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Rental agencies adopt VR to view apartments

The Yomiuri Shimbun

A woman uses virtual reality device to view the interior of a remote property at an event in Koto Ward, Tokyo, on July 30.

The Yomiuri Shimbun The real estate industry is turning to various technologies to streamline the contract procedures for rental housing.

For example, real estate agencies are allowing prospective renters to use virtual reality (VR) technology to view properties and to visit apartments without the presence of anyone from the agency. The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry is also supporting these moves.

An event related to rental housing was held at Tokyo Big Sight in Koto Ward, Tokyo, at the end of July. At the booth of Tokyo-based tech company NURVE, people connected to the real estate industry were among those who used on box-shaped VR devices to inspect the interior of a property in a remote location.

About 4,000 real estate agencies nationwide have introduced VR preview services.

“Even without going to the site it conveys a realistic image you can't get with just photographs,” an executive of a real estate agency in Kanagawa Prefecture said.

Mitsubishi Estate Co. has launched a service for its group rental properties so customers do not have to visit a real estate office.

Customers make a reservation online to view a property, then use their smartphone to get inside. This “self-service” style does not require anyone from the company to be present. Prospective renters can casually check out properties anytime they want, even on days the real estate agency is closed.

Tablet computers are placed inside to provide visitors with information about the property and other matters. Cameras also record the interior of the property to prevent problems.

Similar initiatives are spreading in the real estate industry both to improve customer service and promote work-style reforms by increasing efficiency.

In addition, the ministry now allows important details and other matters related to rental contracts to be explained over video conference instead of face-to-face. This method was used in about 37,000 contracts as of the end of March.

The ministry intends to begin in October a trial toward allowing contracts and other paperwork to be sent by email on digital files. So fa, these documents have been exchanged only in paper form.

“We will do everything we can to prevent fraud, including using private-sector digital signature services,” an official said.

In the future, the ministry may revise the Building Lots and Buildings Transaction Business Law so contracts can be concluded using only digital files.

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