Real Estate News

Virtual reality lets buyers take cyber-tours of preconstruction luxury condos

Sandra Chartouni, Jade Signature director of sales, uses a virtual reality device to tour a pre-construction luxury condo unit, March 10, 2016 in the theater at the Jade Signature sales center, 17070 Collins Ave., in Sunny Isles Beach.
Sandra Chartouni, Jade Signature director of sales, uses a virtual reality device to tour a pre-construction luxury condo unit, March 10, 2016 in the theater at the Jade Signature sales center, 17070 Collins Ave., in Sunny Isles Beach. mhalper@miamiherald.com

As director of sales at Jade Signature’s Sunny Isles center, Sandra Chartouni’s job is to persuade people from all over the world to fork over millions of dollars for a product that does not yet exist.

Jade Signature’s Sky Villas, which will range from 6,300 to 6,500 square feet, run about $14 million — not exactly pocket change — and won’t be ready until 2017.

Luckily, Chartouni has the latest tech gadget at her disposal to make selling preconstruction units a breeze.

Virtual reality, the most recent development in the ongoing trend of merging real estate and technology to sell luxury, is bringing high-end buyers closer to their dream homes.

“We really are selling a dream, and this is just another tool which solidifies that reality,” Chartouni said, clutching a pair of Samsung Gear VR goggles that look like something a Star Wars stormtrooper would wear.

Virtual reality, as seen through devices like the Samsung Gear VR and Oculus Rift, breaks through the limitations of a “fixed picture plane” and shows not just what an apartment looks like, but what it feels like, said Matthew Bannister, a founder of DBOX, which created the virtual reality tour used by Jade Signature.

We don’t want people to have to wait until the building is done for people to be like, ‘Wow, I haven’t seen anything else like this.’

Dan Riordan, Turnberry Associates

Hold the goggles to your eyes, and you’re immediately transported to a sleek kitchen draped in early afternoon sunlight. Stroll through the living room, decorated with contemporary furniture in neutral tones, and explore the upstairs area, which features an Atlantic Ocean backdrop. You’re in your new home, virtual reality suggests.

“We’re trying to create an emotional connection,” Chartouni said. “It’s a pivotal point in how people will sell real estate.”

Chartouni said Fortune International Group, the developer behind Jade Signature, will ship the hardware — Samsung Gear VR goggles and a Samsung S6 Edge smartphone — to vetted prospective buyers.

“It’s the first step to getting someone on a plane over here,” Chartouni said, referring to Fortune’s extensive list of foreign clients.

By comparison, water color renderings are quaint relics of the past, says Dan Riordan, head of residential development for Turnberry Associates, where Realtors show off Turnberry Ocean Club preconstruction units using “Real Time” technology, a take on virtual reality that uses a joystick controller rather than goggles.

“I can’t tell you how many sales I’ve had solely because of that, but it’s pretty amazing,” Riordan said. “Technology’s come such a long way from where it used to be.”

The baseline price for virtual reality technology like Real Time is around $40,000, according to Gonzalo Navarro, a found of ArX Solutions, the Coral Gables-based architectural visualization firm behind Real Time. But the more intricate the imaging becomes, the higher that price goes.

“It’s like a car. You can have a Kia that costs $18,000 or a Maserati that costs $200,000. They both have four wheels, an engine and four seats. But there’s a big difference.”

Virtual reality, pricey as it may be, is nonetheless a cost-cutting opportunity for developers who use “sample units” to display preconstruction projects. Hermès throw blankets and Tiffany & Co. china add up, of course, and sample units can cost as much as $1 million. For that same price, Navarro said, a developer can create virtual reality renderings of practically every unit in a building.

“This is the future,” he said.

Follow Debora Lima on Twitter @dtdlima

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