Virtual House Hunting Gets a Pandemic Boost

Padraig Belton from the BBC writes about how house hunters are using virtual-reality headsets to tour homes in the age of coronavirus. From the report: It’s not for everyone as, at the moment, house hunters have to use their own headsets. But Giles Milner, marketing director at estate agent Chestertons, says he will sometimes send buyers headsets for new-build properties, if a development has multiple near-identical apartments with some still being built. “Developers are often selling off-plan, and it’s hard to sell a product just on a 2D floor plan,” he says. “So developers these days have virtual tours budgeted in from the start.” Once you have a headset, it’s a fairly simple process to find a virtual property on the estate agent’s website, using a hand controller to work a virtual keyboard.

It’s still a fairly limited option, at the moment just 8% of Zoopla’s listings have an option for a virtual tour. But Zoopla says there was a surge of activity during the first month of lockdown, when virtual reality (VR) viewings of new-build properties tripled. […] Virtual reality offers greater detail than the traditional photos on a website. It also saves time for estate agents and is safer for everyone: “The last thing you want is for your staff members to get struck down with Covid-19,” Mr Shipside says. Growing adoption of VR viewing also makes life easier for clients moving internationally, when travel back and forth is hard. Buyers from mainland China looking at homes in Singapore have to observe the country’s strict fortnight quarantine on nearly all arrivals. So it makes sense to treat buying a house “just like online shopping,” says Christopher Wang, founder of Imme VR, a Singaporean virtual-reality property company.

A coming use of all this technology is letting prospective sellers find their property’s value without estate agents visiting. Another will be letting possible buyers see a property as if it had their furniture already installed in the home. Having this record of your property’s contents and their condition is especially beneficial if you ever have to submit an insurance claim — for something stolen, or fire or flood damage. Another use will be in getting quotes from builders. Instead of contractors measuring and taking photos, going away and coming back with bids, a digital twin could instead let more contractors bid on the work — giving power to the homeowner.

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