Real estate technology is evolving at a rapid speed. Various hardware and software applications have drastically improved how landlords, property managers, and homeowners associations manage their operations. Artificial intelligence is smack-dab in the middle of all of the real estate tech excitement–but what does AI really mean?
Artificial intelligence refers to computer systems that are able to perform tasks that would typically require human intelligence. AI can assist with speech recognition, decision-making, and other tasks without requiring a person’s hands-on involvement.
Artificial intelligence is impacting the real estate industry in several ways, primarily with what’s known as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). Let’s dig into these technologies and their potential impact on the industry.
What Are Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality?
Virtual reality refers to a 100% virtual, simulated experience. VR usually requires a pair of goggles or a face mask. When you put them on, a screen shows images that appear just as they would in real life. Virtual reality gives the sense that you’re actually inside the location that you’re viewing–which is why VR has become so popular in the gaming community.
Augmented reality is a totally different experience. Rather than experiencing a virtual world, augmented reality allows people to see virtual images right there in front of them. It allows people to create virtual diagrams, charts, and models with the touch of a button. AR technology has become so advanced that you can manipulate it with just a smart phone–no goggles required.
How Will Virtual and Augmented Reality Impact the Real Estate Industry?
Architects, designers, engineers, and construction companies have been using virtual and augmented reality technology for years. Property management companies have been slower to adopt it. We’re finally starting to see landlords, property managers, and homeowners associations integrate VR and AR technology into their own operations. Here are a few examples of how that’s playing out in practice.
Virtual reality is an increasingly popular way for landlords, property managers, and HOAs to show properties that are for rent or sale without having someone be there in person. Anyone with a VR headset can ‘transport’ themselves to a property and tour it as though they were there in person. This allows companies to cast a broader net when trying to lease properties, particularly if their units are located in an area that attracts residents from abroad.
Augmented reality is a great tool for people to simulate how they’d set up their unit if they were going to live there. Those who are skilled at using AR technology can use it to simulate what a unit would look like if they added a window or moved a door. On a simpler level, it can be used to simulate what furniture would look like in a space.
As we mentioned above, virtual and augmented reality have been used within the construction industry for years. However, more property managers and HOAs are realizing that these tools can be useful in regards to smaller-scale construction projects as well. For instance, before embarking on a major renovation project, virtual and augmented reality can give owners and investors a sense for how the end result will look. VR and AR technologies are increasingly used to make important pre-construction decisions.
Tracking Project Progress
It used to be that a property owner or manager would need to physically visit a site in order to get a sense of how a major renovation project was coming along. That’s no longer the case, thanks to virtual reality. Owners, property managers, and HOAs can all leverage VR technology to take interactive, virtual tours of a project under construction. This can improve communication with contractors, ensure that design standards are being met, and move projects along toward completion.
Virtual and augmented reality are still pretty new. However, software applications are making it easy to use these technologies with just a handheld device. The Apple iOS 11 system that was released last fall even included an ARKit feature that allows developers to more easily create AR apps and experiences.
Case in point: Wayfair has integrated features into its mobile app where users can preview how everything from chairs to chandeliers will look in a room–and they can do it with the click of a button. “Repainting a room and replacing all of the furniture and fixtures to match is an expensive and arduous process,” writes Andrew Liszewski. “Why risk having the facelift turn out terrible?” IKEA Place allows users to do the same thing.
As smart phones become more advanced, so will the VR and AR technologies associated with them–and that’s great news for landlords, property managers and HOAs. As virtual and augmented reality become more affordable (and easier to use!), they’ll become even more prominent tools to streamline property management operations and processes.
Amanda Maher is a self-proclaimed policy wonk who dabbles in real estate law. Amanda holds a B.S. in Political Science and Sociology from Boston University, as well as a Masters in Urban and Regional Policy from Northeastern.