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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.

Is Virtual Staging the Future Way of Selling a Home?

Virtual staging is a relatively new concept, but it may be the ideal option for many sellers when it comes to putting a home on the market.

Staging your home creates an inviting atmosphere and helps potential buyers envision their own space. But hiring a professional service can be an expensive and time-consuming process. Fortunately, virtual staging is solving that problem. Keep reading to learn more about the amazing benefits of virtual home staging.

What is Virtual Staging?

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Unlike traditional staging, which uses rented furniture and decorative items to make a home look appealing, virtual staging takes an empty home and adds furniture via the web. Virtual services use pictures of your empty home and add furniture, rugs and accessories to give your home the optimum aesthetic.

Sellers Save Money

Virtual staging is also much more cost-effective than traditional staging. While prices vary, the virtual market demands around $100 per room. Compare that to the cost of traditional staging, which can easily cost more than $2,000 up front — and an additional $500 to $600 a month — and the choice is obvious for homeowners on a budget. Virtual staging also helps sellers with lower-priced homes turn a profit or pay off a mortgage when they sell.

Benefits for Buyers

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Virtual staging also benefits buyers. When visiting an empty house, a buyer actually has the ability to see more details of the space. For many buyers, the ability to see a home in the raw allows them to imagine whether or not the space is truly right for their furniture and sense of style. That can be hard to do when a place is full of rented furniture.

Does it Work?

Virtual staging is a relatively new concept, but it may be the ideal option for many sellers when it comes to putting a home on the market. The fact that it is cost-effective for sellers and visually enticing to potential buyers makes it a promising addition to today’s real estate market.

3x2017: Tech Trends That Impact Real Estate

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Presented at the Inman Connect New York Conference

Stories about people and their connection to place are at the heart of what we do at The New York Times, no more so than within the real estate section. So today, I’m going to share with you three short stories, which I hope will serve as food for thought for your year ahead. I believe that storytelling is at the heart of communities, families and cultures. It’s also at the heart of memories. And as a passionate advocate of real estate brands, products and building things to make the process more enjoyable, especially in New York, I believe it’s in the DNA of what it feels like to own a home.

As you can imagine, The New York Times is going through an exciting, unprecedented period of change. But in making our journalism actionable, we believe that true, future-facing value not only for our readers, but the users of the services we build, comes from bridging the gap between our journalism, and problems in our users’ lives. As such, we build tools for everyday living, built squarely upon the expertise and authority of our newsroom, with the clear premise that these tools become more valuable in our readers’ lives over time. In short, we believe that the future belongs to those who are relentlessly helpful, something we share a clear alignment with the Real Estate industry as it too continues to undergo seismic changes. We believe that this is the only way to grow a business in 2017.

With that in mind, let’s dive in here.

The first trend we’re seeing enormous momentum behind, especially at The Times, is Virtual Reality.

It feels as if we’re finally at that tipping point where, after many false starts and promises of truly immersive experiences, we’re at that point where VR is going to hit the mainstream. With an aggressive democratization of the means of experiencing VR content, most notably through Google Cardboard, falling hardware prices fueled by Sony, Samsung, Microsoft, the gaming industry, and Facebook’s $2 billion acquisition of Oculus, it certainly seems as if 2016 is going to be the year where VR begins to gain some long-awaited traction.

Indeed, combined with some truly innovative new forms of storytelling, late last year some of you may know that we distributed 1.3 million Google Cardboard devices through one of the oldest forms of distribution, the newspaper. But cutting through the hype, it’s probably going to be off to a slow start, with traction around gaming in particular only picking up towards the end of the year, especially when titles such as Minecraft begin to ship for the Oculus Rift around the holidays, and June’s Playstation VR headsets (which are rumored to be significantly cheaper than Oculus) begin to hit stores.

As Ben Schachter of Macquarie Capital cautions,

“To over use the not used often enough baseball analogy, we don’t even think we are in the first inning yet. For VR, we have just pulled into the parking lot and tailgating is about to begin. Samsung just arrived with a six-pack of Bud Light, Facebook called and is bringing a new microbrew, and Sony might bring a more mass-market palatable ale. By the end of 2016, we’ll have a better sense of what’s been brewing at Google, Microsoft, and perhaps Apple might even stop by just to see where this is all going. Only after 2016 will the VR game begin.”

For the Real Estate industry, we’ve seen the growing democratization of VR through great folks like Matterport or Floored, but this is a much bigger opportunity. For those of you who work with international, or relocation clients, the opportunity to give them a remote, but truly immersive tour of your apartment might be something really special. We’re already seeing some of this via Google Hangouts, where the agent ‘drives’ for the client, but there’s also those agents who send the Oculus headsets around the world to prospective customers, especially in the commercial space, to let them ‘walk around’ the property themselves.

