Of course, the metaverse has not been without its critics. As with any new technology trend, there are natural questions around its longevity, willingness to be embraced by businesses and consumers, and the role of regulation if required. The metaverse is no exception, yet I’d argue that it is not a new concept. The general principles of the metaverse have been around for over three decades and my entire professional working life has been dedicated to exploring how it can be used by enterprises.
Importantly, with public awareness of the metaverse now established, the next step is demonstrating how it can be used by sectors outside of tech to change the way businesses operate.
The property industry is naturally positioned to take full advantage of the metaverse. Here’s why.
The disruptive impact of the metaverse on real estate
When we talk about the metaverse, we are simply referring to the creation of shared, 3D virtual spaces that are linked to an online universe and able to be accessed through different online tools and explored with (3D) avatars. It’s taking our regular, 2D engagement with websites and software, and adding another dimension that encourages engagement and interaction.
The most obvious connections to property comes from the buying and selling of virtual real estate, virtual tours, digital scans, and digital twins. It was recently reported that HSBC was the first global bank to buy virtual real estate in the Sandbox metaverse, joining other big brand names including Gucci and Adidas. Demand for virtual land is rising, with metaverse land sales reaching $500 million in 2021 and forecasts this could double by the end of 2022, led by high-profile purchases of PwC, JP Morgan and Samsung.
Essentially, each metaverse platform has different real estate opportunities, and many of them are facilitated with real deeds. Purchase of digital real estate is recorded on a blockchain, converting to an NFT which is then stored in a digital wallet.
While this application of the metaverse within property is generating the most attention, there are actually much more practical ways for property companies and professionals to use the metaverse to improve the manner in which they operate. One of these is digital twins.
Disruptive potential of digital twins
The property market was adversely affected by lockdown measures imposed at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Buyers, sellers, renters and agents could no longer physically view properties, bringing the market to an effective standstill. Importantly, these challenges demonstrated the reasons why property professionals should leverage technology to offer virtual viewing experiences.
Virtual viewing experiences of commercial and residential real estate are naturally positioned to take place in the metaverse. While online viewings of property are by no means a new innovation, the reality is that the majority are static and non-interactive. Users are cycling through a series of 2D images, offering a 3D illusion of the property. Integrated VR software also means the user doesn’t have to navigate the property with an avatar - instead they can move around the virtual environment as if they were actually there.
Importantly, real estate agents can use the metaverse to provide an interactive environment. By conducting a 3D digital scan of the listed property they are managing, what we call a ‘digital twin’ version of the property can be hosted in the metaverse. It means that users can actively explore the property, taking part in a compelling and live experience, which overcomes the static limitations of current online viewings. There is also the opportunity to create virtual replications of new-build properties under construction, with prospective buyers able to explore the final product before making a decision.
We are seeing first-hand the benefits of digital twin technology at MootUp, working closely with Matterport to explore the full potential of 3D technology. What’s more, having personally pioneered the world’s first 360 immersive virtual tour technology for the property industry, I can confidently say we are only just scratching the surface when it comes to understanding how we can use the metaverse to transform sectors.
Digital replications of physical world environments within a virtual environment opens a new realm of possibilities and is set to be one of the top disruptive trends affecting the property market in the coming decade. If we look further into the future, the combination of Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and digital twins could even impact the valuation of real estate, which is determined by both its physical and virtual value.
Excitingly this is just the beginning of a bigger transformation led by the proliferation of the metaverse. It is changing the way we understand physical and virtual worlds, which is why property professionals need to begin understanding how they can leverage the metaverse to their advantage.