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Cresa Blog

How Virtual Reality Is Completely Changing CRE

May 9, 2017 | by Steven J. Strom

How many hours have you spent clicking through photos of potential office spaces? How many days does it take your team to visit a long list of potential properties? I’ve been working in commercial real estate for more than 10 years and I’ve been waiting a long time for new technology that could make previewing real estate easier and faster.

That’s why I was so excited to talk to Bryn Erickson, co-founder of the Minneapolis-based virtual reality tech company Realvision. Realvision is transforming the way tenants experience real estate selection and planning. The company got its start in residential real estate, and is moving into the corporate space now (and just closed a $1.3 million funding round to boost its investment in VR for real estate). At Cresa we’re helping our clients understand the benefits of virtual reality and how VR-experiences will transform the traditional real estate site selection process, before physically touring the space. 

I asked Erickson to explain how VR works for commercial real estate, and why he thinks it’s here to stay.

The “Wow” Factor of VR

When someone puts on a VR headset and walks through a space for the first time, the initial reaction is universal: “Wow!” “We’re taking the frame away from the online real estate experience,” Erickson says.

He adds that the initial wow factor carries through the entire experience, capturing people’s attention for the long haul. While the average online video only keeps someone’s attention for about 15 seconds, Realvision’s VR real estate tours keep people glued to the screen (or headset) for upwards of five minutes.

“We’re hearing about how everyone has short attention spans, and marketing experts are talking about ‘micro-moments,’ but we’ve found that if you make things people are interested in looking at they’ll give you their attention,” he says.

When you experience a VR tour you can actively walk through a space, choosing where to look and what areas to explore. The experience is completely interactive, unlike passive photo tours or videos: “Our tours are more of a choose-your-own-adventure,” he says. “You can choose to look at what’s important to you — the bathrooms, the lobby, the space where your office will go.”

Saving Time and Money in the Search for the Right Space

Beyond how exciting it is to preview a space using VR, Erickson says the biggest benefits come down to saving time and money. “Often decision-makers are in different cities or have difficult schedules,” he says. “It’s not feasible to tour 20 different locations. But if they can tour them virtually, and we can put them in the space, it’s a game-changer.”

At Cresa we predict that physical tours will never completely go away, but we’re excited about using VR tours to cut down on the number of physical tours and save time in the initial hunt for the right space. As Erickson says, “digital showings are the new property tour.”

Getting a Vision of the Finished Space

One of the most difficult parts of selecting a commercial space is envisioning how it will work for your business once it’s finished, with a new floorplan, workspaces, furniture and (most importantly!) your people. VR provides a solution for that too. Erickson says tenants use VR tours to view sample floor plans so they can experience the space in a finished state.

Plus, he says, tenants can use the VR tour throughout the planning process as a reference to make decisions about the layout and design of the space without going in-person to the location. To explore one of Realvision’s corporate real estate VR tours, click here.

At Cresa, we can’t wait to take our clients on a VR tour of their next corporate home.