Foxtons let me view my next flat in virtual reality

Manny Pham
May 19, 2016

We had a flat viewing at Foxtons Estate Agents using a Samsung Gear VR headset. Is this the future?

I’m currently flat hunting and it’s giving me a headache the size of Kanye West’s ego. The funny thing is I’m not even flat hunting for myself (the warm rent free room at my parent’s suffices for now), I’m doing it for a friend who’s far from home and foolishly took on a flat he can’t really afford, in London (I know). We can probably moan about rent rates in London for three feature articles, but we’re the wrong publication to do that, so we’re only going to do it a little. Rent in London is so ridiculous, a particular individual has resorted to renting out a garden shed for £850 a month.

Yes you heard, a garden shed, a storage facility that once housed lawnmowers and rakes. Did he have some Fresh Prince of Bel Air pool house fantasy while the landlord read him his agreement? Apparently no, he genuinely loves it, fair play.

For the rest of us who prefer to be the third little pig with some solid walls around us, there’s a new take to flat viewings using virtual reality. Foxtons Estate Agents is now offering renters and house hunters a chance to view a prospective property through a Samsung Gear VR headset. Currently the Foxtons Islington office is carrying out the scheme.

The Samsung Gear VR was included as a free gift for those who pre-ordered the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge. The Gear VR has an advantage over other affordable VR headsets, sporting Oculus components. It’s a decent VR headset but not one in the same league as the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. But that’s expected being a headset for £100 while the Vive and Rift are north of £500.

A View from the Headset

I don’t think Foxtons expect a potential buyer to make the decision to buy/rent a property from a VR viewing. But it does give you a good idea of the actual property. Clarity of the VR headset played an important part here, the Gear VR offers resolutions of 2,560 x 1,440, with an AMOLED display, offering a good look at properties. There was no ghosting or blur as I was mesmerised with a flat in Fulham, that my friend couldn’t afford unless he sold a couple of family members to human traffickers.

I could see the usefulness VR can provide to the property market. Instead of sifting through pictures of flats on an iPad, you can pop the Gear VR on and decide which flat deserves a proper viewing.

While I was in the virtual flat I felt like a security camera craning my head around to analyse my surroundings. To move to another room you have to look at arrows leading out and selecting them. If Foxtons or any other estate agents want to take VR viewings to another level, they should invest into better VR tech, namely the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift.

During a demo with the HTC Vive at Mobile World Congress I witnessed the potential in VR. I was able to walk around within a designated space with warnings when I wandered too far. With a powerful VR device like the HTC Vive a more immersive flat viewing can be done, where you can actually walk around the entire room and get a better idea.

VR viewings is a great idea, it can help you make a better decision and would probably save you a trip on the underground or two. If Foxtons or any other estate agents decides to do it seriously, I think we’re in for a new staple in property viewings.

Check out the Foxtons VR experience here or head to the Islington office try try for yourself.

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