Virtual Reality: Please Step Inside

Like all industries, real estate is being constantly reshaped by technology. We’ve been following the progress of virtual reality for a while, and had an opportunity to take a first hand look at the current state of the art.

A company called Matterport developed a specialized camera that takes 360 degree photos, and then uses the resulting images to present the home in different ways. Below is an example of their presentation for 88 Terry Road in Hartford’s West End.

The Viewing Options

One presentation is the “dollhouse” view, which presents the entire building with the exterior walls missing. You are able to spin the house to look into the different rooms. This presentation gives a sense of the floor plan, and how the different rooms relate to each other in space.

Another presentation is the “floor plan” view, which is basically the same as the “dollhouse” except you are looking straight down from above. You can select which level of the home to view, and see the different spaces with their furnishings in place.

Next, Matterport lets you “explore 3D space.” This view positions you at the various camera locations and allows you to pan side to side, and up and down, to see in every direction from that spot. You can move from spot to spot, touring the entire home. The navigation and overall experience is similar to the online mapping sites’ street views, and works well on a phone.

Finally, the “virtual reality” presentation makes the 3D space immersive by allowing you use VR goggles to stand at the camera locations and look around as if you were physically standing in the building. This is the newest presentation format, and the one that I was most excited to try. I wanted to see what kind of experience the system offered.

Getting Started with Virtual Reality

Getting involved in virtual reality sounds expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. You don’t need cutting edge technology to tour a house, so I decided to start with the most basic experience.

I brought a Google Cardboard compatible viewer for $5 at my local electronics store, and paired it with a retired cell phone. It was easy to get the equipment up and running, and accessing the VR experience for the house was equally simple.

VR Viewer

As my first virtual reality experience, immersing myself in the home tour was easy and enjoyable. The software makes it obvious how to jump between camera locations, and the processing power on my old phone was more than enough to allow the images to move seamlessly as I turned my head from side to side.

I had fun exploring the house. My best experiences in traveling though the home were while sitting in my desk chair, which allowed me to easily spin 360 degrees without worrying about falling over or walking into anything.

Virtual Reality and Selling Homes

The question we’re hoping to answer with this test run is this: is virtual reality a good way to present a home so that it makes a favorable impression on potential buyers? It’s a cool experience, and it’s fun to try out, but how will buyers use it during their home search?

Most technologies are adopted very slowly in the real estate industry. The decision to use virtual reality, or any new technology, is made on an agent by agent basis. Every market is highly fragmented, with even the best agents only listing a small percentage of the properties.

Since marketing expenses like this are fronted by the listing agent and only covered if the house sells, agents can be reluctant to try new technologies that have a high cost and unknown value. For example, many agents still take their own listing photos rather than pay for a professional photographer. In the near term, buyers won’t be able to experience the majority of the homes they are interested in touring using virtual reality.

If our listings offer VR tours, will that be an advantage or a detriment? Only a small percentage of buyers are likely to choose to experience the home in VR. And, a virtual tour is highly unlikely to be sufficient to convince a buyer to submit an offer. But will buyers feel like the VR experience is enough to eliminate a property from consideration? My goal as a listing agent is to get buyers into the house, since that’s where the purchase decision is made.

Another way to think about the VR experience is as an alternative to an open house. A main benefit of open houses is that it gives buyers who have already seen the house in person an opportunity to explore it again and reflect on how they would use the space. Will buyers use the virtual reality tour to reinforce the positive impressions they had while touring a home in person?

We would love to get additional input on virtual reality as a technology for presenting houses. What do you think? Would you consider exploring a home in this manner? Does the technology and presentation make you think more favorably about the home? Please leave a comment, or send me a quick note at

Lego House: Split Level

Lego House - Split Level

Split level homes are a common sight in Greater Hartford. However, they don’t show up in all neighborhoods. The vast majority of the split level homes in the county were built in the 1950s and 1960s, so expect to find them in neighborhoods developed in that era.

2017-03-06 When Were Split Level Homes Built

Deck Season

There’s nothing better than taking some time to relax outside on a warm day. Catch up on some reading, drink a cold beverage, maybe even take a nap. There is something magical about warm spring days.

This deck is ready for spring. There is room for a nice sized table, the grill, and some lounge chairs.

88 Terry Deck

You can even get a nice deck in a condo. It’s rare, but we have one listed right now that has a huge private deck.

7e Staunton Deck

Spring is a wonderful time of year, and I’m very much looking forward to spending more time outside to take advantage of the warmer weather.

Happy spring everyone!

Welcome Back, Daylight Saving Time

Switching the clocks twice a year is a time honored tradition. But, as far as I can tell, there is nobody who passionately supports the practice. Everyone just plays along and feels grumpy for the first week after the clocks “spring forward.”

I’m here to celebrate the return of Daylight Saving Time. Overnight, sunset changed from a little before 6:00 to a little before 7:00. This picture was taken last night at 7 o’clock. The sky is still bright, and it’s possible to distinguish some colors. Welcome back, friend!

2015-03-08 Still Light at Seven

Showing buyers houses in the dark is not very productive. It is difficult to get a good sense of a lot and its surroundings. It is impossible to know how bright the interior of the home will be in natural light. And one has to imagine how the sun will shine on the structure and yard.

Pushing the sunset an hour later makes it possible to tour homes in the evening hours after most buyers get out of work. That’s very helpful as we approach the spring real estate market.

All the real estate agents out there just got an extra hour of productive time. An extra hour to take buyer on tours, and an extra hour for our listings to be shown. Last week we had enough time to show one house after work in the daylight – maybe. This week we might actually be able to tour three or four.

Happy Daylight Saving, everyone! I’ll play the role of the one excited person as everyone else struggles to adjust to the lost hour of sleep.

Off Roading

I encountered this situation the other day while pulling into a condo community’s parking lot.

2015-02-26 Off Roading

The photo doesn’t really do justice to the depth of the ice ruts. They were easily four inches deep – and that’s before speculating on the depth of the water in the tracks. They were serious ruts. I grew up in Vermont and don’t recall seeing anything like this on the dirt roads up there.

I drive a sedan, and one that is not particularly high off the ground. The terrain in front of me seemed a bit risky; I was pretty sure that the car would bottom out if I forged ahead. I backed out and parked on the street.

Real estate apparently requires off roading, even in the City. Perhaps when the time comes to replace my car I should choose something a little more rugged.