It’s no secret; the coronavirus pandemic has rocked 2020 and forever changed the world around us, with ‘old’ methods and ‘the way we’ve always done things’ no longer leading to the best outcomes. People are now more conscious of their health. Their hygiene. Their wellbeing. And are hyperaware of their ability – or inability as it may be – to access physical spaces and what is now truly possible through technology.
And for real estate and the property market, the pandemic coined COVID-19 has forever changed the way people will view and buy property. How you or your next buyer will view and buy property.
That change? The digitalisation of the property experience and sale.
In fact, the New York Times recently stated that “Real estate transactions have gone largely digital as the pandemic has disrupted nearly every aspect of home buying, from house-hunting to securing a mortgage, getting an appraisal, notarising documents and signing the final closing documents.”
While some of those digital elements like DocuSign and online marketing were already somewhat widely accepted in the Australian Real Estate space, there was one digital element that was lagging.
And that was 3D virtual property tours.
I say ‘was’ lagging as that is now rapidly changing in Australia, with 3D virtual tours or virtual ‘open home’ uptake exponentially on the rise. While this technology is not new, the restrictions we’ve seen and the changes to buyer and human behaviour have enabled this immersive technology to get a strong foothold in the Australian real estate landscape.
As a result, buyers and vendors alike are now expecting to be able to access properties virtually – from not only the safety and comfort of their own loungeroom but more so, from interstate and around the world.
THE TRENDING UP UPTAKE OF 3D VIRTUAL TOURS
A 3D virtual tour is a realistic, immersive way to experience property. Using a 3D scanner (not to be confused with less immersive 360-degree photos), a property is quickly and easily scanned creating a ‘digital twin’ that people can walk through like they were in the property itself – all from their smartphone or PC.
And these scans, allowing ‘virtual open homes’, are quickly on the rise around the globe, with search traffic for real estate virtual tours and related terms spiking since March this year. Zillow, a US-based Real Estate buying service with a market value of over $US25 billion saw their 3D scan numbers go up over 500% between March and April this year. Their CEO Richard Barton said, “you’re seeing years of technology progress get accelerated down into months.”
3D VIRTUAL TOURS AS PART OF THE DIGITISED SALES PROCESS
Real estate 3D virtual tours are not about marketing. They’re not photography on steroids. Virtual Tours allow sellers and agents to open a property to anyone anywhere in the world. It’s the open home on steroids.
From overseas and interstate buyers, busy families, fly-in-fly-out or shift workers and a whole lot of other influencers in the buying process.
And while this will not solely replace the in-person open home for those in the general local area of a property, it plays a critical part to entice more qualified buyers and increase competition in the property.
It also means for agents or for-sale-by-owner sales, that more time can be spent with qualified leads, removing the tyre-kickers and the ‘this room isn’t right and looks different to the photos’ attendees through this virtual qualification stage.
HOW LIKELY IS THIS TECHNOLOGY TO TAKE OFF IN AUSTRALIA?
The short answer? Very. And it’s already occurring. During the pandemic, Realestate.com.au released stats that showed the use of 3D Virtual Tours skyrocketing, with use in June 2020 up 429% from March/April 2020, with traction still continuing since.
Properties with virtual tours are also seeing increased online engagement time, clearly demonstrating that consumers are just as hungry for this technology as the agents are who can see its tremendous benefits.
And with a price point that opens this up to the entire market (for example through VT Australia – Australia’s fastest-growing virtual tour company – full 3D scans of a property under 500sqm sit at just $299 incl. GST.), there is very little to no barrier for entry.
So, the question is now this… it’s not ‘if’ agents and owners should be using virtual tours as part of the sales process, but rather ‘who’ will catch this wave as early adopters and reap the new-world rewards.
By Josh Callaghan
Josh Callaghan is a dynamic and seasoned leader and expert in the world of both technology and property. For over 20 years, Josh has been using his expertise in strategy, product, technology, and marketing to make significant notable transformations in fintech, proptech and the interplay of technology and humans.
His career achievements to date include launching the world’s first bank account with both variable and fixed interest, creating Australia’s first straight-through online bank account opening process, building Australia’s most used retail stockbroking CRM, building Australia’s biggest online financial comparison site and launching the world’s first digital tenancy agreement executed as a smart contract on the blockchain. Josh now leads proptech start-up company Little Hinges, a world leader in digitising spaces.