“The beauty of augmented reality technology is it provides ‘magic’ because you are transported somewhere else, while remaining exactly where you are.”– Nigel Dalton, realestate.com.au
Imagine walking to your favourite cafe when you spot a property for sale or rent. The hero photograph attracts you and you’d love to see more – but the property viewing times clash with your personal commitments. Now what?
Simply open the augmented reality app on your smartphone and allow your mobile to hover over the signboard photograph. As if by magic, the photograph will pop out and hang in the air in front of you, then roll through a carousel of additional photographs, including a floor plan and a snapshot of relevant data for the neighbourhood, all to give you further visual cues about the property in which you’re interested.
You can then make a decision to pursue your interest… without attending a single viewing, nor doing anything more onerous than lifting your arm to allow your app to ‘see’ the property image.
Sound far-fetched? It’s not. Recently, realestate.com.au joined forces with News Limited and the Ray White group to road test an REA app in development that will transform a two-dimensional property advertisement into a 3D+ experience.
The Raise More Hands initiative, which took place in March 2016, tested the efficacy of AR as a way to grow agent's’ potential buyer numbers. The project involved a Ray White real estate supplement advertising 500 upcoming property auctions inserted into News Limited’s regional Sunday newspapers nationwide. Readers of the insert were invited to view any one of the 500 properties by downloading and using realestate.com.au’s AR app, Property View, thereby giving people in Victoria the opportunity to seriously consider a property investment on, say, Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, all without having to fly up to view the property.
The upshot was mildly encouraging, but REA’s Dalton is the first to admit that months of development work lie ahead. “We know that the public in general is loath to download new apps unless they have very good reason to do so. And we also know that real estate agents do not want to invest in any more real estate technology,” says Dalton.
Nevertheless, approximately 2000 technophiles downloaded the Property View app, keen to experience for themselves the sensation of property data emerging before their eyes.
Both virtual and augmented reality technology involve virtual worlds, but virtual reality involves virtual worlds exclusively, while AR users remain in touch with the real world while interacting with virtual objects, icons or text around them.
Ray White’s chief auctioneer, Haesley Cush, says realestate.com.au’s AR app provided the Raise More Hands auction with a significant point of difference – and numerous franchisees reporting a rise in the volume of interstate enquiries. “It’s difficult to claim definitively that the app made a difference to our clearance rate, but our agents were pleased with the additional exposure,” says Cush, who personally called 60 auctions over each of the two weekends.
For the purpose of the trial run, realestate.com.au shouldered most of the technological burden on behalf of the agents taking part. Participation in the experiment cost franchisees $200, but in the future, agencies will be expected to download their properties’ data to the AR app’s content management system themselves, in the same way they download property listings to other CRM platforms.
“We have to make it easy for agents to understand, embrace and use the AR offering, all without it costing an arm and a leg,” says Dalton. That’s because he remains passionately convinced of the app’s usefulness for creating the ultimate consumer engagement. “All our research shows that people are time-poor, so anything that saves them time is going to appeal. Also, people love walking the streets and sussing out a neighbourhood and this technology does that too. The beauty of augmented reality technology is it provides ‘magic’ because you are transported somewhere else, while remaining exactly where you are.”
Real estate agencies seeking the AR point of difference will have to wait. The Property View app has been taken off the market since the auction initiative, to be reintroduced around late 2017/early 2018 with improved capabilities for both agents and customers alike.