Surreal Estate

Virtual Reality Tours Give Real Estate Builders And Buyers Room to Play

Back Article Mar 21, 2017 By Russell Nichols

If you’re going to live in a 3D environment, you need to see a 3D environment.”

These are the words of Stephen Phillips, co-founder and chief technology officer at Theia Interactive, a design firm based in Chico. His company creates VR tours for people looking to build or buy homes, cars and yachts. It was one of the four startups to come out of the Green Screen Institute’s first accelerator program.

But in the real estate sector, virtual reality hasn’t been an easy sell. The tried-and-true process for previewing a property has been 3D rendering, which uses computer graphics to turn a 3D model into a 2D image. Major developers aren’t rushing to abandon that method, says Theia Interactive CEO and co-founder Mark Pullyblank.

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“They’re reluctant,” he says. “They always say, ‘There’s no doubt this is the future and we’re all going there eventually. We just don’t want to be the first ones.”

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But VR provides the next level of visualization. No longer is a client stuck with one camera angle or one artist’s interpretation. Next New Homes Group, a real estate marketing agency in Roseville, started using VR as a big part of new home tours two years ago. Builders and buyers liked what they saw, according to co-founder Christopher Brown.

Potential buyers can view the space on a computer, smartphone or they can come into the agency’s virtual experience center, a 12-by-15-foot room built into the office. In here, they put on the goggles and move around any virtual space (model homes, hotels, condominium projects, etc). The viewer can point the controller to change furniture, the floor or the color of a wall.