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Is Virtual Reality in the Future for Land Real Estate?

Nowadays, the technology in land real estate is looking more and more like something out of a science fiction movie. First, drones flew into popularity among landowners to take aerial pictures and film videos of properties (read more about drones here). Now, virtual reality tours are popping up on the internet, offering 360 views of properties and a more in-depth look at farm life than ever before. We’re going to take a look at this new technology and the pros and cons of investing in your own virtual tours.

First of all, what exactly is a virtual reality tour? You might be thinking of something out of The Jetsons. It’s much simpler than that. A virtual tour uses a combination of photographs and videos to allow someone to explore a location using their phone or computer. Recently, technology has become so advanced that some videos have a 360-degree feature where you can use your mouse to explore every inch of a property. Other companies are using virtual reality headsets so advanced that you feel like you are walking in the middle of an apple orchard when you are actually just standing in the middle of your living room.

One example of this new technology is FarmFoods360, a virtual reality site that lets you explore Canadian farms. There are sixteen different types of farms to tour, ranging from the usual (egg farms and fruit farms) to the unique (ratite, a type of flightless bird originally from South America). Videos with 360-degree access allow you to learn everything from how the animals are kept to how cabbage is harvested. If you click on Dairy Cow Farms, you can view the milking stations, the different types of stalls, and calf barns. Each tour is chock-full with enough facts about the livestock and crops to satisfy even the nosiest customer.

Even though virtual reality tours sound great, every technology has its drawbacks. Let’s take a look at the upsides and downsides of this new technology.

UPSIDES

-Clients can view properties from their own home. You can save yourself and your clients time and money by replacing in-person tours with online ones. They can view your properties from the comfort of their own couch. Also, having a virtual tour expands your working hours with no extra effort to you. Your virtual tour will be open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. It’s like a permanent open house!

-Food transparency. Have you noticed a new wave of customers who want to know exactly where their food came from and what is in it? More people than ever are interested in ‘food transparency’, where and how their food is raised.  In a 2015 Trace One survey, 91% of respondents said it’s important for them to know where their food comes from.Virtual tours let customers explore farms and see how their food is raised.

-Shareability. In the age of social media, it’s easier than ever to share information. With one click, you can share a link to your virtual tour to social media sites and high traffic blogs (like the REALTORS® Land Institute blog!). This is an easy way to reach out to new clients and keep current ones updated on your latest properties.

DOWNSIDES

-Virtual tours can be pricey. If you opt for more high-tech virtual reality equipment, it’s going to cost you. A VR computer can cost over $1,000, and high-end headsets can range from $50-$600. Even the cheaper options can end up being more expensive than you’d think. Matterport 3D Camera, a company that uses 3-D scanning to photograph properties, charges around $100 to $200 to capture a property. If you are selling multiple or large properties, this could get expensive fast.

-New tech glitches. Because virtual reality is so new, there are bound to be glitches. Some common glitches include blurry photos and broken links. Some people who use virtual reality headsets claim that the headsets gave them motion sickness if they kept them on for too long.

-The human touch. Some people prefer to walk around the properties they are considering buying and meeting the owners face-to-face. While virtual tours are better for convenience, there is something special about in person visits that can get lost online.   

Taking this all into consideration, are virtual reality tours worth it? Our answer is: yes. While it is a relatively new technology that can glitch and isn’t the cheapest option, virtual tours are simply the best marketing tool in our new world. Today’s customers value convenience and expertise, and virtual tours can give that to them.

Some people still don’t like the idea of virtual reality tours. Some people claim that they prefer the “authenticity” of a real visit instead of a virtual one, while other people are worried about the cost. There was a similar reluctance when drones were first introduced to the world of land real estate. Even though drones were able to get aerial shots of land that were previously impossible to get, almost no one bought a drone. The first commercial drones were outrageously expensive and required a license to fly them. Over time, the prices dropped and people discovered that drones could do more than just take great photos of land. Drones can track hurricanes, track wildlife, and take pictures of poachers.  Now, there are over 600,000 commercial drones in the air.

While some of the more high-end virtual reality equipment like headsets are out of the price range for the average land seller, there are simple and cheap ways to get on board with the newest wave of technology. Check out sites like YouVisit and Homes & Land  to learn about cost effective ways to incorporate virtual reality into your business.