Let’s face it—it’s tough to overlook a home’s outdated decor or view an empty, cold room and try to envision the possibilities of living there. Some home buyers may miss out on finding the perfect property simply because they aren’t inspired. But what if you could take out a smartphone or tablet and instantly show clients the exact room, but with updated furnishings, swapping out countertop styles or even paint colors to fit their personal tastes? The home’s possibilities are no longer left to the imagination.
Some real estate brokerages and technology firms are calling augmented reality the “future of home showings.” At the forefront of the trend, luxury broker Sotheby’s International Realty recently debuted a mobile virtual staging augmented reality app—Curate by Sotheby’s International Realty—that allows house hunters and brokers to virtually stage a room with furniture as they’re standing in it by viewing it through a smartphone lens. Buyers can instantly view the room in different furnished perspectives and design styles, from traditional to modern.
Most of the buzz in recent years has been centered on the possibilities of virtual reality and touring spaces remotely using headsets. But for those who can still get to the space in person, augmented reality may be a way to build a deeper impression of a property. Unlike VR, augmented reality more closely mimics the real world but uses picture overlays that appear when viewing a space in person.
Augmented reality is being fused into other applications as well, such as superimposing navigation directions on a driver’s line of sight (check out WayRay’s Navion) or offering up digital image overlays for DIY home repairs. Furniture companies, like Ikea and Wayfair, have been using AR apps to allow customers to test out furniture placements in their real spaces using a smartphone or tablet.
In real estate, augmented reality could potentially save brokers thousands of dollars by no longer having to physically stage a space, says John Passerini, vice president of interactive marketing at Sotheby’s International Realty. Using AR, a mobile device can offer instant perspectives with a variety styles, far more than physically staging a space could.
Sotheby’s, which also has been on the forefront of conducting home showings using virtual reality headsets, wanted to test consumers’ appetite for AR, too. Its new app is powered by roOomy, a virtual staging tech platform, and features a curated selection of AR interior designs, like modern living rooms and traditional dining rooms, to give consumers the opportunity to swap styles and find their favorite. The virtual home furnishings used in the app can also be purchased on a retailer’s website, if home shoppers wanted to make the digital set up a reality.
“The great thing about AR is all you need is the phone,” says Passerini. “Suddenly the buyer can start imaging how they would live in that home and view it in several design options. It helps home buyers overcome any visualization barriers they may have when viewing properties.”
Next up, get ready for AR to join VR with more experimentation and adoption over the next decade in real estate. A Goldman Sachs report predicts that the virtual reality and augmented reality market in real estate could top $2.6 billion by 2025. Consumers may already be prepared to embrace it too: Of 2,000 consumers recently surveyed by Bank of America, 36 percent of respondents said they would be comfortable attending an open house using virtual or augmented reality.
Tech giants have opened their platforms to developing more augmented reality apps, which gained even more momentum with Apple’s ARKit debut last year. Expect bigger growth in AR from that, says Alper Guler, head of sales and marketing at the New York–based Pandora Reality. He foresees AR having a larger presence in helping with home design, bringing to life architecture renderings of buildings, and even in training, such as home tutorial manuals where you just point your mobile device at a home system and it gives you manual information.
Pandora Reality creates AR tools to show off unfinished spaces in real estate. For example, the firm will take a physical architectural miniature model of a new building and then use augmented reality to create a hologram-like image of the exterior and interior of the space.
“I believe it’s important to start understanding what’s happening in the augmented reality market to learn what the capabilities are and what customers are looking for,” Guler says. “Then, you’ll be ready for it when it’s fully here.”
Try it: AR Apps for Real Estate
Here are a few augmented reality apps for real estate.
HomeSpotter: This AR technology allows users to instantly view nearby properties by aiming their smartphone or tablet at a home or condo building. As users point their device toward a property or down the street, the app will overlay property information on a device’s live camera feed.
Magicplan: Create a floorplan within minutes. You can capture a room while you walk around it with your mobile device to get a virtual representation of the home’s floor plan. The app can also help calculate the amount of materials needed for DIY projects, like for painting supplies or flooring.
View in My Room 3D: Houzz, the home remodeling and decor website, rolled out an app for both Android and iOS that allows users to place virtual 3D furnishings or accessories in a room. Users can place more than 1 million home furnishings and accessories that fit various styles and budgets.
Curate by Sotheby’s International Realty: View a home with different furniture or home styles by looking at the space through a smartphone camera. Any property can be viewed using the app. It’s available for Android users, with an iOS version slated to roll out by the end of May.
Realtor.com®’s Street Peek: As you stroll around town, learn more details about homes for sale by just pointing your phone’s camera at it. Realtor.com®’s Street Peek feature will show the listing or rental price, recently sold price, estimated value, and number of bedrooms and bathrooms for the house that is framed inside the app.
Homesnap’s Walk the Property Lines: Use your phone or tablet as you get a real-time, physical view of the property’s boundaries. Your smartphone or tablet will display the property lines on top of a real-time view captured by the device’s built-in camera.
Pandora Reality: An augmented reality developer that creates programs that projects or overlays real estate information on the physical world through a mobile device. View architecture 3D mini models or floor plans as you would a hologram, navigating the interior or exterior spaces, with the company’s AR solutions.