Virtual reality is a technology that has been gaining traction in usage over the past few years, even more so during the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Movement Control Order (MCO) and ensuing restrictions made all physical real estate selling processes, including house tours and sales and purchase agreements next to impossible at that time.
In a 2022 study by the Centre of Studies for Estate Managements at Universiti Teknologi Mara titled The Implementation of Virtual Reality (VR) Technology in Real Estate Industry, 27.3% of sixty respondents within the real estate industry were familiar with VR tours. Another report by Zipdo called Essential VR in Real Estate Statistics in 2023 showed that VR tours save 60% of unproductive viewings and that it increases the chance of renting or selling a property by 130%. The report also found that 60% of home buyers value virtual and 3D home tours when browsing online home listings, and estimates 216 million VR users in real estate by 2025.
As such, the real estate market has been chosen as one of many application areas of virtual reality technology. VR tours provide a number of benefits over traditional property viewings. Many realtors and homeowners consider staging a home through VR tours as a crucial part of increasing potential buyers. That way, these technologies have become more approachable to the public now and viewing a home from the comfort of one’s own has never been easier.
With today’s technology, traditional photos or videos just do not cut it anymore. VR tours provide a more immersive and realistic experience which can make the viewer feel as though they are actually standing on the property. They can get a true sense of the layout and flow of the property, as well as the size and feel of the rooms. This will definitely help them make informed decisions about whether that particular property is right for them.
Unfortunately, not every developer or agent can offer VR tours since they can be expensive to produce. The cost of producing a VR property tour will vary according to the size and complexity of the development while taking into account the level of detail required and the experience of the production team. In general, crafting a decent VR experience can cost anywhere from RM3,000 to RM10,000 or more.
The technology to produce VR tours is also still relatively new and expensive to procure. It can only really be afforded by developers with bigger prominence, and with the Malaysian property market being as competitive as it is, these developers are willing to pay a premium for high-quality VR tours that can help sell their properties faster. Despite the high costs, however, VR tours are becoming increasingly popular in Malaysia and gaining recognition for the immersive benefits it provides.
To immerse or not to immerse?
VR tours are difficult to incorporate to fully replace traditional property viewings. Not every person in Malaysia is technologically savvy, with many older folks preferring to stick to the viewing method they are used to. It also cannot fully replicate the physical experience of visiting a property in person. Potential buyers will not be able to touch and feel the materials used in the construction.
It definitely goes without saying that buyers still need to visit a property in person in order to get a true sense of its condition and have the agents answer any enquiries they may have. For many, VR tours are considered a preliminary filter for whether the property is suitable or not.
There is the concern that VR tours could lead buyers, especially young first-timers into impulsive decisions without fully understanding the property they are purchasing. These tours have the potential to create a false sense of reality and showcase only the positive aspects of the property. It could even be used to hide defects in the property, making it look more appealing than it actually is.
Despite these setbacks, VR tours can be a valuable tool for real estate developers in Malaysia. These tours can give potential buyers a better understanding of the property and help reduce the number of physical viewings required, saving more time and effort compared to that of twenty years ago.
(This article was first published in Star Biz7 on October 28, 2023.)