ORLANDO — If you’re looking for creative ways to market homes, forget about billboards and open house signs. Today, find your audience where they spend a lot of their time — online — courtesy of a smart technique for home tours known as virtual reality.
Central Florida is a highly competitive place to market homes. Prices have been rising, and with a limited supply of homes on the market, competition has been fierce among prospective buyers.
And it helps that home prices in Orlando remain below the sky-high prices in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and New York City, where a lot of prospective buyers have been priced out altogether.
According to real estate website Zillow, the median home value in Orlando is $239,700, and values have risen 9.4 percent over the past year. Zillow is predicting those values will rise another 5.8 percent within the next year, meaning an Orlando home purchased today will be worth even more a year from now. The median price of homes currently listed in Orlando is $278,998.
So with prices still affordable but inventory low and competition sky high, how does any Realtor gain a competitive advantage?
A key solution: virtual reality.
What is Virtual Reality?
Today, a growing number of Realtors and top home builders in Florida are getting innovative when it comes to finding their buyers, starting with the most creative new marketing technique: a virtual reality tour of new homes still under construction.
As the builder starts on a plan to redesign a line of homes, what’s needed is a way to present the newest floorplans to their customers — but in a unique way. Today home builders are creating 3D videos and making them available online, offering virtual home tours based on the floorplans of the new models.
It gives prospective buyers a way to review all the new floorplans that are available – but to do it from the comfort and convenience of their own home.
Welcome to the Virtual Reality home tour, which provides buyers with a unique opportunity to stroll through the living areas in homes that haven’t been built yet but are on the way. They can begin to get a visual sense of what to expect once the model has been completed.
Why are home builders moving in this direction? Consider it a recognition that up to 90 percent of prospective buyers are doing searches online today. Builders understand that it’s crucial to have websites today, allowing buyers to review the homes they’ve built — and not just in terms of photos, but also using videos where the buyer can “tour” the home inside and outside.
Builders often do the same thing featuring the amenities available within the community, such as community centers, pools, tennis courts, and golf courses, and in the surrounding neighborhood, with a focus on nearby schools, shopping and entertainment options.
This approach is unique. The builder is letting their customers see a home that hasn’t been built but is on the way. But the concept is the same: tour it from your home if you’re interested.
Why is Virtual Reality Becoming More Popular?
Virtual reality has become a smart way of giving buyers a sense of what the newest community will be like. In the past, before any homes had been constructed, the builder or real estate agent might have focused instead on showing what the neighborhood was like, to get buyers excited about owning a home there.
Now, virtual reality gives them an added and sophisticated sales tool. Potential clients can experience what the home will look like through their laptop. It’s a way for buyers to experience the home in their own environment, any time they choose.
The benefits of this technology is you’re allowing those floorplans to come to life on the screen.
Even if construction on the homes is still months away, buyers can still take the virtual reality tour homes by “walking” around the mock layouts. This allows them to fully envision what the house will eventually look like. This simulated layout is a major advance from the days when real estate agents handling pre-sales had only blueprints to work with.
Virtual reality is likely to become a major factor in future pre-sales, and it seems likely that the video technology behind it will continue to get more sophisticated over time.
How Can Virtual Reality Benefit Realtors?
Buyers today want communities that offer them strong sense of belonging and unity. Young families just starting out in their first home are looking for the ideal neighborhood.
To meet their needs, builders today are redesigning their entire product line to feature more open living and newer, more contemporary styles, more windows, open kitchens, and walk-in pantries.
The challenge is that many of the new models won’t be ready to view for months, so builders and Realtors are turning to contemporary floorplans that offer a fine way to demonstrate what buyers can expect.
The technology has become so advanced that it gives buyers a strong sense of what the house will look like. And it’s ideal at a time when it’s become clear that buyers respond best to visuals when deciding what homes they want.
And now some Realtors are expanding that to include tours of the amenities that are going to be available in the neighborhoods as well.
Thousands of people continue moving to the Sunshine State every year, knowing how appealing the Florida lifestyle is. As the state continues to grow, Realtors are looking for creative ways to attract buyers.
And virtual reality is no longer a concept: it’s an everyday reality as well.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Of Cats And Wolves.” Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.