Topics Covered: 1. Why are VR Home Tours Valuable? 2. How Should You Distribute Your 360 Real Estate Tours? 3. What is the Basic Process for Creating a VR Home Tour App? 4. Special Considerations Unique to Real Estate Apps 5. Client Examples
1. Why are VR Home Tours Valuable?
Tech-savvy real estate professionals have been major beneficiaries of the recent explosive growth in virtual reality. Whether capturing home tours themselves — or outsourcing to production or media agencies — realtors recognize the value in effectively marketing a home through the latest and greatest technology. VR home tours allow agents to transcend traditional glossy one sheets and standard web pages to uniquely promote properties. VR is significantly changing the home shopping process.
Buying a home is a daunting decision. A lot of factors go into the decision into which homes to even initially look at — location, home features, backyard/front yard, value and a million other smaller facets. Winnowing down a list of potential homes is a significant part of home buying.
As a buyer’s agent, particularly in areas with large amounts of available inventory, utilizing VR can speed up the process of narrowing potential homes to visit in person. A potential buyer can use a VR headset (ie Samsung Gear VR) to look at multiple floorplans in a new development, to decide which one is the best fit. This is also true for new home developments where no actual model home has been built yet — where the buyer can decide if they’re likely to put down a future deposit based on immersive 3D renderings.
Buyer’s agents can also more effectively communicate with clients that aren’t in the immediate geographical proximity. Whether someone is buying a house for investment purposes, or as a vacation home, they’ll likely want to experience a home digitally before visiting it in person. Buyer’s agents with access to 360 home tours have a better shot at speeding up the buying process with these types of unique home buyers.
Seller’s agents probably see the bulk of the benefits of VR. First off, just offering VR as a potential marketing channel gives the agent a leg up in winning new clients. Secondly, if VR is done well and promoted properly, it can help reduce the amount of time a home is on the market. And finally, using VR expands your addressable market to potential buyers not located geographically close by. Overseas buyers, particularly in countries where VR adoption has been significant, might be more likely to consider the property you are representing, or potentially discover it through an app featuring multiple homes for sale.
Architecture and construction firms create some of the most immersive and impressive 3D VR renderings. They do so for a variety of reasons — to help others visualize, to get regulatory and community approval, for marketing/sales purposes, etc. One of the challenges though is in effectively distributing these 3D VR renderings. InstaVR makes that process exceedingly simple, allowing these professional firms to rapidly gather feedback on their projects.
VR home tours are a great marketing tool for real estate agents. Both Seller’s Agents and Buyer’s Agents can benefit from capturing and distributing 360 home tours.
2. How Should You Distribute Your 360 Real Estate Tours?
This is an extremely important question, which is why we’re dedicating a whole section to the topic. You can create an incredibly engaging and immersive VR real estate tour on the InstaVR platform, but you also must consider what are the appropriate channels for distribution. Below we’ll go through all the major InstaVR packaging options, and which audience is best suited for each of them.
- iOS/Android/Google Cardboard (Inhouse) – This option is great if you have a smaller, dedicated audience that you are either meeting in-person or have the email address for. You can, for instance, generate a QR code that allows people to download your home tour APK file to their Android phone. This is great for something like a trade show or smaller gathering, where you can meet people in person and show them the code to scan. iOS/Android is also great for sales/marketing teams — they can, for instance, pull up a 360 home tour on an iPad and use the gyroscope to show off what the inside of the house would look like. This use case is great as the audience you are showing won’t need to wear a headset.
- iOS/Android/Google Cardboard (iTunes or Google Play Store) – If you’re not meeting face-to-face with people, and you don’t have their email address, the easiest way to promote your real estate 360 tours is through the major phone platform Stores. This distribution channel simplifies things, as everyone with a smartphone should have an account with one of the two major stores. The other great benefit is people might “discover” your home tour, if marketed correctly. Google Cardboard users, of which there are 10 million+ in the US, can enjoy a very immersive experience from the comfort of their own existing home. If you’re an InstaVR Pro customer with a Developer Account, this is probably your best option.
- Gear VR– As mentioned in a previous blog post, Gear VR is one of our favorite platforms to publish to. Why? The immersive quality is superb, the hardware is fairly reasonably priced ($700 for phone + headset), the platform is portable, and you publish larger apps that you can on iOS/Android. (great for video!) If you have a limited audience — a trade show booth, a community development meeting, a sales presentation to a few executives — we strongly suggest investing in Gear VRs. And for architecture/BIM clients, the Gear VR is a great way to show off your immersive cubemap renderings.
- Web VR – Your biggest addressable audience for 360 media is still Web site visitors. You can download your InstaVR-authored home tour in zipped format and embed it directly on most major webpage authoring platforms. Using Web VR has a number of benefits — it can be used to preview and promote download of your VR apps, you can promote multiple homes at the same time on a web page, and it can be used in lieu of having your audience download an app to experience your 360 home tour (plus is Safari-compatible and can be turned into dual-view mode for headsets!).
