Why VR tours in real estate have become an invaluable resource

Originally published on Dec 15, 2021 | Construction Week

By: Jayesh Maganlal

Virtual Reality (VR) tours in real estate have been around for some time now. Almost any progressive property developer or broker will have some VR tours on offer as part of their sales pitch.

Before this game changing technology became standard, what typically happens is that prospective homeowners or investors will visit multiple properties before making a decision. The process takes a bit of time and can sometimes be costly.

VR technology helps address these challenges, allowing property buyers to virtually visit and immerse themselves in the property from wherever they are. VR not only helps save time, but potentially could open up virtual viewing around the clock, allowing homebuyers to visit properties literally any time, without realtors needing to spend a second of their time.

What makes VR such a critical tool for success in the real estate business these days is that according to the US National Association of Realtors, 44% of prospective buyers search for properties on the Internet first, or through various mobile app listings. With smartphone penetration in the UAE and in some GCC countries among the highest in the world, VR could have the same impact in this part of the world.

Already, during the height of the spread of coronavirus, when face-to-face contact was restricted, most agents pitched their properties virtually, using VR technology.

Leveraged properly, VR can be used as a value-added service. Unlike traditional visits when clients are usually in a hurry, potential buyers can take VR home tours at a time that’s convenient and can focus their attention on details. Being fully immersed in the experience, virtual tours can pave the way for a better engagement experience.

Developers and brokers can also enhance the overall customer experience by enriching virtual tools with a wide range of interactive add-ons that will enable prospective buyers to visualise furniture being added to an empty property, for example.

Virtual Staging, allows realtors to set-up certain property in a way that would be more appealing to their clients, thus increasing the probability of signing a deal. Again, a US National Association Realtors survey says an overwhelming majority of real estate agents, around 77%, confirm getting more favourable results when they stage properties and help buyers associate a particular asset to be their future apartment or home. Though staging is a great way to market properties, it requires a bit more investment, especially in selling newly built properties.

Marketing a property that isn’t constructed yet has always been a challenge for real estate developers and agents. You’ve probably seen large three-dimensional models that show a new property or neighbourhood. These models help potential buyers imagine the architecture.

Another way VR can be utilised as a value-added proposition is when properties yet to be built are pitched to clients in the pre-selling stage. What usually happens is that full-scale models are created, which can again be time consuming and expensive. Virtual reality can effectively solve this problem by allowing potential buyers to carefully check out both the exterior and interior of yet-to-be-built properties. With VR, “architectural visualisation” can be a cheaper alternative and a much more immersive and engaging experience.

Utilising VR and AR technology, DAMAC had, in early 2020, launched a unique concept called ‘A La Carte Villas’ at DAMAC Hills, which enabled buyers to personalise multiple aspects of their homes, including villa type, layout, landscaping, interiors, and furnishings, among others, using a cutting-edge configuration app. 

As you may have heard, DAMAC has launched its third master community, just adjacent to DAMAC Hills. DAMAC Lagoons, which is not yet built, has already come to life with our interactive virtual experience where you can see the Mediterranean-themed development through virtual reality, clicking on the respective towns, amenities and villas to get a first-hand experience of what life will be like in this water-inspired community—be it the waterfalls, the floating cinema, the gondola rides or the artificial beach. 

To check out the experience please visit: https://lagoons.damacproperties.com/

Moving forward, potential VR technology applications can also add further value to a developer’s or broker’s services. As part of its commitment to innovation, DAMAC is now working towards a one mobile app solution for all touch points with the company, right from the point a customer shows interest in its properties, to when they are residing in any of the property developer’s communities. 

We are working on enabling customers to manage all services through mobile device including streamlining access to our communities, apartments, amenities and parking areas. This eliminates the need for them to take time out of their day to physically visit management offices, which saves time and energy of both customers and employees.

All that said, I firmly believe that VR and other tech applications will be a key differentiator for real estate companies moving forward.

-Jayesh is the Chief Information Officer for DAMAC Properties. He has 21+ years of demonstrated experience in spearheading and maintaining Information Technology in global multinationals and regional industries in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Oceania.