Valley real estate firm showcases virtual reality technology

PEORIA – Walk into the Peoria offices of DeLex Realty, and you’ll find something unusual – virtual reality headsets.

Put them on, and you can “virtually” tour a $296,000, 2,000-square-foot home several miles away in Sun City.

DeLex Realty is starting to incorporate virtual reality into buying homes, designed to make the experience faster and easier for homebuyers.

“You’re talking about literally taking homes and creating an atmosphere where people can tour them comfortably on a headset from home,” said Daniel McCarthy, the CEO of DeLex Realty. “You can definitely eliminate homes from your home search easily and save yourself a lot of time.”

You also can tour the houses for sale at home. The virtual reality experience works by playing virtual reality content on a smartphone and inserting the phone into a headset. From there, the user can interact with the virtual environment by looking around just as they would as if they were there.

McCarthy got the idea after his 12-year-old son introduced him to the technology. He said he first saw a virtual reality video six months ago and “instantaneously knew it would translate to real estate extremely well.”

DeLex Realty is the first real estate brokerage in the Valley to use the technology, McCarthy said. The company only has used the technology with one house so far, but a spokeswoman said it plans to roll out more soon. The company debuted the virtual reality stations at an open house last week, and many clients and industry professionals got their first taste of virtually touring a home.

“Real estate is such a visual industry, so having this tool will help people make their decision and to feel more comfortable with that decision. It’s only going to make it easier for consumers as well as agents,” said Kara Mumma, business development manager at AZ Lending Experts.

The company’s debut of virtual reality comes at a transitional time for the real estate industry as more millennials are becoming real estate agents and experimenting with emerging technology like virtual reality.

A 2016 survey by the National Association of Realtors indicated that the average age and years of experience of agents has decreased. Five percent of agents nationwide are under the age of 30, a 2 percent increase from last year, according to the report.

A recent article by Forbes projected that real estate will be the main industry to undergo a transformation with the rise of virtual reality.

However, it may take some time.

A recent online survey by Horizon Media, a media services agency, indicated that of the 3,000 people surveyed nationwide, two-thirds of the respondents weren’t aware of the technology. And many respondents did not want to pay big bucks for the headsets, which range from about $600 for an Oculus Rift device to about $20 for a cardboard viewer from Google.

Still, McCarthy said virtual reality has a strong potential to be the future of real estate.

“People are definitely going to be looking at homes much differently,” he said. “They’re going to experience homes much differently before physically going to the home. They’re going to see this technology in use.”