Virtual reality moves into Ottawa’s real estate market

Local company Umber Realty is experimenting with new technology by giving buyers and sellers the option of virtual reality property tours.

The company began offering the VR service in October, with an an official launch last week.

Founder Shaun Denis said he saw a lot of big smiles at the launch event from people trying the technology for the first time, including a client who was able to tour his former home in the Glebe.

“Now we’re able to bring the property to buyers, instead of bringing buyers to the property,” he said.

The ability to view 360-degree photos on a desktop computer is not new, but now there’s an ability for an immersion experience – seeing the house through a special headset like the Samsung Gear or the Google Cardboard.

Using a headset, either borrowed from Umber or inexpensively purchased, users can load up a house and move their head to explore rooms.

“You really feel the space, and I think that’s important when you’re looking to purchase a home. You don’t just look at the specs, it’s about how you feel in the home," said Denis.

Umber Realty is not the only local firm that’s combining virtual reality with real estate.

3Dshowing.com specializes in rendering real estate listings in VR. The startup works with property managers and developers to showcase spaces and visualize new builds. The company can even take an architect’s digital model and build out a VR walkthrough experience.

“Anywhere that property is a question online, there’s a use there (for VR),” says Alex Comeau, 3Dshowing’s sales and marketing director, mentioning the possibility of previewing daycare spaces as another attractive option for the technology.

The company recently worked with the Ottawa Art Gallery to create a VR walkthrough.

Umber Realty marketing director Jess Petrella said the company doesn't expect home buyers to suddenly make purchases based on a VR tour, but the technology could help narrow down options or help buyers outside of Ottawa.

“It really transports you into the space, you can go visit the space again and again without booking a showing or leaving your home,” said Petrella. “We’ve seen (the technology) change a lot of industries already.”

 This story originally appeared in Metro News.

- With files from OBJ staff.