Virtual reality playing a role in Seattle real estate

KING 5's Josh Green reports.

SEATTLE – Kyle Chabot-Maltz "walked" on a tour through one of Seattle's newest high-rise condos Thursday. He checked out the tower's decks, the kitchens and bathrooms. The thing is, the tower, Luma, isn't even off the ground yet. Construction just recently started and the 23-story complex should be finished next spring.

How did Kyle's tour happen? Virtual reality.

"If something's not built-out in this case, it's a lot better way to view it or envision it," he said.

An Oculus Virtual Reality headset and a hand control helps him walk through the project. Luma's sales center saw the technology as a chance to give potential buyers a better chance to experience something that's not there yet.

"It's very important for the buyers to understand how they will live in their space," said Suzi Morris, regional head for Lowe Enterprises, the company in charge of the project. "In the past we would have full-scale models of the building and you could kind of point and say, this is where your unit will be."

An iPad app also lets users change the colors of condo finishings and see what views are like from different floors.

Developers estimate the technology, programming and development, view photography and interior/exterior/amenity renderings that comprise the Luma Oculus experience and iPad application cost around $100,000.

"But when you think about that traditional sales center model where you're leasing out, say 1,200 square feet, which we have, you're leasing out 2,000 to 3,000 feet in order to build out a full model unit you could walk through," Morris said. "The cost of the technology and the hardware that goes along with it is substantially less expensive and more impactful."

Michael Doyle, manager broker at Windermere Real Estate as well as Kyle's broker, said his own company has recently re-launched their site and is looking for ways like this to enhance user experience.

"What I think is really fascinating about this is that in site sales, there's a big leap of faith and a lot of people just can't make it," Doyle said. "They need to physically see the property first."

He said realtors are interested to see how the technology will play a role in the "satisfaction quotient" customers have buying a condo they technically haven't seen yet.

"I often tell them understand that you might encounter a product that's a little different," he said. "I think this technology really bridges that gap. I don't know if it bridges it completely, but I think it should bridge that gap significantly. It'll be really interesting, I think, to see once these Luma buyers move in what their satisfaction rate is."

Luma starts accepting contracts on June 1. The 240-foot tall, 168-unit tower will be located on the corner of Boylston and Seneca in the First Hill neighborhood.


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