There are not probably too many customer-facing industries that benefit from virtual reality more than real estate does.
People wishing to buy or rent a house or an apartment will rarely do it without visiting the property. Such visits, especially when the customers want to see more than one house, usually take a lot of time and effort both for the customers and the real estate agents.
The need to drive from one location to other results in the possibility of viewing only a couple of properties within a day.
In addition, real estate companies are often forced to limit their customer base to their geographic location, as arranging visits for people from other cities or countries may be too costly and time-consuming.
However, the real estate businesses very often have cases when a family from Maine is looking for a house in Florida, and they need to find solutions of showing the properties that may suit the customers’ requirements.
Besides, for development companies, it may be difficult to show their properties to the prospective customers, as the buildings are not finished yet.
They erect the so-called model homes to show. However, it is almost impossible to recreate all possible floor plans and layouts.
With virtual reality, all these problems are reduced to nothing.
Through a virtual reality application, the VR development company can show houses and apartments to as many customers as they wish without the need for either the agents or customers to travel to the actual site.
Think of the geographic expansion possibilities!
Virtual reality will also allow viewing every possible house layout without creating the corresponding model, which can also increase the buying rate.
Let’s look at how the VR real estate tour apps are built and estimate the approximate virtual reality development cost.
Planning a VR real estate tour app
Like any other software development project, a virtual reality real estate tour application should start with defining the general concept. It significantly affects the development scope and, consequently, the budget.
Content planning. At this stage, you should select the content type that will be used in your VR application.
Depending on the construction progress and the project specifics, there may be two major approaches to the creation of content that is going to be used in the VR application.
When the buildings are not finished yet, the company may opt for using 3D graphics to recreate the homes or apartments that it is going to offer. These 3D graphics will be used to build a virtual reality application. This is a very expensive solution, as 3D graphics generation is a rather time- and cost-consuming task.
When the buildings already exist, there may be a simpler and more cost-effective way of creating the content – recording a 360-degree video or using a set of special photos that can be turned into the virtual reality content. In this case, the content preparation will take much less time and be easier on the project budget.
While a 360-degree video is not exactly a virtual reality application, it is the simplest and the most cost-effective way of a 3D virtual tour (think of the Street View in Google Maps).
At the same time, a fully immersive interactive application can give the best understanding of the house layout, its space and arrangement, and it can provide the first-hand experience of the comfort level that the property offers.
However, such a VR app will take much more time and cost to develop, of course.
VR equipment selection. Virtual reality applications depend heavily on the choice of the hardware that is going to be used for playback. Moreover, the VR equipment directly influences the final cost of the virtual reality application and the user base that it is going to reach.
The easiest and the most cost-effective way is to develop a virtual reality app that can be run on a smartphone and watched through a simple virtual reality viewer, such as Google Cardboard.
This approach immediately lowers the entry cost for the users, as it does not force them to buy expensive VR headsets. However, in this case, you may sacrifice some of the VR app image quality and interactive features.
If you opt for a more feature-rich application creating fully immersive experiences, you should think of developing a desktop VR app playable via a more advanced VR headset – Oculus or Microsoft HoloLens.
You will get a VR app that is going to amaze users and get very positive feedback. However, virtual reality development cost is going to be much higher.
With a virtual reality application that runs on a hi-tech viewer, the final cost for the user is also greatly increased, as they need to purchase the hardware to enjoy the VR app.
Consider this as a factor that may reduce your audience.
Components of a VR real estate tour application
Let’s look at the components of a VR-based application for real estate companies to get the idea of the virtual reality development cost and time.
The visual content is supplied by the client in the form of 360-degree pictures or videos. They are going to be used to create the virtual reality space for the house tour.
Such pictures or videos are recorded using 360-degree cameras or special sets of cameras creating the “spherical” effect.
With 360-degree videos, users will find themselves “inside” the space that they can look at by turning their heads left or right.
From the development point of view, this stage requires no time or costs, as the visual content is to be created and supplied by the customer.
The tour flow is the sequence of virtual “rooms” that the user is going to visit while viewing the virtual reality app. Simply put, it is the virtual floor plan showing how the rooms are connected.
