While the ultra-rich of Australia, as Domain termed them, snap up harbourside properties that are so big they get a name (you know a house is fancy when it’s on an estate and has a name, like Elaine, the $71 million Point Piper property Atlassian cofounder Scott Farquhar bought in 2016), reality for most other Australians is apartment living.
As demand for housing grows – The Conversation noted that 2016 marked the first time that construction had begun on more higher-density housing in Australia than detached dwelling – many developments are selling out of apartments years before the finishing touches have been installed.
Though buying apartments or other properties off the plan is becoming the norm for many, doing it can be stressful – a standard display suite can only show you so much.
Looking to make it a little bit easier is Melbourne startup Homie3D. Founded by Jesse Broadhurst, Todd Rogerson, and Paul Diamond, Homie3D works with developers to create virtual tours of off the plan properties, with prospective buyers able to look at various potential customisations as they walk through to see what they like best.
As Broadhurst explained, having a visual representation of the floor plan is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome when home buyers or commercial tenants are looking at off the plan properties.
“Add available upgrades like wall colours, finishes, and fixtures to the mix and it becomes near impossible,” he said.
Homie3D aims to help them overcome that hurdle by allowing prospective home buyers and commercial tenants get a “realistic and interactive” visualisation of a property, Broadhurst said, giving them the ability to select available customisations and upgrades on the development.
With a background in 3D and visual effects, Broadhurst began coming up with the concept of Homie3D in 2014, when the hype around virtual reality started to pick up and virtual property tours began launching. While the release of the 360 degree camera enabled the creation of these tours, Broadhurst said he saw a gap in the market for off the plan properties.
“For the current tech to be effective the property needed to be already built, which left a large portion of the property sector untouched,” Broadhurst said.
“I quickly moved my attention to researching off the plan properties through forums and online surveys and found that there were many obstacles in the current process of sales in which VR could benefit both the developer and the end consumer.”
The Homie3D team spent two years developing the platform, after which Broadhurst said it was “fast, functional, and looked fantastic”. Putting it in front of people in the property industry, they received positive feedback and in turn sent it to a small group of consumers to test.
“After receiving the feedback two weeks later, I deleted the project and started again,” Broadhurst said.
“I realised I had forgotten why I created the tool in the first place: for the general consumer. The original product had all the functionality and bells and whistles but it was too complicated. It needed to be designed so that an everyday user could pick it up and straight away understand how it works.”
The team went back to the drawing board with one key focus: simplicity.
In its current iteration, Homie3D creates a walkthrough off a 2D floor plan and material references supplied by a developer or property agent.
“From there we create an optimized 3D model and import this into a game engine with our custom-built functionality. Once everything is set up we export this to the required platforms such as mobile, desktop, and VR, with inbuilt analytics to ensure we can track the effectiveness of the platform,” Broadhurst explained.
Prospective buyers, meanwhile, can take a walkthrough on their mobile device or desktop on their own, or take the full VR experience should they choose to visit a display suite.
Targeting property developers, Broadhurst said the team’s network has helped the startup make inroads and it has signed with a residential provider.
Broadhurst acknowledged the competition in the space, however believes none have the “inbuilt interactivity, functionality, and simplicity” of Homie3D. What they have done, he said, is helped prove the value of virtual reality to the property and construction sector.
“The development of our 3D solution has been a long journey. During that time, we have seen numerous potential competitors racing to be first to market, but when technology is considered a race, it is rarely implemented well,” he said.
“It was for this reason we decided to wait, to take the time to not only create a product that is effective, but to create a meaningful and memorable experience for our users.”
Among the other startups working in this space is StartVR, which also looks to help prospective buyers of off the plan properties get a better feel for what a property could look like, while Realestate.com.au in 2016 brought together 3D tour provider Scann3d and property developer BPM to collaborate on creating walkthrough tours for off the plan properties.
As companies flock to the space, Broadhurst said Homie3D is focused on driving market awareness of its solution and signing on more clients over the coming months.
Image: Jesse Broadhurst. Source: Supplied.