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Virtual Real Estate long existed before Metaverse

The sudden booming activity in the metaverse, which is a fusion of virtual reality, augmented reality, and video that allows users to immersively “live and interact" within a digital universe, has led to a surge in demand for virtual land plots and real estate. It has only been a couple of months since Facebook’s rebrand to change their name to “Meta” as an emphasis on metaverse, both Business Insider and The New York Times have touted a “virtual land boom”. Particularly, a 116-parcel estate in Decentraland has been sold for a record-breaking USD 2.4 million.

Not a novel concept, gamers have been developing and, or “living” virtually through existing internet-enabled video games such as Second Life, Minecraft, and Fortnite. The selling point of the metaverse is the immersiveness to the digital environment through virtual and augmented reality technologies that make the virtual existence and real estate “real” and possibly to replace the real-life setting such as meeting rooms, concert halls, and shopping malls.

With the cheapest plots of land in Decentraland costing nearly USD 15,000, many people remain skeptical on the economic value and the prospect of virtual real estate. On the other hand, the immersive technology and virtual experiences that was utilized has been reliable and has been around for quite some time, especially in the PropTech (Property Technology) and the real estate realm for virtual house viewing purposes.

The PropTech domain is gaining solid momentum from emerging trends in 2022. We will cover one of the trends in this article which is virtual house viewing. “In the post-pandemic era, the real estate sector is expected to continue striking a balance between physical property visits and virtual visits, when it comes to buying and selling of ready homes/apartments especially.” , cited from Yourstory Media, it demonstrates the demands of virtual house viewing clearly.

JGB Smart Property collaborated with NTHURC in Nov in 2021 (New Taipei City Housing and Urban Regeneration Center) to create a virtual house viewing ecosystem, especially public social housing.

There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has caused a massive shift into the virtual world; virtual and digital housing views have been increasingly helpful to facilitate tenants and buyers looking for their ideal home. Home owners and agents have utilized VR and AI analysis to allow potential buyers to have a guided tour around the property without traveling. Indeed, the development of virtual house viewing has been quite advanced. For instance, JGB Smart Property from Taiwan has been collaborating with iStaging to develop a “Virtual Showrooms”, introducing XR (Extended Reality) as their new concept. Their VR technology can accurately record the property’s environment and conduct visual management, which can greatly improve the management of the property. While a lot of people imagine AR and VR with a heavy and expensive headset, iStaging's VR generation and browsing does not limit to any device and can be embedded in various websites. Similar to the metaverse, virtual house viewing allows users to engage in an environment digitally, but instead of being virtually constructed, the environment is a real-life asset.

Not only do immersiveness experiences aided the boom of virtual real estate, but also that of physical real estate. A property management firm has raised their revenue under the pandemic by having a 10% increase in the number of managing properties through using JGB Smart Property’s Virtual Showrooms. Virtual housing viewing has expanded the potential market from geographically reachable to internet accessible, the “just-in-time” immersive experience helps foreign customers to understand the first-hand situation of the property without physical presences, making overseas property rental and sales easier. Along with the function of virtual house viewing, the JGB Smart cloud-based housing management system helps overseas real estate agents to solve B-to-B services such as property & marketing management both rent and buy, eLease management, online handover & inspection, cash flow automation also built-in team management, maintenance management and smart IoT devices.

While purchasing virtual land is a farfetched dream to many people, utilizing virtual house viewing services for property selling is not as unaffordable. Along with the virtual house viewing service, the listing fee on JGB is as low as USD $3 per month for early-stage SMEs. Perhaps in the future, AR and VR technologies will be as common as the smartphone of today.

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