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Virtual viewing debate continues as another firm launches offering

A London start-up is the latest to launch virtual reality technology aimed at estate agents and property buyers. 

Launched last week, VirtuEye captures 3D images of a property which are then fed into a smartphone app.

The smartphone then needs to be connected to an ‘inexpensive virtual reality headset’ which allows viewers to be ‘transported’ to the property to undertake a virtual tour. 
 
VirtuEye says it is not trying to replace viewings but is trying to narrow-down the choices for buyers which, it says, will save agents time.

The start-up also says that traditional property photography is often misleading and a true sense of space is hard to obtain.

The firm’s co-founder, Ronaldas Buozis, comments: “We've managed to launch an accessible and faithful experience in three dimensions, something which has never been achieved before. It is truly as good as actually being there.”

Recently, in response to Cambridgeshire agency Thomas Morris hailing Twitter-owned app Periscope, a video communications firm has issued a warning to agents about the ‘potentially damaging consequences’ of using live streaming technology.

Tim Hammond, CEO of Agent Centric, says that users of Periscope – which allows live broadcasting – should be aware that the technology was not designed specifically for estate agents.

He goes on to list seven potential pitfalls of using the app to broadcast live property viewings including competing agents using broadcasts to promote their own properties, abusive live tweets and the fact that Periscope currently only functions in portrait mode, which doesn’t allow properties to be showcased effectively.

Meanwhile Alan Nash, director of ACE Property Management in Edinburgh, who claims to have been using Periscope to carry out viewings since April, has again taken to his blog to praise the innovation.

“I can hear the older generation of Property Managers and agents grumbling now. They will not be ready to embrace change and advancing technology. ‘We've always done things this way and have had no complaints,’” he writes.

“That's fine but the younger generation, the generation of renters and young landlords will be using Periscope and trust me you'll be chasing the forward thinking companies when you try to catch up!”

He says that as well as property viewings, he has been using the app as a management tool, allowing him to keep in touch with his staff, show landlords repairs and communicate with tradesmen so they can physically show him properties’ problems.

Nash’s full blog can be read in full here.

  • Karl Knipe

    Sounds very fancy and interactive, but my worry is that it's more of a gimmick than something that can used practically on a day to day basis.

  • Ronaldas Buozis

    Dear Karl, we would be delighted to show you a demonstration of our technology and justify why Virtual Reality will be a dominant innovation in non-gaming industries in the near future.

  • Richard White

    I'm just off to marry this woman I met via online dating. She's apparently tall, beautiful, funny, kind and doesn't weigh 23 stone in the slightest. Meet her in person, first?? Oh you're sooooo 20th Century. *Rolls Eyes*

  • Tim Gorgulu

    Interesting to see the criticisms made by Agent Centric. These things definitely need to be taken into consideration when it comes to these sorts of apps/virtual tours.

    It would appear they will be divisive for a few years to come - some will praise their innovation and interactivity, others will be sceptical of their usefulness. I'm still on the fence, to he honest. I like the idea of it, but cost, ease of use and reliability would all need to be guaranteed. It does, as Karl Knipe says, seem more like a fancy little gimmick at the moment.

  • Robert  McKechnie

    Fantastic concept. For me, this sort of thing is definitely the way forward - something time-poor buyers all over the country will appreciate. Innovation is what will drive the property industry forward. Innovation for innovation's sake is not what is needed, but I don't think that's the case here.

    Now we have all this smartphone/video technology, why not use it as much as possible?

  • Jon  Tarrey

    What you do in your spare time is of no interest to us, Richard :). What is of interest is the attitude of certain Luddites in the industry who can't see the value of using innovative, interactive tools like the above. Should we all just continue living in the Dark Ages?

  • Felicity Blair

    I'm still on the fence too I'm afraid. Although on paper it sounds fantastic and incredibly useful, but will it be reliable in real terms? I think I would have to see how this panned out before having it at my agency.

  • Richard White

    Are you living in the dark ages, Jon? I'm not. My Financial Services business uses all the latest innovations to deliver more bang for the customers buck. We use everything the net has to offer to deliver more in the most cost efficient way. What we do not do is waste money on things that, ultimately, have no value. Answer me this question honestly. Would you buy a property on the back of a virtual viewing?

  • Jon  Tarrey

    Well, no, obviously not. And I'm fairly sure that never happens, except in very extreme circumstances.

    But that's not really the point of virtual tours, is it? You don't buy off the back of it, but it's a good way for busy, time-poor buyers to get a first look at the property they might one day call home. It's the first step in the process, a taster.

    No-one is saying a virtual tour can replicate the thoughts and feelings a would-be buyer experiences when they go on an actual viewing, but it's arguably the next best thing. And it prevents time-wasters, doesn't it? If a person decides to view a property after seeing a virtual tour, it's more likely that they're serious about the house in question. Why would you view a house if you've been turned off by the virtual tour?

    It's just another marketing tool - better than photos, not as good as an actual viewing - but I think it is a great way of giving a first-look to prospective buyers. Professional, glossy photos don't really provide that - they're too unreal. A virtual tour can't hide things as much, it's much closer to what a person would see in real life.

  • Richard White

    I could write several extensive tomes dissecting your response, Jon, but for all our sakes I shall take the path of least resistance!

    You concede that nobody ever bought a property off the back of a virtual tour, but go on to say that it's the next best thing to a real viewing. I'm afraid there is no next best thing to a viewing. It's a bit like saying a virtual tour of your hotel room is the next best thing to a holiday. The human being has been blessed with many faculties and senses and the virtual tour, like photos, does not enable you to use them. It won't make you realise you hate the shape of the living room when you stand in it or tell you that every time you look out the window you see the fat bloke next door sunbathing in Speedos. In December.

    As for 'time wasters' as you put it (you'd have something to say if you heard an Agent describing punters thus), why would a virtual tour put them off? The type of person you refer to has no intention of buying under any circumstances and is, for want of a better expression, window shopping. Trust me, that person will love to use a virtual tour and then turn up and still not buy the place.

    Better than photos? That very much depends on the quality of the pics, doesn't it? If photos are honest and aren't taken with trick lenses or by someone who doesn't know which way round the camera goes, they are the perfect marketing tool; simple, clear and easy.

    What you have said has done nothing to change my mind. Will it prompt more viewings than good quality photos? No. Will it sell more houses? No. Will it arm the buyer with any knowledge they would otherwise not have had? No. Will it cost more? Yes.

    You'll have to excuse me. I'm just off to divorce that internet bride I married earlier. She turned out to be Geoff Capes! Tsk, who'd have thought!

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