There are many ways to distribute 360 tours created using InstaVR. Some of the more popular ways include iTunes Store, Google Play Store, Web Embed VR, branded Google Cardboard headsets, and via high quality Gear VR headsets.
3. What is the Basic Process for Creating a VR Home Tour App?
The actual mechanics of authoring a 360-degree home tour is no different than any other type of VR. There’s a great video on that general process embedded on the bottom of this page and we have a written step-by-step guide here. There are some special considerations though that we’ll cover in Section 4 of this page.
Below is a quick refresher on app creation, with special focus on things real estate VR publishers should note:
- Upload your panoramic 360 VR images and videos. Images should be in a standard panoramic format (ie .jpg, .png, .tiff) and videos should be .mp4s. Architects/Engineers/BIM Professionals can also use computer generated VR from software companies like Autodesk, VRay, Lumion, etc.
- Author using Navigation Links & Hotspots. You’ll want to add both Navigation links (so people can seamlessly travel room-to-room) and Hotspots (to highlight certain home features with overlaid images, videos, text or audio narration). Navigation links should make intuitive sense, so clients often put them in doorways. Hotspots should highlight features not readily apparent from the 360 images — perhaps a special flooring or granite type, or recent modifications that have been made by the latest owner.
- Brand your app. Just like with a standard mobile app, you’ll use our Console to create an app icon, splash image/video, and home screen. This is a great opportunity to highlight your company for branding purposes — perhaps someone experiencing the home tour will reach out to you to create an app for them when they’re ready to sell their home.
- Publish. This was covered in-depth in Section 2 above. Since the process is fairly straightforward, there really isn’t a downside to publishing across all the major platforms. If you run into issues, our support team is available 24/7, Monday – Friday (US Time) to help you out.
There are many types of media you can use to upload and create your 360 VR tour. These include panoramic images, 360 video, and computer-generated home plans.
4. Special Considerations Unique to Real Estate Apps
The app creation process for a home tour on InstaVR is relatively simple. However, because of the unique audience and goal of this VR, there are several things to take into consideration when creating your apps. We highlight several of them below.
Image/Video capture is of primary importance. Many real estate agents we talk with are making their first foray into VR or app creation. But media capture is an essential first step in creating a great virtual home tour. Above are media types we support. We suggest you do your own research (read the Amazon reviews!), but at the entry-level we highly recommend cameras such as the Ricoh Theta S, Insta360, and the Samsung Gear 360.
As mentioned in Section 3, using intuitive Navigation links and value-added HotSpots can make a home tour that much more valuable. It’s difficult to overemphasize how important these overlays are in the Authoring process.
You can publish a single app with multiple tours contained within it. The user will select the home they’re interested in touring at the Home Screen level. To access the “Multiple Tours” template, go to Screens -> Choose Template -> Home With Multiple Tours. On the main Authoring page of the Console, in the upper left hand corner, you will then see each tour listed (ie Tour 1, Tour 2, Tour 3, etc).
In the Authoring section, InstaVR allows you to include a gaze-based “Call-to-Action”. This is a great option to put at the end of your VR experience, allowing users of your app to pull up your phone number to one-click call you after looking at your home tours.
InstaVR Pro customer can publish to Web, providing a Zip file and web embed codes that can be incorporated into any website built using a common CMS system (eg WordPress). The importance of publishing your real estate tours to the Web can’t be overstated — it not only gives you the largest addressable audience, it also serves as an advertisement for people to download your Apps. Also, with WebVR, viewers of your 360 experience can double tap the screen on their phone to turn it into dual-screen mode, meaning you can share a fully realized 3D 360 tour without even requiring an app download.
5. Client Examples
Real Estate is one of the most popular use cases for InstaVR. The ability to provide an immersive 360 degree tour of a property is a very powerful marketing tool. With very little financial investment, and not too much time, you can create fully functioning VR home tours like these clients.
BDX – Builders Digital Experience is a premiere partner of InstaVR. For home developers interested in outsourcing the entire VR process — from image/video capture, to app authoring, to publishing & distribution — we highly recommend working with BDX. They’re experts at InstaVR, as well as the whole VR real estate marketing process.
See an example home tour app built by BDX here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.thebdx.eaglevision
Boca Grande Condo – This high quality tour from Tip of the Spear Media showcases a premium condo. Potential buyers from far away are given an intimate and immersive look at all aspects of the condo.
Nu Bar Lounge – Real Estate apps aren’t confined to private residences. You can create tours of commercial spaces — either to promote them or to try to fill a vacancy — and distribute easily through the major app stores.
If you or your clients work in real estate, strongly consider using VR as a memorable, immersive way to advertise properties. InstaVR provides a cost-effective, simple platform for you to create shareable 360 tours that will impress!