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East Anglia Future 50

Buyers of Norfolk homes can now view using virtual reality

PUBLISHED: 14:24 04 April 2019 | UPDATED: 14:24 04 April 2019

Chris Daws, Senior negotiator at Webster's Estate Agent, who are offering virtual property tours. Picture: Ella Wilkinson, Archant.

Chris Daws, Senior negotiator at Webster's Estate Agent, who are offering virtual property tours. Picture: Ella Wilkinson, Archant.

It might seem like something out of a sci-fi movie but house buyers now can have a virtual reality experience thanks to a Norwich estate agent.

Websters estate agents are offering virtual tours of their properties. Caroline Culot tries out the VR technology. Picture: Ella Wilkinson, Archant.Websters estate agents are offering virtual tours of their properties. Caroline Culot tries out the VR technology. Picture: Ella Wilkinson, Archant.

The technology, which instantly transports you to a virtual world, has been used by big London agents and those in the US for some time to show buyers around houses without leaving their offices – but it is new in Norfolk.

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Charlie Webster, who runs Websters estate agents with his wife Emma, decided to take a gamble on the cost of a VR kit to help reduce the time on viewings but also make house buying more fun and offer something different from competitors.

Other agents like Strutt & Parker have also invested in using virtual reality headsets but less so in its Norwich office.

Chris Daws, Senior negotiator at Webster's Estate Agent, who are offering virtual property tours. Picture: Ella Wilkinson, Archant.Chris Daws, Senior negotiator at Webster's Estate Agent, who are offering virtual property tours. Picture: Ella Wilkinson, Archant.

The slightly different concept of a computer simulated reality was the topic of the blockbuster film The Matrix and more recently, the film Ready Player One tackled the subject of virtual reality directly, set in 2045 when most humans use it to escape the desolation of the real world.

And now, you can walk around a house without stepping foot inside the real thing. Chris Daws, senior negotiator at Websters, on Unthank Road, said: “It stops time wasters as people can view a home in enormous detail, just as if they were really walking around, so when we then do an actual viewing, we tend to only have people who are motivated to buy. It’s also ideal if someone lives out of Norfolk as it saves on an initial visit and of course it also helps in reducing viewing appointments which we do ourselves.”

He stressed the kit was an aid to buying a house and that people should still view in person too. And it’s already proving a success. Chris said: “We had a mid terrace on Dereham Road which received an offer £37,000 above the guide price after we used the virtual reality technology.”

The system involves a filming process in the property rather like is done for Google street view which takes about 45 minutes and this is replicated in the virtual world by software. Users wear large headsets with in-built goggles and operate a hand-held device to enable them to ‘walk’ around the virtual house. They can explore upstairs and go into rooms as well as looking through windows whereas in reality they don’t move from the estate agent’s office.

Websters is currently offering virtual reality on a ‘handful’ of homes for sale and do so at an additional cost to the seller, which varies depending on the type of house. The technology also allows sophisticated ‘virtual tours’ offered on homes whereby you can ‘walk through’ using your fingertips on a decvice such as your phone to incredible detail, with no need for a headset, and much improved on the old style digital ‘tours.’

Business writer Caroline Culot tried it out at Websters. “I couldn’t believe how life-like it was. I came in through a front door, went upstairs and turned around and actually felt really worried I was going to fall down the stairs. Yet I was really just sitting at a desk. Once Chris had set it up, it was really easy to use, you just use click on the hand-held device on a green sphere that appears in the virtual rooms allowing you to walk around. It was literally like being in your own virtual ‘doll’s house.”

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