By planning the VR tour flow, you determine how the parts of the video content will be linked to each other.
This step is to be approved by the customer and included in the project plan, as the floor plan is one of the essential aspects of a house or apartment offer.
The time and cost of this step are included in the total cost of the project plan preparation.
Connecting the visual content
With special software, such as Unity 3D, the photos or videos provided by the customer are processed and connected to create a three-dimensional virtual space that is going to be the main content of the VR application.
This is the job for virtual reality developers who create virtual reality effects. They make sure that the content is connected as approved by the client, and that the user can have the 360-degree view by looking left or right or turning around.
For each location, several movement options should be included to allow the user to “walk” around the room and feel its size and overall comfort.
At this stage, the navigation markers are to be placed. These markers define the points where the locations connect (again, think of Google Maps and the arrows on the ground).
By “looking” at the markers, the user will virtually move from one room to the other.
Depending on the type of VR application, you have selected – mobile or desktop, – and the type of hardware you are planning to use, this VR development step can take from 50 to 150 hours with the cost ranging from 5,000$ to 15,000$.
Of course, the time and cost of the visual content development are directly related to the number of rooms that need to be included – the larger the house, the longer it is going to take to build the tour.
As in any application, the virtual reality tour requires a menu. The menu can include various options, such as instant switching to a different location without “walking” through all rooms, snapshot downloads, different interactions depending on the complexity and technological level of your virtual reality application.
The menu is developed by the virtual reality developers, and depending on the number and complexity of the menu options, it may take from 8 to 24 hours and cost approximately from 800$ to 2,400$.
You may also include optional features, such as push notifications, social network sharing, customization options, sound effects, eye tracking that are going to enhance the VR app functionality and create unique and eye-catching user experiences.
The development of optional features, depending on their scope, may require approximately 50-200 hours and add about 5,000$-20,000$ to the cost.
In fact, this stage should be the first on our list, as usually the backend is developed before the frontend, but we have placed emphasis on the VR-specific features.
No application exists without the backend structure – the server, the database, the user authentication mechanisms, the data integrations, the security mechanisms.
Developing and implementing the backend usually takes from 50 to 400 hours and costs from 5,000$ to 40,000$.
As you can see, a virtual reality app for a real estate company can take about 2 months to develop from the initial plan to the production release. The total virtual reality cost is in the range from 16,000$ to 75,000$.
The cost of the project directly depends on the size of the location that should be recreated in the virtual reality tour and on the functionality that needs to be implemented.
Another major factor affecting the time of development and cost of virtual reality is the platform on which the VR application is going to be run.
Promotion and distribution
Of course, the creation of a virtual reality app is not limited to the production release.
Like any software product, the success of the VR application heavily depends on the promotional and advertising channels that are used to inform the public of the new product.
Again, this aspect is very influenced by the type of VR application you have created.
If you release your virtual tour in the form of a mobile application viewable via a simple VR headset, you will definitely publish your VR app in the App Store. It is free of charge but sets certain requirements as to the development quality and style.
A desktop VR app will require other distribution channels, such as downloading from the company website or offering the app via the Windows Store or Mac App Store.
Other promotion channels include social network activity, paid advertising, and participation in dedicated events.
The promotional campaign scope depends on the type of the VR application and the target audience you intend to reach.
Of course, the promotional events and actions that you use will determine the final cost of the campaign.
Securing your investment in a VR app
By now, you may have got the idea that developing a virtual reality tour application for a real estate business is a costly project. True, your initial investment is going to be rather considerable.
However, it may pay back quickly and efficiently in the form of the increased conversion rate and the expansion of your customer base.
At the same time, there is a secret ingredient to the VR app success, and that is professional development.
Virtual reality apps are highly visual. Thus, they must have quality visual content and create great visual experiences.
Another point is the smooth and consistent connection of locations and the development of the three-dimensional space that will cause no unpleasant physical effects, such as dizziness or double vision.
Therefore, to ensure that your budget is well spent and that you have invested in a truly quality product that is going to impress your users, assign your project to a professional VR development company with a significant virtual reality development experience.
If you need expert advice on your virtual reality tour project, contact us for a consultation, and we will be happy to help you design the best VR solution for your business.