Last week, Oculus VR, a virtual reality technology company, began shipping the much-anticipated Oculus Rift headset to consumers. I believe this next-generation technology may change the lending and real estate industry forever.  What does virtual reality have to do with lending and real estate? It’s simple: The average age for first-time homebuyers (33) falls in the Millennial demographic. Millennials have already begun to shape our industry in recent years. Combine their lust for technology with their successors’, Generation Z (iGens), and industry shifts can’t help but continue.

Generation Z (or Gen Z, iGen, Post-Millennials, Centennials, or Plurals) is the demographic the mortgage industry will be talking about in the very near future. The members of this up-and-coming market are approximately aged 20 or younger and love technology as an extension of themselves — even more than Millennials do. Why is this important? Because they are the future of homeownership. And like Millennials, Generation Z views the world, processes and expectations, specifically with regard to technology, differently than those who came before. With Facebook’s $2 billion acquisition of Oculus VR in 2014, the world began moving down a path of inevitable change.

To those of you familiar with virtual reality, and Oculus Rift in particular, you won’t be surprised that the main focus currently lies in gaming. However, when you have well-known individuals from Pixar and Second Life participating in creating new experiences for virtual reality, it signals something special is happening. The transition away from gaming has already begun. In a recent viral story, a father attended the birth of his child via virtual reality. New owner Mark Zuckerberg has a vision for VR technology: a desire to move past gaming and expand to the realm of full VR submergence into our everyday lives as a daily communication vehicle. He states, “It’s going to change the way we live and work and communicate.” You have to believe with the money and power Facebook has and Zuckerberg’s vision, it’s only a matter of time before Oculus VR and virtual reality technology become mainstream in daily communication.

What’s exciting to see since the 2014 acquisition are the partnerships that formed around Oculus Rift and virtual reality technology that support Zuckerberg’s proposed plan. These include companies like Twitch, Hulu, Vimeo and TiVo. In addition, movie studios Fox and Lionsgate are partnering with Gear VR to produce full-length VR movies. Not to be overlooked is Facebook’s platform integration to accommodate 360-degree videos in the newsfeed. Spherical videos currently allow users to move around inside a video while viewing it from different angles. These 360-degree videos have experienced rapid growth and a high adoption rate from companies like GoPro, YouTube, Google, Showtime, Disney, Discovery, PBS, National Geographic and Red Bull. You could’ve even watched the NCAA finals in virtual reality if you wanted to.

Of all of these different partnerships and integrations, the most notable — as it relates to lending and real estate — is the partnership between Vimeo and Oculus Video Cinema. Why does this partnership have the power to change the lending and real estate industry forever? Because of the opportunity it provides with first-time homebuyers.

OPPORTUNITY – Right Now

To manage expectations, Mark Zuckerberg has already said mainstream virtual reality technology adoption is at least 10 years out. But consider what you can do right now as a real estate agent. With the right hardware (Samsung Gear VR), you can set up a live stream (via hardware, computer or mobile) and post these video streams to Vimeo (or Twitch). Then you can create a “room” in Oculus Social and invite clients to meet you there to all tour a home together via your live stream provided through Vimeo — all in virtual reality. Think about it. Clients on the other side of the world — or even just the other side of town — who want an accurate, clear view of a potential home are just an Oculus Rift headset away from that experience.

Gone are the days of having to get yourself and the kids ready, load everyone into the car, drive through traffic and then spend time physically touring a potential home while talking face-to-face with a real estate professional. Instead, right now, with Oculus Rift, Gear VR and Vimeo, a potential buyer could simply throw on a headset and meet a real estate agent in a virtual room where that real estate agent shows you the property in real-time via their streaming video. This takes on-line viewing beyond static pictures on a website; it provides a more accurate depiction of the home. It also saves the buyer time and energy on making an educated decision about a home purchase. As my wife put it, “Sounds like a dream.”

The point is, this technology is still in its infancy, and if we can already tour a home with a real estate agent in VR, think about what will be possible one, two or five years from now. More important, consider the expectations future first-time home-buying generations have of our industry. Is it so outrageous to think that the entire home-buying process could eventually be done in virtual reality? Tour the home, make an offer, sign the papers, attend the closing — all done in virtual reality. The future is, indeed, exciting.

What’s your take? Do you predict this technology will impact the mortgage industry in the foreseeable future? Share in the comments below.

Ben Smidt, MA

Ben Smidt - MGIC Digital Strategy Manager

Ben Smidt serves as MGIC’s Digital Strategy Manager. He leads corporate development and management of MGIC's digital marketing strategy across the enterprise. This includes establishing a clear vision for all digital marketing initiatives and providing strategic direction for the company's digital and social media marketing efforts. His primary goal is to increase brand awareness and improve user experience (UX). Additional responsibilities include PPC budget strategy and management of ad spend.

In addition to the insurance industry, Ben has a combined 10 years of experience in computer software, education and publishing industries. His focus has always remained in the area of education and digital marketing for media and technology.

He holds an MA from Marquette University in media channel effectiveness and digital communications, as well as a BS from UW-Madison focused in communications. He resides with his wife, daughter and son in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.

Tags: , , , , ,