Custom Home Builder:  Forward Thinking with Virtual Reality

Custom Home Builder: Forward Thinking with Virtual Reality

Although he doesn’t advertise it as such, Lochwood-Lozier is a design/build firm, and it also takes on projects designed by outside architects, building eight to 10 custom homes per year and doing about 15 to 20 remodels. Typical homes measure 5,500 to 6,000 square feet and cost anywhere from $1.5 million to $1.6 million, not including the land. The budget for a recent remodel was $3.4 million.

Clients purchasing custom builds at that level are discerning and sophisticated, particularly in the high-tech demographic that makes up Lozier’s market.

Along with personal attention and today’s typical basket of e-marketing tools—Houzz, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter—Lozier takes it a step further by using virtual reality to better connect his clients with their projects. “So many people have difficulty understanding 2D plans,” he says. “Even in SketchUp it’s not quite the same level of realism.”

Virtual reality (VR) offers a computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional environment in which viewers can interact with their surroundings—not to be confused with augmented reality (AR), which adds digital elements to a live view.

While more and more architects have turned to VR to share projects with clients or collaborate on work, not many builders are using it. “I don’t know of any other design/build contractors doing this,” Lozier says. “It’s not a common thing—yet.”

Lochwood-Lozier teamed up with Seattle-based Radical Galaxy, which works with companies to create VR, AR, and mixed-reality material for their projects. It works this way: After Lozier’s (or the external) architects have designed a home and made the selections (floor, tile, wall color, hard surfaces, sometimes furniture) with their client’s input, they send Radical Galaxy 2D drawings as DWG files. These include floor plans, elevations, dimensions, measurements—“basically what would be in a 2D set of drawings,” Lozier says. In a process that takes about two to three weeks, Radical Galaxy inputs that information into its program and produces a VR file…

…Clients come to the office, put on a headset, and get to virtually walk through their home. Some opt for an exterior and interior look, and some just look at particular rooms. “They can check for potential problems,” Lozier says. For example, one client used the system to go through his kitchen. He realized the distance between the bar table and the kitchen island was too narrow. Lozier’s team was able to revise the drawing in CAD to make that space more comfortable. They sent the file back to Radical Galaxy and then had the client walk through again to sign off on it.

…VR walkthrough—ranges from $8,000 to $20,000. Most of that is for programming and the tremendous number of hours that go into production. But Lozier says the cost is not bad when you’re building a $5 million project and you have a hard time visualizing what’s on paper. “This is truly some of the best money you can spend on this level,” he says. “Think of the cost of a change order in the field; the cost of VR could be miniscule. I haven’t had a client tell me it wasn’t money well spent.”

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Inman: Love VR, but hate the headset? Try Ground Control

Inman: Love VR, but hate the headset? Try Ground Control

Radical Galaxy Studio is still pushing the virtual property tour market with super clean interiors, on-demand finish changes and life-like walkthroughs.

However, homebuyers aren’t totally ready for it, yet.

The company recently launched a sort of go-between tour product for agents who sell new-build condos, residences and apartments from showroom floors. It’s a VR content management system (CMS) called Ground Control.

The software builds out prospective units for agents to tour with clients from a tablet, wireless connection and hi-res office monitor, for example, instead of from behind the typical, face-eating VR headset.

“We found that some buyers were getting lost in the tours,” said Radical Galaxy Studio Managing Partner Matthew Shaffer.

The interiors are sharp, computer-generated renderings devised from actual blueprints and interior design plans.

In Ground Control, night can be changed to day, televisions can be turned on and off, hallway lights dimmed, counter-tops changed from granite to concrete and carpets pulled up for hardwood. But the bones of the actual unit remain as they will be built, giving prospective buyers, quite literally, a look into the future.

Agents and their clients can takes notes in the software as well, recommending different finishes or fixtures, for example. There are also live updates of a unit’s market status.

For selling agents, Ground Control’s features and benefits give them a much more stable platform on which to market property than paper brochures and flat, colorful collateral ever could.

Virtual tours with this much clarity provide a better sense of possibility of purchasing, allowing buyers to actually see themselves in a unit, whereas traditional means of promotion might feel too far away for buyers and lack the ability to engage them.

“We want VR to be cog in the sales wheel, it shouldn’t be the only thing a buyer uses to make an offer,” Shaffer said. “Still, we think agents should think differently about how they market and sell.”

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Radical Galaxy Announces the Release of Ground Control

Radical Galaxy Announces the Release of Ground Control

Today, Radical Galaxy Studio, a real estate technology firm, announced the release of “Ground Control,” a cutting-edge content management system (CMS) intended to dramatically improve the real estate sales center experience.

Ground Control gives brokers the ability to navigate seamlessly between all the marketing content while remotely controlling the display. The user will have the ability to manage floor plans, unit information, exterior and interior renderings, virtual reality tours, drone photography, maps, videos and more from one easy-to-use application. One of the main features of the app is the ability to remotely control the camera view during a virtual reality tour.

“We are excited to announce the release of Ground Control,” said Matthew Shaffer, Managing Partner at Radical Galaxy Studio. “Today’s consumer expects a seamless, content rich presentation when visiting a sales or leasing center. We gathered and acted upon feedback from our clients and the real estate community to develop the new features and tools that became Ground Control.”

About Radical Galaxy:

Radical Galaxy Studio, LLC is a real estate technology firm with offices in Seattle and NYC that is pushing the boundaries of what can be done within the sales leasing processes.  Radical Galaxy has worked with industry leaders including Oxford Properties, Marriott, Cushman Wakefield and Hyatt Hotels.