Liz Von Glahn, a sales agent for Vantage Homes, takes a model home tour using a VR headset.
Liz Von Glahn, a sales agent for Vantage Homes, takes a model home tour using a VR headset.

In the rapidly growing and competitive housing market, companies nationwide are finding it necessary to innovate in order to entice potential homebuyers to purchase properties.

Toward that end, Colorado Springs-based homebuilder Vantage Homes recently introduced a new method for viewing and touring its many model homes — without even setting foot outside.

On March 1, the company rolled out the use of virtual reality technology that is beginning to become a mainstay among many of the country’s real estate firms, although Marketing Manager Crystal Johnston said Vantage is the first homebuilder in the region to offer this particular service to its clients.

“Most people have the 360-degree tours, but we wanted to take it to the next level,” Johnston said. “We wanted to give people that virtual experience and allow them to feel as if they are truly in the home.”

The company uses a specially designed 3D camera system and corresponding mobile app to allow potential homebuyers to take virtual tours of Vantage properties via virtual reality goggles or headsets.

“Sometimes buyers just don’t have the time to visit the other models,” Johnston said. “It’s exciting, because they actually feel like they’re walking through a home.”

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While homebuyers can download the app on Apple or Android phones and take tours via their own VR devices (including Google Cardboard, Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear) the company offers the service at all of its model home locations — in the North Fork, The Farm, Cordera, Flying Horse and Promontory Point developments.

“We have 22 models to go through, and sometimes one may be sold before a potential buyer even gets the chance to walk through it,” Johnston said.

Although Johnston said she sees why the company’s investment in VR technology may seem novel, it’s the time savings and efficiency it could create that convinced Vantage to take the dive after learning more about it at last year’s National Association of Homebuilders Convention in Miami.

Consequently, Vantage purchased the $4,500 Matterport Pro 3D Camera and a dozen $200 Bionic Vision Plus virtual reality headsets, and all of the photography is performed by a staff member.

“This will allow us to actually educate the individuals who come through the door and really show them everything we have to offer, rather than having to schedule tours and walk through all the individual homes,” Johnston said.

Unlike photos or the aforementioned 360-degree, drag-and-drop embedded photo tours — which are becoming commonplace on Facebook and other platforms — Vantage Sales Agent Liz Von Glahn said the “VR goggles” and “Matterport VR” app give her clients an unprecedented opportunity to get a real feel for the size and shape of the space.

Perhaps the first real estate firm to bring the technology to the region was Colorado Springs-based residential firm Behr & Behr Team, which began offering VR home tours in late 2014.

“We started out just using it for our higher-end listings,” said Brandon Behr, an agent on the Behr & Behr Team. “But we noticed that it really seemed to give a totally new perspective — it was something that was really helpful to people who couldn’t physically visit the home.”

In the time the Behr & Behr Team has used the technology, the Colorado Springs housing market has changed drastically. Now that sale times on homes are so short, he said the company only creates VR tours for homes that haven’t sold after a week or two on the market.

Although Behr said it is “definitely one of the tools in the bag,” he said that he doesn’t feel like it increases sales on a regular basis. However, he said it has been a game-changer for military personnel and others looking to buy homes in places they often can’t get to for a tour before the home sells.

“When it’s something where you tap into the overseas market, that’s when you really start seeing [VR] activity,” he said.