Lodge Real Estate introduces VR open homes to provide peace of mind for buyers and sellers
Hamilton-based Lodge Real Estate is using virtual reality (VR) technology to take their open homes online, giving vendors and buyers peace of mind during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The news comes on the back of the Government’s announcement that private viewings, by appointment, of homes for sale or rental properties can now take place under Alert Level 3. However, open homes are not allowed.
VR is a technological leap for Lodge and for the sector and will help one of the country’s most critical industries do its part to get New Zealand’s economy moving again.
Real estate services are a major contributor to the New Zealand economy and, according to REINZ, account for approximately 13% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Lodge Real Estate Managing Director, Jeremy O’Rourke says in a normal month, tens of thousands of people walk through the door of open homes across New Zealand. In the current environment, this poses a health and safety risk.
“The lockdown has meant that many buyers and sellers have been in limbo and haven’t been able to progress the sale or purchase of their properties. That has created significant financial strain and health and well-being issues for a number of people.
“This pandemic will fundamentally change the way Kiwis buy and sell homes. From a health and safety perspective, the traditional open home will not be an attractive option for many people, even post-Covid-19, for quite some time.
“However, the ability for people to view a property for sale is still a crucial part of the real estate process. The use of virtual reality technology means we can have the best of both worlds.”
In partnership with Muse Digital Marketing from Cambridge, Lodge Real Estate will offer vendors the opportunity to have a 3D virtual reality tour created of their property, at an affordable price comparable to an advert that vendors would normally choose as part of their home marketing package.
Using leading edge scanning technology, the Muse team creates a fully immersive virtual reality experience that is far more realistic than the humble walk-through video.
“VR technology is already being used extensively in many industries worldwide, including commercial real estate and tourism. Through our partnership with Muse, we are literally bringing this once-futuristic technology we associate with gamers and sci-fi movies literally into the lounges of average homeowners,” says O’Rourke.
“While a VR open home will never compare to the emotional connection buyers get from stepping inside their potential new home, it can save them time and money by narrowing their search to the final few homes they want to see in person.
“Utilising the VR open home keeps our vendors and agents safe by only having a select number of genuine buyers view their property by appointment. This will be particularly important as we work within Government restrictions under Alert Level 3 and ongoing as the threat of the pandemic lingers here in New Zealand.”
Before the lockdown, Lodge had already implemented precautions around its open homes, putting up additional signage, recording accurate details of all attendees and advising vendors to sanitise and help reduce surface touching by opening things buyers may want to see. These precautions will continue.
Whilst the COVID-19 outbreak has meant that many businesses, including Lodge Real Estate, have had to adjust their practices with wellbeing in mind, the real estate industry is very much open for business.
Figures from March 2020 show that Lodge Real Estate’s property sales were comparable to March 2019. However, new listings dropped by nearly 30%.
“We are confident that rules permitting property viewings at the Government’s Alert Level 3, together with the introduction of our VR open homes, will help to restore vendor confidence.
“We look forward to working with those keen to buy and sell property in Hamilton, and will continue to monitor the introduction of this new technology into the sales process, making changes as we go.”