Bringing homes to buyers with virtual reality
Johnson includes a free headset for clients with contract
Real estate agent Martha Johnson has added virtual reality to her marketing toolkit for buyers and sellers at EXIT 1 Stop Realty based in Dunkirk.
The technology provides a virtual three-dimensional tour of a home through a VR headset equipped with a smartphone. Clients can look from ceiling to floor and wall to wall, as they move virtually from room to room.
Johnson said she started out in the mortgage lending industry in 2002, which progressed to a second mortgage underwriting position.
“As an underwriter, I not only needed to know the lending guidelines, I needed to understand the real estate contracts as well to properly do my job,” she said.
Johnson made her move into real estate sales when she joined with EXIT 1 Stop Realty in January 2014, serving clients in Southern Maryland and surrounding areas.
“So basically, over 15 to 16 years in the industry combined because the mortgage lending and real estate kind of blend together,” she said.
Johnson said she learned of virtual reality as a way to show homes at a marketing seminar in North Carolina, where she met a real estate agent who used the technology to help members of the military relocate.
“They get their orders and they know ‘OK, well in so much time, a few months, I’ve got to be here,’” Johnson said. “But, if they’re halfway across the country, or in Germany for that matter, it’s very hard to go look at houses.”
Johnson said she also finds the technology useful for busy families and professionals whose free time may be limited.
“The kids have [things going on], whether it’s soccer or football or whatever they’re in,” she said. “You don’t have to be a doctor or lawyer to be busy. There’s people who work up in D.C. and they commute. And a lot of times, in my experience, they walk in and they go ‘Well this doesn’t look anything like the pictures.’”
“This way, they’ve gotten to see the house and it’s almost as true of a format as if they’re walking it themselves, ahead of time,” she said.
Johnson said she uses a 360-degree camera to record the properties, with the listing agent’s permission, that interest her buyer-clients, then stores the videos on a password-protected online portal that only she and her clients have access to view.
“While they’re at work, I go out with my camera … and I film each one of them,” she said. “Takes me maybe seven minutes in a house. If you’re out with the client, you’re in the house probably for 30 [minutes].”
Johnson will also give her buyer-clients a VR headset to use with an app on their smartphone for viewing a virtual home tour.
“They take these little goggles that when they sign to work with me, or hire me, basically a buyer-broker agreement, they get these for free,” she said. “They have a little app on the phone for it and then they go in and watch it. If they like that house, then we can schedule an appointment to see it in person.”
Connie Stommel, the broker/ owner of EXIT 1 Stop Realty, said Johnson is on the “cutting edge” with her use of virtual technology to show homes.
“Technology is changing the way that people look at properties, and to get the advantage and to attract more buyers, it’s a wonderful tool,” Stommel said. “Especially for people that are overseas or long distance, they’re coming in from a different state, so it’s definitely a wonderful tool to be able to offer.”
Johnson said her overall focus has always been to provide the highest level of service to her clients and looks for virtual reality to bring “something different, something helpful” to her real estate business.
“What I’m looking for is how do I help my clients,” Johnson said. “How do I do what’s in their best interest and help them when they’re searching for a home.”
Real estate agent Martha Johnson of EXIT 1 Stop Realty in Dunkirk demonstrates the use of a virtual reality headset equipped with a smartphone. The technology enables clients to take a virtual three-dimensional tour of a home.