So the dynamics of falling prices, and a growing democratization of the tools needed to experience this are certainly something to keep an eye on this year, especially for those of you who have kids.

Second, it’s no secret that there’s more being produced than ever before. Indeed, as Erica Berger suggests, there’s a very real sense that the ecosystem we’re in right now is at highest editorial capacity for content, coupled with a shifting revenue stream away from publishers and to networks and large tech companies. That’s why she, and many other marketers suggest we’ve reached ‘Peak Content’.

Not only is this an assault on our attention, but it’s also an increasing challenge to keep up with. Especially in the Real Estate industry, while there’s no shortage of things that agents ‘could’ be doing on social platforms for example, the overwhelming challenge is simply keeping up. Not only is producing enough content fraught with its own logistical challenges, just the effort to respond to all the different points of interaction in a genuine, consistently interesting way is incredibly time-consuming, and for many, just exhausting. For many of us, the tyranny of our own inbox is enough. Ultimately, it’s not unreasonable to expect that, at some point, the investment necessary to keep attention will be higher than the impact on revenue.

For some context on what I’m talking about, here’s what happens every second on the internet:

  • More than 8,000 tweets go live
  • More than 1,500 Instagrammers post images
  • More than 54,000 people click “like” on Facebook
  • 92,000 YouTube videos play
  • 46,700 people conduct Google searches

And perhaps most shockingly, more than two million three hundred thousand emails go out every single second. Most of them from Inman Select signups of course (just kidding).

And if you think about where that revenue is flowing, towards sites such as Facebook, Google, Amazon, or YouTube, the main point of differentiation is that these sites don’t actually create anything themselves. This, of course, bears close parallels with larger Real Estate portals, who while fantastically skilled at the assimilation and interaction of cross-platform search experience, are not the source of anything they present as a ‘result’. Now, I’m not suggesting we’ll see a reclaiming of content from any of these services, but in the spirit of being relentlessly helpful, and making your own knowledge actionable for your customers, the means of that distribution comes sharply into question.

Ultimately we’re talking about the transference of value here, and for agents and brokerages in particular, the commoditization of listings data isn’t the question any more. The production of listings online isn’t either. So what is? For us at The Times, we hear from our users that finding listings isn’t a problem they have. But finding which neighborhood to look in still hasn’t been solved online, and this is a key value proposition when it comes to the agent. But very often that discussion is a cautious one based on Fair Housing implications. So how do you solve for finding that great neighborhood? I’m not talking about making blog-like ‘guides’, I’m talking about genuinely helping the userin the moment, solve for something that’s a very real problem for them. And brokerage sites, this is a call to action for you. Digitize what’s inside your agents’ heads, and you might be able to play here.

My last point is related to this idea of peak content, which is that given everything that’s being produced, curation as a philosophy is an obvious necessity, but as a business is a bit of an enigma. As Om Malik accurately describes it, ‘the problem with curation is that no one wants to pay for it’. This is no truer than for Real Estate professionals, who consistently have to distill all the information about the market, pricing, the process, inventory, neighborhoods or timing for each customer. In many ways, I think that Real Estate professionals are the ultimate curators. But very often that value proposition is in question, often eroded by agents less than willing to justify their commission check. This impacts everyone, even the perception of high-performing agents, and certainly the brand of the industry as a whole. Ultimately, the act of curation is about reflecting a point of view, but from a business perspective, sending people elsewhere very often doesn’t make sense.

A great example of what I mean here is the difference between what’s served up in the search results experience online, versus what an agent does with their customer. It’s not about volume of results and comprehensiveness, it’s about empathy, guidance, insight and understanding. And it’s the key point of differentiation between an agent and a portal. So in shaping the experiences of our customers, curation is increasingly a challenge, not only given the amount of content being produced every day (we write the equivalent of a Harry Potter book every day at The Times for example), but also our need to remain relevant in our customers’ lives, AND our future customers’ lives. In many ways, you are what you share. There’s many agents who do this fantastically well, truly ‘owning’ their respective markets, but for too long these folks have been in the minority.

So when we look forward to the kinds of technology trends which will shape Real Estate in 2016, keep an eye on the gaming industry in particular, as VR has the capability to hit our industry like a long overdue freight train, but also keep in mind that more is being produced than ever before, so distribution might be best thought out strategically, rather than from a ‘fear of missing out’ perspective. And lastly, curation is your key competitive differentiator, so use it wisely, sparingly, and stay relentless helpful as a means of remaining relevant.

