Courtesy of Live Virtual Tours

Shaping the future of home building and real estate sales with Unreal Engine

July 14, 2022
Architecture firms and property developers around the globe are increasingly turning to new technology and platforms to customize and showcase homes for future buyers. Traditionally, the home building industry and primary home sales market have relied on still images and animated walkthroughs, but there is value in taking a next-gen approach to customer engagement. Securing advance sales is absolutely crucial for large-scale residential property developers so it’s vital that they’re able to present their homes to prospective buyers in a compelling way before they’re even built.

Accelerated by the restrictions caused by the pandemic, the home building industry has begun to adopt innovations like real-time technology. Not only does this create a more realistic and immersive experience for buyers, it also brings transparency–there’s no hiding or trying to make rooms look bigger with clever angles in a true-to-size real-time environment.

A number of forward-thinking companies have created new home building platforms, based on Unreal Engine’s powerful real-time capabilities. One pioneer of this approach is Away Digital Home. Based in Australia, the brand was created as a spin-off of parent company Away Digital, which has already been working with high-volume home builders delivering drafting and estimating services in Australia for a decade.
Courtesy of Away Digital Home

“More often than not, home buyers have to make a large number of decisions along the home buying journey,” says Aidan Wollner, Director at Away Digital Home. “Each decision can take time, and without the ability to visualize, can create confusion. Then once made, a selection might be outside of the buyer’s budget, making that process start over.”

Realizing that customers like to design their new homes, but struggle to visualize them, Away Digital Home developed an interactive software platform that enables buyers to walk around a photorealistic 3D model of their future home. Based on Pixel Streaming, the platform enables customers to select elevations, floor plan options, material and products as they go, keeping track of the updates to ensure each home buyer’s dream home design is achieved.
Courtesy of Away Digital Home
“Unreal Engine provides us with the capability to create photoreal, data-connected, interactive homes that enable home builders to show each design with all the configurations available to the homebuyer,” says Aidan. Pixel Streaming ensures that the company can deliver high-quality visualizations, no matter where the customer is located or what hardware they are viewing the digital homes on.
Courtesy of Away Digital Home

Not only does the platform radically enhance the customer journey with real-time interaction, leading to increased sales, but it also shortens the delivery process for the home builder and enables them to test new designs before building or bringing them to market.

Porter Davis Homes, a major home builder in Australia, has been using the Away Digital Home platform over the past year, with excellent results. The high-quality virtualizations enable customers to get a feel for the property, with attention to design details that covers everything from textiles to light switches. The enhanced customer journey has already resulted in both increased digital enquiries and sales.

3D Estate 

Another company offering developers next-gen visualizations is 3D Estate, based in Poland. With a focus on the primary market, the company helps major property platforms and real estate developers to sell homes that aren’t built yet. Powered by Unreal Engine, 3D Estate’s platform creates interactive rotating 3D models and virtual tours of apartments for buyers to view. Since 2018, it has created over 250,000 apartments in 3D and has built interactive visualizations for over 30% of all new build homes in Poland. Thanks to the company’s SaaS business model, the platform has a low-entry threshold and developers can get their visuals fast.
Courtesy of 3D Estate
“The biggest advantage of using Unreal Engine is that it allows us to render materials very, very quickly, with great graphics quality,” says Jakub Jamontt, Chief Business Development Officer at 3D Estate.

It takes just five to seven minutes to complete the entire rendering process on a small flat and up to 15 minutes to render a larger property. Developers can choose from a range of six set apartment styles, then a simple interface enables them to add the 3D models to their website.

“This would all be impossible without Unreal Engine,” says Jakub. What’s more, with the arrival of Unreal Engine 5, 3D Estate has increased rendering speeds by around 15 percent. What’s more, since interior design and camera placement processes can be automated with Unreal Engine’s Blueprints visual scripting system, the team can populate entire empty 3D apartments with scripts.

3D Twin

3D Estate also offers an interactive 3D Twin tool which presents entire new developments. The app works on any device, from smartphones and laptops, to 8K showroom screens and VR headsets. 3D Twin can also be added to the developer’s website, since the app is fully available online. Introduced in 2021, 3D Twin has already been used to create more than 100 projects, mostly for Polish real estate developers as well as some in other countries. The comprehensive tool enables buyers to search for apartments using criteria, such as square footage or number of bedrooms, and then wander around the virtual developments before they are built.

“It’s a tool both for salespeople and for people who are looking for apartments,” says Jakub. “The value of being able to step into the apartment and see the view from the balcony, for example, is tremendous.”
Courtesy of 3D Estate

As well as enabling buyers to make more informed decisions, 3D Twin is a very simple and intuitive tool for salespeople. What’s more, seeing a digital twin of their buildings, and receiving feedback from potential buyers, can also help make important design tweaks to developments before they are built. 3D Estate has hundreds of projects running at any one time, and recently provided interactive visuals for BPI Czysta, a major 183-apartment development in the heart of Wroclaw, in southern Poland.

While its focus is the new build market, 3D Estate also creates 3D models from 2D floor plans for the secondary market using Unreal Engine. The 3D models are automatically generated, even from hand-drawn floor plans, and rendered in one of the company’s six set styles to enable virtual home staging. 

Live Virtual Tours

One company taking a different approach is Live Virtual Tours, a spin-off from AEDAS Homes, the leading home developer in Spain. The firm uses green screen and virtual production technology to insert sales agents into a 3D model to communicate directly with prospective buyers, offering a “real-time home tour.”

Live Virtual Tours was created because so many of AEDAS Homes’ properties are in locations that are popular with customers looking to relocate or purchase a second home. The platform was already up and running pre-COVID, though the travel restrictions caused by the pandemic have accelerated the need for a remote way of showcasing homes to clients from all around the world.
Courtesy of Live Virtual Tours

“Our technology allows realtors to video call clients while walking around virtual homes with clients, showcasing their amenities,” says José Luis Leirós, CEO at Live Virtual Tours. “Selling new home construction is all about trust. We provide developers and brokers with a differential marketing tool that allows prospective clients to experience their future home. What makes our approach special is that customers can talk with an adviser immersed in the 3D model. The live conversation boosts confidence levels and has a great impact on conversion rates.”

Creating a virtual experience

In 2021, Live Virtual Tours worked with Engel & Völkers, one of the world’s leading service companies specializing in premium residential property brokerage, on the exclusive Amber Village development in Mallorca, consisting of 24 luxury homes. With a target audience predominantly based in Germany, the challenge was to showcase the properties while strict COVID-19 travel restrictions were still in place.

“To create the virtual experience for Amber Village, we first developed a 3D model of the 24 homes in Unreal Engine, including common areas and interiors,” says José. “Once the model was completed, we combined it in real time with an advisor in a green chroma. Finally, we made live video calls with prospective clients from Germany. The real-estate advisor walked around the virtual project while answering customers' questions.”
One year later, Live Virtual Tours has helped Engel & Völkers sell the villas for more than 10 million euros. The conversion rate from a live tour to a home sale has been an impressive 33%.

It’s clear that real-time technology is already proving to be an incredibly effective sales tool for developers and brokers in the property world, while also helping them to fine-tune their designs. And while the focus is currently on the new build market, the work that has already been done shows that there is also huge potential for this innovative approach to expand further into the market for existing homes.

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