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BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY INSIGHTS

Disrupting Real Estate Sales: Augmented Reality & Beyond

 
July 11, 2017

At its launch, Pokmon Go became an instant phenomenon, capturing the imagination of millions worldwide. People everywhere would chase down and catch these characters, appearing at real world locations, as seen through the lens of their smartphones. Undoubtedly, it has been one of the biggest Augmented Reality (AR) events that generated USD 600 million in the first three months and continues to make USD 2 million per day. While it was just a video game, the entire construction highlights the potential AR offers in the context of various industries. To be precise, dynamic image augmentation with contextualized content deployed on a round-the-clock basis is a concept that can be applied across domains.

Real estate is one area where Augmented Reality can be particularly beneficial. Brokers and developers can leverage it to drive sales, effectively engage their customers, and integrate services of kitchen and bathroom fitters as well as architects and contractors in an extended home selling service environment. Let us see how.

Adding a Touch of Real(ity) to Real Estate

Lets say a real estate agent is showing a prospective buyer around a house or an apartment. As the buyer begins discussing various dcor and layout possibilities, the agent uses a tablet or smartphone to show what those different options may look like in a particular space. Using AR technology, the agent holds up the device to the wall and the on-screen view changes to reflect a new color scheme or flooring. Platforms such as TRICK 3Ds Floorplan Revolution and Matterports 3D Showcase allow the user to visualize the construction of complete homes even before the first brick has been laid. Even IKEA is catching up with this trend by introducing an AR feature where customers can visualize a piece of IKEA furniture when they use the accompanying app.

This concept can be enhanced further. AR technology can be used to dynamically remodel rooms. Suppose the room in question is a kitchen. The buyer wants to know what the space would look like with different types of appliances or fittings. The AR platform will reconfigure any object, be it a sink, fridge, oven, or any combinations whatsoever, with respect to their size and position in the roomall displayed on a smart device, in real time. Now, apply the same to the bathroom. The buyer may want to see if there is enough room to move the shower to a different area. Augmented Reality can simulate and produce a view of this exact change. All of these permutations and capabilities can be eventually stored and presented to the buyer for offline viewing, while they consider the purchase decision.

Threading Together the Real Estate Value Chain

Its safe to say that these features can enhance the customers experience and add value to the purchase journey. However, this still lacks the ability to actually generate additional revenue. To ensure large-scale adoption, the ecosystem needs to expand to include financiers, insurance carriers, as well as interior decorators and furniture suppliers.

By opening up such a platform to third parties, buyers can look up their preferred supplier or opt to go with a service provider promoted by a trusted agent. Building on the idea of monetizing the channel, real estate agents can establish agreements with specific furniture suppliers so that their catalogs and furnishings could be used for AR demonstration purposes. Another feature could be to source real-time quotations from contractors and architects based on the combination of options selected. Such promotional content can be paid for by third parties through subscriptions and advertising fees, thereby generating revenue on every showing, irrespective whether a sale is closed or not. The platform can also facilitate the delivery of financial services and products from subscriber banks and insurance brokers.

Further, developers and investors can apply Augmented Reality to craft life-like, interactive simulations that accurately display renovation or construction plans in ways traditional formats like blueprints cannot. Companies like Daqri are developing AR hardware that can even serve construction workers while on-sitemaking it a lot easier to build homes in line with the buyers vision.

Converging the Real Estate Ecosystem

Such a path-breaking solution will not only appeal to the home-buyer but also quicken the sale process for a real estate agent. The platform can be strengthened by data analytics to identify trends in customer preferences, property hotspots, as well as high-performing suppliers and contractors. Opening up such a platform to customers for directly interacting with service providers can create a significantly disruptive business model for the real estate industry. What do you think? Can Augmented Reality change the real estate business for good? Will it deliver real tangible benefits, or will just add flavor to the art of selling homes?

Ged Roberts is the Global Head of Operations and Delivery Excellence for the High Tech business unit at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). Based out of TCS' Amsterdam office, he is responsible for ensuring one global service standard across the High Tech business unit, and assuring TCS' clients an unmatched experience of certainty.