Virtual Reality is rarely understood correctly by the media. Some reporters think VR is for neckbeard gamers who will spend their lives in their parent’s basement. Others think of it as an impending dystopian nightmare in which humans will exit reality. The media then attempts to extrapolate the philosophical or business implications of virtual reality as a consumer technology based upon those flawed understandings.
Put simply: Virtual reality is a tool for professionals to get work done. Most jobs won’t require VR and some will only require VR for specific applications like training. A VR headset is a tool like a paint brush or hammer for the 21st century. Unlike those analog tools, VR headsets are supercharged by software. VR is a platform: it can handle multiple types of use cases like a Swiss-army knife.
Google Earth, the VR Edition is a real estate technologist’s wet dream. Over the past few weeks, I’ve spent some time flying through NYC streets with Google Earth/Street View VR. I can say confidently that this technology is a game changer. Real estate value is largely based on location and Google Earth in VR helps you understand neighborhoods/regions much faster than walking or driving through them.
Real estate companies grow with the neighborhoods they service. Many Manhattan firms have tried to buy their way into Brooklyn, most have failed. Why? Brokerages that attempt to buy into mature markets will likely fail because they attempt to understand one neighborhood through the lens of another one. You’ll hear a brokerage owner saying “Bushwick is the next Williamsburg!” and that is simply not true. Bushwick’s real estate market is radically different than Williamsburg and what it takes to succeed in one isn’t necessarily the same in the other.
Over the past couple years, I’ve had the unique experience to help strategize Nooklyn’s expansion into multiple neighborhoods like Crown Heights and Kensington. As a brokerage service, Nooklyn doubles in agent headcount every year and we’ve been able to become the single largest firm within a year in each of the neighborhoods that we focus on. How? We understand these neighborhoods better than anyone else. As we’re beginning to plan our next expansion: Google Earth in VR will be a tool that will enable Nooklyn to compete asymmetrically and dominate our competition.
With Google Earth/Street View in VR, I can travel block by block in each any neighborhood. There’s even a nifty time travel feature in Street View! I’ll be able see where the commercial storefronts are being built and where the most important housing developments will be. I’ll be able to understand these neighborhoods at scale and build software to grow Nooklyn’s market share. I’ll be able to travel from neighborhood to neighborhood within seconds in VR without leaving my home office. The possibilities are truly infinite and most in the industry will overlook the technology as a gimmick.
I use to try and explain the value of software to people in real estate as over the past year, I’ve met most of the owners of NYC/Brooklyn brokerages. They all say the same thing: real estate is a people business. I’m hopeful they keep believing that. As Jeff Bezos once said, “your margin is my opportunity.”