Reimagining the Home-Buying Process with Augmented Reality

The first time you walk in the door of what could be your dream house, you still have to do a lot of creative thinking: Can you picture your furniture there? Your art? Your color palette? Your dog?

You may soon be able to get an assist from augmented reality (AR). The technology—thanks to Apple’s new ARKit for the iPhone and iPad—allows you to blend digitally generated objects and information into real-time imaging of your immediate environment to create custom scenes.

Imagine being able to overlay images of your living room furniture on the actual space you’re viewing or virtually paint an entire room to your liking.

“AR would definitely help buyers visualize living in a house if they had the option of inserting their own possessions,” says Betty Lee, a Corcoran agent based in Brooklyn Heights.

AR gives house hunters the ability to think much more creatively on-site about design ideas and remodeling, and modify that vision as they take measurements of each room with their device.

“The technology can show different samples for the flooring, or different fixtures in kitchens and bathrooms, so that buyers can customize a home to their individual taste,” says Randy Baruh, an agent in Corcoran’s SoHo office. “You can virtually move a wall to make an open kitchen.”

In this way, AR has the potential for major cost- and time-savings. You will be able to walk into a home while using an application that has your personal tastes pre-loaded and ready to place into view. Measure the outside walls of a house and apply different colors, and you can figure out how many gallons of paint you will need. Survey the basement—and, yes, you can fit in a wine cellar and a screening room.

Use of AR technology may also help sellers reduce staging costs. Because of AR, sellers might not have to invest as much time and resources on staging as they would for repeat buyer visits—they might just have to focus on decluttering and removing (or rearranging) larger pieces of furniture.

“Longstanding home owners really care for their houses, but their furnishings are not always the most up-to-date,” Lee says, so AR gives would-be buyers an easy way to see past that by overlaying their own selections.

Another helpful attribute of AR that benefits home buyers, agents, and developers: Viewing a structure based entirely on design plans.

“Instead of walking onto a construction site with an agent showing you a brochure, with AR, you hold up your iPhone and see the completed space,” Baruh says. “That’s a much better way of bringing the home closer to the perception of the buyer.”

In this application, AR can also help you think about any number of landscaping concepts and future additions—a deck, terrace or garden—and modify them as you see them.

Using AR can only enhance the buying experience. “As an agent, you want to be as good a salesperson as you can, so you bring to the table whatever you can to assist your clients,” Baruh says.

Lee, who credits her Instagram account with helping to close one of her best deals, sees AR as “a really great tool, if done the right way.”

“AR is a complimentary component to the whole process, but nothing is going to replace the actual visit to a property,” Lee says. “Finding a home is a very emotional process— it’s still about how you feel when you open the front door.”