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Why the metaverse matters in property

The metaverse, or virtual communities, has the potential to revolutionize the property technology industry. Runway Metaverse, a recently launched offering, aims to provide homebuyers and homeowners with a superior, immersive and realistic preview of a future, post-built community.

I wanted to explain our thinking and rationale behind our recently launched offering and its application in the property technology industry.

Our goal for a community metaverse is to create a highly immersive and realistic virtual experience that allows consumers to explore home options in a post-construction community while leveraging the digital infrastructure to provide additional benefits from planning through to delivering HOA functions.

When we commenced this journey in 2017, we wanted to explore if a virtual community has validity for property marketing. We didn't want to invest if online technology wasn't mature enough or the experience would not deliver a significant advantage over traditional experiences. From the many tests we developed to help guide our decisions, we settled on a defined scale and usability test.

First is the concept of high and low-fidelity human interface experiences. A high-level fidelity experience is a high-resolution immersive metaverse, and the lowest, for example, could be a messaging app emoji.

New technology can provide realistic, high-fidelity, large-scale virtual environments, but it doesn't mean people will necessarily gravitate toward using them. To help determine this, we established three top-level reasons people might prefer high-fidelity over low-fidelity experiences;

  • Engagement - Is the interface appropriately impactful?

  • Efficiency - Does it save time and improve decision-making?

  • Equivalence - Does it deliver equal or better information than other channels?

There are many sub-reasons we considered too. For example, under engagement, there is authenticity and accuracy. We also considered age/maturity and lifetime percentage exposure to technology-enabled experiences.

You can test this with different interaction scenarios.

A quick text message asking how my neighbor is, warrants a simple reply. Entering a metaverse-like simulation to conduct that exchange would not compete. It’s inefficient, the equivalence has already been achieved and the engagement level is overblown. However, a teenager might join forces with a neighbor's kid via an online game and engage virtually for hours! The high level of engagement is the main attraction and the efficient ability to chat is equivalent or better to in-person social interaction.

How does the Runway Metaverse work for property marketing?

35 years ago, buying property exclusively used low-fidelity print advertising to generate an in-person experience visiting the property or community. Homebuyers engaged directly with Realtors and Sales Councilors, and it was predominantly local. When the internet displaced print advertising, this opened up the possibility to view properties and communities from anywhere. Photos, video, and street view lifted the experience to a higher level.

So does a high-fidelity, fully immersive virtual experience add enough value to influence a buying decision? With selling an existing property, probably not. Evidence of this is in real estate portals around the world. Photo galleries, videos, and street view are often the highest fidelity interfaces. This level of engagement shows the home's actual condition at a significantly lower cost than generating a digital twin that is authentic to its condition. But sifting through hundreds of homes online is vastly more efficient, and there is an equivalent- the actual home.

But what about selling unbuilt homes in a new community?

Not only does the home not exist, but neither may the future neighbor's properties. Without interior and exterior virtual interfaces, the homebuyer engagement is via lower-fidelity interfaces, like maps, images, floor plans, and videos. Visiting the new community and model homes may help elevate some gaps, but depending on how developed the community is, it’s tough to envision your future home within its neighborhood properly. Showcasing yet-to-be-developed amenities are also a problem. It's also inefficient to visit many communities in person to help fill in the gaps.

But people have purchased off the plan for decades without immersive technology. Why would this change? I can see several influences that may change this.

  1. Immersive simulation technology like Runway Metaverse is now possible.

  2. Low fidelity may still work for older buyers, but for the younger generation, instant gratification via high-fidelity experiences will be preferred. Now that the market has cooled, the purchasing power pendulum has swung back to the homebuyer. Providing world-class, high-impact homebuyer experiences will provide a first-mover advantage, then set the standard. It will be difficult to maintain a lower fidelity experience when your competitor can virtually showcase homebuyers yet to be built amenities and allow them to walk the street showing home options precisely located on the available lots amongst future neighbors' homes.

  3. The costs of implementing a metaverse solution are now more affordable. AI will lower costs even further over time.

  4. There are multiple use cases and benefits of a community metaverse from planning through sales and marketing to HOA.

There is another cost related factor. Immersive technology will actually reduce costs while delivering greater results.

Consider that recently in Australia, a volume builder sold over 200 homes exclusively from an online virtual model (walk-through interior/exterior experience) without a physical model home ever existing. Building the 3D model was a fraction of the cost of building a physical model home. This highly engaging, ultimately efficient, and fully equivalent experience generated a better financial result than the physical world lower fidelity alternative.

That’s why we’ve invested years in developing the foundation technology that supports the immersive experience in Runway’s Metaverse. We firmly believe that a high-fidelity experience delivers a superior representation of an entire community, from showcasing unbuilt amenities to previewing photorealistic 3D home options precisely placed on each lot.

For a demonstration of Runway’s Metaverse click here.

About Rowan Kelly

Rowan has spent 35 years in developing property technology. From pioneering desktop publishing technology in the 80s and early 90s in esteemed agencies including BDDO, Clemenger, TCA to establishing Runway in 1997. Rowan has been responsible for multiple innovations over the decades from House and Land packaging, Lotfit, Quantum and Runway Metaverse.

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