I hope you enjoyed my stories. Thank you.

The original post: here.

Real estate brokers using virtual reality to show homes remotely

Can you picture yourself here?  It is one of the more important — and subjective — questions in the real estate industry. It is also the hardest to answer. For spaces under construction, still in the design phase or too far away to tour, prospective tenants can only speculate about what their experiences will be. How can potential tenants best visualize themselves in a space that doesn't exist? How can they foster an emotional connection with it? 

Virtual reality offers a way to cut through the uncertainty. Equipped with immersive, virtual versions of properties, architects, designers, sales agents and tenants will revolutionize how they interact with real and proposed spaces. Outside of the entertainment world, VR is still seen as more toy than tool. Widely used devices — like Google Cardboard and Gear VR — rely on smartphones for power, making them cheaper and portable. While mobile devices can sufficiently play a pre-recorded video, they are not ideal for experiencing a space in real time. The limited computing power reduces property walk-throughs to static 360 panoramas like Google Street View, instead of generating a truly immersive experience. They can also induce motion sickness, contributing to shorter viewing times of 30 to 60 seconds. Prospective tenants are forced to leave before they get to thoroughly explore the space.

Real estate professionals depend on realism — and a lack of nausea — to convey design choices and amenities; subpar imagery is ineffective, gimmicky and calls attention to the hardware. Cardboard goggles, like 3D glasses, can look more like 21st century parlor tricks. Real estate visualization companies have challenged this perception by developing high-end virtual reality as a powerful sales tool. These full-scale headsets produce more immersive and interactive experiences. NYC-based Hasten VR is using this technology to bring a deeper understanding of its clients' properties than a paper brochure can offer.

The HTC Vive, one of Hasten VR’s available high-end headsets, achieves greater immersion by tracking full room-scale motion, using two sensors that follow the user’s movement in 3D space. Instead of tapping the headset or looking at the floor to move, the Vive instead allows users to physically walk over to an object and interact with it in a normal, organic way. Hasten VR wants its clients to feel like they can reach out and touch objects in the virtual world, and be surprised when they find out that they actually can.

The star of the show should not be the technology. It should be the property. Take a seat on the couch in your next apartment, walk through the courtyard of a planned shopping center, or step out onto the balcony and view the actual city skyline from your new rooftop employee lounge — currently under construction. Users can also customize the space, changing everything from furniture to landscaping. Full-scale headsets work to make the interface secondary to the experience, prompting users to spend more time getting to know the virtual space and developing the strong emotional connection needed to sell it.

This makes high-end virtual reality ideal for use not only in pre-leasing and sales, but also at conferences, trade shows and for architectural reviews. For marketing teams and sales agents pitching to CRE developers, dynamic visuals strike a lasting impression and make them stand out among competitors. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then virtual reality conveys a million. While Hasten VR does provide a full range of virtual reality solutions for every project, including traditional 2D and 360 fly-through videos and web-based tours, the most-sought-after solution is its high-end VR experience.

While each VR visual presentation is designed to last five minutes, clients often want to keep the headsets on longer. After all, in a perfectly realized virtual world, who wants to leave?

To learn more about this Hasten VR content partner, click here.

Virtual staging. Fact or fiction?

Does virtual staging really meet customer’s expectations?

Let’s use figures first.

There is a 30% increase in web traffic to the listing page as a result of having a virtually staged photo as the feature photo, versus a vacant photo. Another huge uptick was a reported percentage increase in open house traffic after the images were replaced.

An AOL Money and Finance poll showed that 87% of buyers said home presentation makes the difference in most sales.

“The 2010 home staging statistics released by RESA show that a staged home spends 78% less time on the market than an un-staged home.” National Association of Realtors

 “We were able to draw two offers within the first week and actually closed on the property in just 17 days, capturing 96% of its list price,” Liz Bankston of The Bankston Group.

More figures!

You can save up to $5 000 choosing Hasten’s virtual staging rather than ordinary home staging. Virtual staging doesn’t create the odd illusion when a customer comes to see the property. Moreover, it’s easier to show several options of different interiors than keep on moving-in and out the bulky furniture. It will take Hasten team from 2 days to stage the whole property completely. 

There may be an 82% sales increase.

Still doubt to use virtual staging?

Hasten guarantees 100% realism of the photos and charge only after a project is completed and a client as totally satisfied with the result.

Virtual staging unlocks the potential of the property by means of showing the possible interior solution for a customer. It helps to feel the atmosphere of home. Cozy interior is much more appealing than bare walls after all.

Hasten is highly recommended by hundreds of real estate agents in NYC. Our unique software and personal approach to every client leads to perfect results. See for yourself.