Seems as if many technological advancements in multifamily are focused on bringing owner/operators a step closer to prospective residents. In recent years, 3D floor plans, HD photos and interactive room planners have made it easier for prospects to authentically view an apartment space.

Well, the ante is about to be raised. Big time.  

Recent advancements in virtual reality (VR) could soon provide a boost to the multifamily industry by allowing potential renters to experience an apartment community as if they are truly present, wandering through the hallways, looking around common areas and experiencing available apartment homes like never before. Imagine, through the eyes of a virtual reality device, a prospective resident embarking on the most realistic virtual tour through your community that’s so interactive it could only be duplicated in person.

While VR tours have yet to establish a toehold in the multifamily rental industry, they could one day fill important marketing needs, said Holli Beckman, vice president of marketing and leasing operations for WC Smith. “The practicality of the technology is far reaching,” she said. “We could offer those currently living a significant distance from a community, especially those out-of-state, a tremendous opportunity to conveniently and accurately experience a specific unit. Not only could we deliver a service that enhances a prospect’s search experience but we could potentially increase our prospect pool and overall marketing reach.”

Not quite sure what VR is? Check out an example of 360-degree VR tour from the single-family industry. To view you’ll need the latest version of your Internet browser, or if viewing mobile, use the latest version of the YouTube app. To get the full impact of the VR technology, move your mouse around to control what you are seeing – look up, down and even behind you. Imagine the possibilities this will have on the prospective renter’s user experience for search.

VR could also significantly improve the experience of prospective renters who are on-site for a tour, Beckman noted. “As our luxury buildings get larger and have so many amenities, the length of our leasing tour has stretched to 45 minutes-plus,” she said. “When a prospect walks in without an appointment they may have to wait upwards of 30 minutes for a leasing agent. Having the [virtual reality] glasses on hand for the prospect to use while waiting keeps them occupied, and if we are squeezing them in between scheduled tours, we can skip some of the amenities they’ve seen virtually. The same logic applies for prospects who may come to the concierge desk after hours or for a building in pre-lease.”

VR content creation is readily available to the multifamily industry with firms like Floored, Matterport, Pandora, Transparent House and TRICK 3D producing VR apps. And VR doesn’t have to break your marketing budget. For less than $20, Amazon features a variety of viewers that will work with Google Cardboard applications to provide that virtual reality experience. Get it, fold it and look inside to enter the virtual world of Cardboard.

While many recent innovations have been progressive and welcome additions to the multifamily industry, this one could create waves rather than ripples. This undoubtedly will be a hot-button topic in May at AIM 2016, a concept that will provide some of the most forward-thinking minds in the industry much to discuss. The possibilities seem limitless for the industry, and we’re betting everyone will have a lot to say.

Do you think VR will become a stronghold in the multifamily industry? For now, though, we’d like to hear from you in the comments thread: what do you think are the pros and cons of this technology for multifamily marketing? Has your portfolio experimented with the technology? If so, we want to hear from you about the results – remember to suggest a speaker or session on virtual reality before mid-December – or to simply learn more about what the virtual future holds for multifamily, register today!

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