Does live video have a place in real estate?

Edited by Nick Russell (@BetterCity). Based on an article I wrote for Estates Gazette.

Last week YouTube launched its Live 360 platform – look around a live video scene by simply swiping around on your smartphone.

Neal Mohan, chief product officer at YouTube, says: “What excites me most about 360-degree storytelling is that it lets us open up the world’s experience to everyone.

“Students can now experience events in the classroom as they unfold. Travellers can experience faraway sites and explorers can deep-sea dive, all without the physical constraints of the real world. What were once limited experiences are now available to anyone, anywhere, anytime.”

A host of newfangled 3D cameras, priced from hundreds to thousands of pounds, makes this possible. Appealing to virtual reality camera makers and consumers, YouTube hopes to become the de facto destination for interactive live video.


Does this innovation finally open up the wallets of agents and consumers wanting more immersive real estate experiences?

While live music has been touted as the natural fit to showcase how virtual reality can open up experiences to the army of smartphone-carrying consumers, there are plenty of other potential applications.

Viewings have long been cited as the reason that online agents will fail against the army of traditional agents conveniently there to turn the key.

Swiping through photos has an elegant simplicity that even toddlers are comfortable with.  Anything deeper falters. Residential agencies experimented with video virtual walkthroughs, with little impact on attracting customers.

We walk around with a supercomputer in our pockets and our attention spans have shortened considerably. We aren’t willing to wait for a web page to load, and we certainly aren’t going to entertain clunky digital walkthroughs.

YouTube’s new service is both simple and accessible.  A single-camera view that you can pan very naturally with your finger – just like swiping through photos – click here to try it out.

There are many rooms in a house/office/hotel/shopping mall.  That makes a permanent live stream, with an expensive camera per room, an unlikely mass-market proposition.  But what if the camera in a phone helped people view a property from the comfort of their homes and offices?

The problem with recordings is agents can’t be there to answer people’s questions or, even better, sell that property.  So live video is an obvious solution, right?

Some thought Periscope, the live broadcast service by Twitter, would enable any agent to hold bulk viewings.  Then again, if you have waited for someone to turn up on time for a viewing, you understand the inherent problem with 'live'.

The YouTube solution is hosting live virtual reality sessions.  It’s a step forward in immersive technology, no doubt.  But it’s not enough.  It’s one thing to create the content.  It’s another thing to move a potential customer to click a link and walk through a property.

What platform understands the requirements of real estate consumers and professionals best?  That’s easy, WhatsApp.  If you have ever sent e-mails as marketing, you will know that people don’t click on links. But they do very quickly respond to SMS and WhatsApp messages. 

Yes, I see you screwing up your face. But think about it: where do you share videos with your friends and family?  One smart cookie needs to build a bot that helps real estate professionals market, schedule, record and play back viewings of properties.

All from the convenient confines of your favourite messenger app.

VERDICT: YouTube’s solution is a great step forward in bringing immersive experiences and VR viewing to real estate.  Smart money says that it’s a new tool and not a revolutionary solution.