It’s the question all prospective house buyers ask themselves as they look around a new property: ‘What would it look like if I lived here?’

While the more imaginative can visualise potential changes, many others struggle – and are destined to view a lot more places until they find something that’s already to their taste.

Now, technology is coming to the aid of those who can’t picture the possibilities – and it’s the same idea that prompted millions of people to chase digital monsters in the Pokémon Go craze.

Augmented Reality (AR) – a computer-generated image superimposed on a view of the real world – can show buyers how different color schemes, furniture or even entirely new layouts would look.

By taking away some of the stress of choosing a new home, AR could also raise revenue for agents and third parties.


Big business

Pokémon Go brought AR to the mainstream.

It’s essentially a smartphone-based game in which players use the phone’s camera to hunt down and ‘catch’ virtual creatures that appear in real-world locations.

The game, launched in July 2016, was an overnight success. It generated $600 million of revenue in its first three months and continues to make $2 million per day.

It highlights the potential AR offers in the context of various industries. And companies in sectors ranging from healthcare to fashion are already starting to explore AR opportunities.

Real estate is no exception.

Augmenting real estate 

Let’s say you are a prospective buyer for a house or an apartment and want to know what the kitchen would look like with different appliances or fittings.

An AR software on a phone or tablet could instantly show exactly what the room would look like with the desired changes.  These images could be stored and emailed to you to consider after the physical viewing has finished, allowing for considered, informed choices.

Early examples of AR in the property market include platforms such as TRICK 3D’s Floorplan Revolution and Matterport’s 3D Showcase. These allow the user to visualize the construction of complete homes even before the first brick has been laid.

IKEA is following the trend by introducing an AR feature that means customers can visualize a piece of furniture when they use the accompanying app.

There is clearly significant scope for real estate agents to take a similar approach.


Where’s the money?

It’s easy to see how the customer could benefit from real estate agents using AR devices during property viewings. But for the technology to be widely adopted, it would need to drive revenue for agents too.

To achieve this, real estate agents need to take the technology from a straightforward viewing tool to a fully integrated real estate ecosystem by integrating services from financiers and insurance carriers as well as interior decorators and furniture suppliers.

Agents could establish agreements with specific furniture suppliers so that their catalogues and furnishings could be used for AR demonstration purposes.

Another feature could be real-time quotations from contractors and architects based on the combination of options selected.

Such promotional content can be paid for by third parties through subscriptions and advertising fees, thereby generating revenue on every showing, irrespective of whether a sale is completed or not.

The possibilities can be extended to properties that haven’t even been built yet.

Developers and investors can apply AR to craft life-like, interactive simulations that accurately display renovation or construction plans in ways traditional formats like blueprints cannot.

Companies like Daqri are developing AR hardware that can even serve construction workers while on-site—making it a lot easier to build homes in line with the buyer’s vision.


Market disruption

There is clearly a compelling argument for real estate agents to use AR. It appears to be a win-win for both buyers and agents.

Future developments could see the platform strengthened by data analytics. This would enable companies to identify trends in customer preferences, property hotspots as well as high-performing suppliers and contractors.

Opening up the technology to allow customers to directly interact with service providers can create a significantly disruptive business model for the real estate industry.

It will be interesting to see if AR will deliver real tangible benefits, or will it just add flavor to the art of selling homes.