Using Virtual Reality to Buy and Sell Your House

You may think that touring homes by virtual reality is a thing of the future, but if you’re looking for a luxury home, the future is already here. A number of high-end realtors are already making it possible for people to stop by their office and view homes virtually all over the country. (Read our tutorial: Buying a Home.) Coldwell Banker and Sotheby’s International Realty are two of the leaders in virtual house shopping.

An Expensive Option

Right now it costs $300 to $700 to scan a home for a virtual showing, so it tends to be used only on high-priced homes. However, some expect the price to drop to a more affordable range for lower-cost homes within about five years. Hiring a professional with experience in shooting these virtual reality real estate tours can cost $3,000 or more.

In addition to the monies needed to actually produce a virtual tour, realtors also must invest in viewing equipment. Although they can go for cheap $5 card viewers from Google Cardboard, they are more likely to foot the bill for higher-end devices, which can range from $599 to $799 apiece.

House-Shopping Benefits

Once this technology becomes more price competitive and more readily available, virtual tours could provide a slew of benefits that will make it easier for sellers to show a house to more prospective buyers – and for those looking for a home to find one with less effort. These include:

  1. Long distance movers: You can attract people who are moving for a job change from across the country. They will be able to “walk” through your home and make a decision even without being there.
  2. Spousal sharing: Sometimes a spouse is offered a job and needs to start house-hunting quickly in a location that is hundreds of miles from home. The out-of-town spouse can narrow down the choices with live tours, while the spouse in the current home can stop by a local real estate office to take a virtual tour and be part of the final decision. This not only can make it easier to sell a home, but also less expensive for a family moving across the country to find a home.
  3. Virtual searches online: Facebook and Zillow already have the technology needed to upload a virtual tour, so as the prices drop for people to own their own viewers, it will become much more common to tour homes virtually using online resources.
  4. Staging a home: Realtors can find it difficult to sell a vacant home. Today people must work with a staging company and pay a lot of money for temporary furnishings and decorations. With virtual reality tours, the photographer can also edit the film to “fill” the rooms with virtual furniture.
  5. Fewer people walking through your home: As a seller, you may dislike “getting the home ready” for every visitor. If more people can see the home via virtual reality, only those truly interested in purchasing will need to take a walk-through, which should reduce the curiosity seekers as well as those who decide, when they see it, that the floor plan is not to their taste. (See: Selling Your House? Avoid These Mistakes.)
  6. Less need for appointments: Sometimes a deterrence to a sale can be the need to set appointments, especially if the home is currently rented or for another reason cannot be available on short notice. One can miss a buyer just because he or she could not see it during their short shopping spree before a move. This happens frequently with out-of-town shoppers who do a fast tour over a long weekend. Virtual reality will make it possible for them to see your home even it they can not walk through it while in town. (Check out: Playing Hardball When Selling Your Home.)

The Bottom Line

Virtual reality real estate tours are already available for high-priced homes, but as the cost of doing them drops, it will likely become a popular way for many people to house-shop. The seller will still have to prepare the home for the photographer, just as though a buyer were going to walk through it, but won’t have to do it for every tour. For emptied homes, it can save the expense of staging.