Virtual reality (VR) is one of those half-understood things that we all think we understand — but it’s not until it’s worked into our everyday lives that we start to really understand how it’s actually impacting us. Virtual reality (and augmented reality, too) became a buzzword around 2014 when Facebook made a $2 billion acquisition of Oculus VR; back when everyone associated it with video games. Today, it’s changing everything from recruitment and training in the workplace to the treatment of PTSD.

One of the most interesting ways it’s impacting commercial real estate, in my opinion, it’s the way VR and AR are changing the visualization of space.

Consider what it was like to list an empty apartment or office building for sale or lease just five years ago. You had three main options. Take photos of the vacant property and hope potential buyers/leasees had the creativity to envision themselves in the space. Hire a company to create renderings that would help with the visualization of the space. Or, hire a company to physically stage the property.

Tech Goes Visual

Today, virtual staging companies like roOomy (which happens to be a company I’m personally involved in), however, are changing the way that we visualize and experience spaces through 3D, AR and VR tools. Virtual staging services allow agents and property managers to virtually stage their listings in less time, with less headache, and at a fraction of the cost of traditional staging methods. These services can not only fill an empty room, but they can also virtually remove furniture so that the room can be digitally designed in multiple styles and configurations to appeal to more home seekers’ tastes. Just imagine the possibilities for build-outs, layout design, and pre-sales.

Why is this so exciting? I think virtual reality, augmented reality, etc. are truly revolutionizing how we can see and interact with physical space. We can visualize how employees will work and interact within a workspace. We can show potential tenants what an office space would look like with desks, tables, lighting, etc. We can pre-plan warehouses for the directional flow of robots, humans, and goods. And, all of this is done quicker and more cost-effective than ever before.

More Ways CRE Will Benefit from VR

The possibilities don’t stop there, however. Think about the construction industry. If the building doesn’t actually exist yet, it would be previously been next to impossible to visualize the space. Sure, there are 3D renderings — but they don’t actually allow you to interact with the physical space, to see the view, or to explore layout and design in quite the same way. Today, we can virtually immerse someone into that world with a simple VR headset or app.

Also, consider the time savings. In one afternoon, potential buyers or tenants could tour many more properties virtually than they ever could in “real life”. Or, what about an international or out-of-town buyer who can see a property without having to physically be there.

Proof in the Numbers

I wasn’t able to find a lot of statistics for commercial space and staging (whether traditional or virtual), but I did find a study by the Home Staging Resource that says 85% of staged homes sold for 6-25% more than unstaged homes.

What’s more, 81% of home buyers (via the National Association of Realtors®) say that home staging makes it easier to visualize the property as their future home. And, once a home is staged, it spends 73% less time on the market than those that are not staged.

Although this is residential and based on physical staging versus virtual staging, I can only assume that the numbers will correlate to CRE and virtual staging. It will be interesting to see how this translates — and you know I’ll be watching.

Have you tried virtual staging or VR tours of your CRE properties yet? I’d love to hear your experience or what’s holding you back. Let’s continue this conversation over on my LinkedIn …