How the technology works
Virtual reality takes a user into a 3D world. It is based on the same technology used for decades in flight simulators, where you can pretend to fly an aeroplane.
Now, software companies and designers are taking photos or videos of homes on the market that are then turned into 3D immersive worlds. They can be entered via an app, a virtual reality headset or a website.
You can then explore the property at 360-degree angles as if you were inside and view different areas by moving your head or clicking a button.
There are several providers that specialise in turning photos and videos into virtual reality – such as Vieweet and EyeSpy360. Headsets are made by companies such as Samsung and Google.
Many property experts predict such technology could become popular for those who want to buy property at auction or for parents wanting to check out where their kids will be living if renting at university.
Viewing a property through virtual reality
There are two ways to use virtual reality in property viewings – either through an interactive photo or video that users can access on a website, or through a virtual reality headset.
If you have your own virtual reality headset you may be able to access these property viewings yourself, otherwise you would need to visit an estate agent branch.
Upmarket agent Foxtons is among the early adopters of this technology. It has partnered with technology company UI Centric to create virtual reality tours of Fulham Reach, a complex being built by developer St George in South-West London.
Foxtons has taken wide lens pictures of the marketing suite at the complex based on where buyers typically stand and look inside a property.
Window on the world: Fulham Reach, a complex being built by developer St George in South-West London
This has then been made into a virtual reality tour by UI Centric using an app designed for Samsung’s smartphones and headsets.
Buyers can make a virtual reality visit at Foxtons’ Islington branch. They get a Samsung headset that is placed over the eyes and puts the viewer within the photos of the development.
They can then stand still and use their head to look around the property and nod at different areas or click a button to move rooms.
Dan Rafferty, chief information officer for Foxtons, says: ‘While the need to visit a property will always remain strong, virtual reality can be the most convenient and cost-effective way to start or narrow down a property search.
‘We are now looking to extend this service to all of our offices, featuring all of our properties. Customers will have the option to virtually view multiple properties over a coffee in one of our offices.’
Another London agent, Urban Spaces, is introducing virtual reality tours next month.