particular.
VR vs. AR – What’s the difference?
Let’s start by understanding the difference between VR and AR, as the two terms are often used interchangeably but there are actually stark differences between the two.
VR refers to a 100% virtual, simulated experience. Some form of technology (usually VR headsets) completely replaces what your eyes can see with something else. As the user moves, screen images also move just as they would in real life. This creates the illusion that the user is actually inside of the other location or world they’re viewing. As a result, VR has become incredibly popular in the gaming world – people can feel immersed in the action as if they were on the ground in that scenario.
Conversely, AR doesn’t block out the world around you. Instead, virtual images are positioned in front of you in the real world. The user can still see their actual surroundings even as web pages, graphs, maps and models are displaced in front of them.
Whereas VR requires some form of goggles or face mask, AR can be experienced with just a smartphone. That’s at least partially why Pokemon Go became an instant hit. With just a mobile app, players could wander around their cities and towns trying to catch creatures that seemingly appeared in the real world through their phone’s cameras.
Integrating VR and AR into Property Management
The real estate industry, as a whole, has started to integrate VR and AR into operations. Property management companies, more specifically, have been a bit slower to adopt these new forms of technology. This comes as somewhat of a surprise given how useful VR and AR can be. Consider the following uses of VR and AR in property management:
- Virtual showings. This is the most obvious use of VR. Property managers can create virtual tours for clients to view from anywhere in the world. Anyone with a VR headset or VR glasses will be able to “transport” themselves to a property to view as if they were there in real life. Not only do prospects benefit from this amenity, but it allows property management companies to cast a broader net for potential residents. Any landlord catering to business people or international residents will want a property manager to offer this VR capability.
- Property simulations. A growing number of AR applications allow users to make property simulations, such as opening doors or rearranging furniture, using simple hand or finger motions. This helps potential residents visualize themselves in the unit a property manager is trying to lease.
- Streamlined permitting. Whether you’re building from scratch or considering a prominent renovation, VR and AR can both help gain buy-in from the local community. Users will be able to see how big a building will feel before a shovel even goes in the ground. They’ll be able to asses height, shadows, design and other elements that neighbors and community members tend to worry about – worries that can delay a project indefinitely.
- Construction design. Before embarking on a major renovation project, property managers will be able to show real estate investors how the changes will make a property feel. AR allows client to get a sense of scale. For instance, how will opening that wall feel once inside? Will the courtyard feel cramped if you add a pool? AR helps landlords and property managers make important pre-construction decisions.
- Project management. Once a renovation or construction project is underway, investors can keep tabs on actual progress by checking in with contractors, property managers and related parties via interactive, virtual tours and simulations at the property. This improves communication, design and delivery of projects.
And this is just the beginning of what’s to come. The possibilities are endless.
Because VR is still new to property management, there are few statistics on how it will impact a property manager’s bottom line. However, the Huffington Post notes that YouVisit, a VR company that provides virtual tours of college companies, caused a “30% increase in physical visit requests” for participating schools, resulting in a 12.3% conversion rate. VR allows users to fine-tune their search without wasting time touring properties that don’t live up to expectations.
Ultimately, the goal is to leverage VR/AR and other new technology to streamline operations, improve cash flow, and enhance the user experience. VR and AR are just the beginning of what’s to come. Property management companies that get on board now will be well positioned to reap the benefits down the road.