The metaverse is supposedly the new big thing and just like in the real world people and companies are buying plots
But in a virtual world where the ‘buy land, they don’t make it anymore’ maxim doesn’t quite fit, wht are they doing this
As British property listing firm MoveStreets splashes out on a spot in the metaverse, Helen Crane looks at the recent rush to buy digital real estate.
Property listings website MoveStreets has entered the metaverse – a digital world where people interact using virtual reality. It says it has the potential to be used for home viewings
If you have seen images of digital characters with legless torsos floating around the internet in recent weeks, you may have already encountered the metaverse.
The latest big thing in the tech world, it is a series of digital spaces where people can interact with each other via avatars of themselves which relay their real-life speech and movements.
This is typically done using virtual reality headsets, which start at around £300.
Facebook (now known as Meta) has already opened up its metaverse world, Horizon Worlds, and Microsoft plans to open up a metaverse version of its Teams app soon.
Smaller companies can get in on the action too, by buying their own space on ready-made metaverse platforms such as Sandbox, Decentraland and Mirandus.
Many are doing so now in order to stake their claim, before figuring out how to actually use this new technology for their benefit.
At the moment it is mostly being used for gaming and socialising, as well as the odd work meeting.
But property firm MoveStreets – a listings portal aimed at younger home-buyers – has just bought a digital ‘plot’ in the metaverse, joining companies such as Adidas and Atari.
A ‘land’ is a digital piece of real estate in The Sandbox metaverse that companies or individuals can buy, and then populate with games or other assets.
The plots are bought as non-fungible tokens or NFTs, making them unique, tradeable digital assets, the ownership of which is recorded on a blockchain.
A series of digital ‘lands’ owned by different organisations within the Sandbox metaverse
Metaverse real estate is not cheap, and some estates on The Sandbox have sold for upwards of $800,000.
Some have used these to create digital houses, which they use to hold events or to display other NFTs that they own – for example artworks or pairs of the digital trainers that Nike is now selling.
An exclusive Sandbox community called Fantasy Islands has sold 90 virtual islands, complete with digital villas, with prices staring from $104,000 (£78,000).
Facebook’s ‘Horizon Worlds’ is an example of a metaverse, where users can create avatars which mimic their real-life speech and movements and interact with others in a digital space
MoveStreets says its plot could one day be used as a venue for viewing real-world houses online.
The metaverse’s detractors claim it is no more than a marketing gimmick for many firms and say its useful applications are limited.
Adam Kamani, chief executive and co-founder of MoveStreets disagrees.
He said it was ‘very early days,’ but that it hoped it could eventually host ‘immersive’ virtual house viewings which would be better than the video tours currently available.
Physical viewings will always play a role, but there’s no reason that searching for a home online can’t be fun
Adam Kamani, chief executive and co-founder of MoveStreets
‘This experience is set to be far more immersive compared to anything currently available and should take the concept of virtual viewings to a whole new level.
‘Of course, physical viewings will always play a role but there’s no reason that searching for a home online can’t be fun,’ Kamani added.
‘We’ve seen how the online property portal has dramatically improved the buying and selling process, allowing prospective buyers to search anywhere in the nation in far greater detail from the comfort of their home.
‘We believe the metaverse will be the next step in this user journey, and so we made the decision to set up shop in The Sandbox to plan for the future and further our consumer offering.’
The fact MoveStreets appears not to have any concrete plans for what it will do with the space just yet suggests that it will take time for the home buying industry to catch up with the new technology.
Traditional estate agents are sceptical of virtual reality viewings. ‘The property market has proven itself to be a people and relationship business,’ says Winkworth’s Dominic Agace
Plenty of companies already offer virtual home viewings using video cameras or digital renders.
While they think the metaverse might have potential as a venue for property viewings, even they are unsure exactly how it might improve on the current experience.
Stewart Bailey, director of proptech company Virtual Viewing, says: ‘Whilst the development of the metaverse seems controversial and perhaps gimmicky, there is real potential for the platform to become an integrated sales tool for property companies.
‘In the 90s we were one of the first UK agencies to offer virtual tours and, at the time, this technology was initially frowned upon. Fast-forwarding to the 21st century, virtual viewings have become one of the key sales tools for today’s property sector.
‘With that in mind, we shouldn’t dismiss the potential of the metaverse but instead discover how much further this sector can expand and potentially change our way of buying and selling goods including homes and land.’
Traditional estate agents are very sceptical of the idea, however.
Dominic Agace, chief executive of Winkworth estate agents, said: ‘It seems very early days for metaverse to be an effective channel for property transactions.
‘The property market has proven itself to be a people and relationship business where the personal touch is all important when dealing with someone’s biggest asset and life aspirations – and so it doesn’t on the face of it appear to be a natural fit to a virtual world.
‘However, I’m sure it will draw people and, ultimately, attention to properties at some point in the future, when it may prove to be a marketing channel as people’s behaviour evolve.
‘This is one to watch to ensure we are always doing the best for our clients’ exposure when promoting their properties for sale.’
‘Digital twins’: How your home’s floor plan could be an NFT
A super-accurate NFT floor plan could make it easier to plan renovations, Pupil says
Property technology firm Pupil is taking buildings and creating digital ‘twins’ of them, which are then made into NFTs – unique digital assets which can be verified to prove they are highly accurate.
Although it is not yet part of the metaverse, it demonstrates how the experience of viewing and buying a property could be more digital in future.
Pupil’s Spec tool creates digitally-verified floor plans of homes, which it says helps property buyers to build trust in estate agents and the information they provide.
The floor plans are compliant with RICS standards and are guaranteed to be 99 per cent accurate. It has mapped 35million sq ft of property so far.
Often, estate agents will use approximate or ‘illustrative’ measurements in their marketing materials and and won’t take responsibility for any errors.
Guaranteed accuracy will underpin the value of each property, setting a new standard for trust and transparency
According to research commissioned by Pupil, floor plans used by estate agents overstate the property’s size in 60 per cent of cases, with the average discrepancy around 54 sq ft.
Oliver Breach, founder of Pupil, said: ‘The surge in interest in Metaverse real estate highlights the appetite for a more virtual experience.
‘Virtual and digital property experiences will only thrive on the provision of accurate and precise data, presented in an interactive way.
‘This guaranteed accuracy will underpin the value of each property, setting a new standard for trust and transparency in both the virtual and physical market places, driving a significant shift in the way we interact with real estate.
‘Due to the accuracy guarantee, these can be relied on by third parties from developers to architects, interior designers and asset managers.
‘A digital twin unlocks huge potential, from planning and designing renovations to drastically reducing the time it takes to buy or sell a property.’
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