Rami Kalla: VR/AR — Giving Residents the Ultimate Tour Experience

by Katie Sloan

Virtual reality (VR) is a trend that is here to stay, especially in the student housing industry. Why? The two biggest student housing consumer groups — millennials and Generation Z — are also the most tech-savvy generations, pushing companies to become more technologically advanced. Approximately 73 percent of millennials and 79 percent of Generation Z are interested in virtual reality. With virtual reality use and the amount of interest in this technology by key consumer groups on the rise, now is the perfect time for the student housing industry to employ new methods of attracting potential residents to their properties.

How VR Is Changing The Leasing Process

Rami Kalla, Point in Time Studios

It is no secret that technological advancement has made our lives easier and more convenient, and virtual reality is the latest technology to do just that. Virtual reality decreases the time it takes to go through the leasing process. Students and parents can easily view several units they are interested in using a VR headset, whether in the building’s leasing office or through an app — if the company has developed one — in a fraction of the time an in-person tour would take.

More students are attending college than ever before, causing demand for student housing to explode, and therefore creating a surge in the number of new-builds. For developments under construction, preleasing is key. With virtual reality reducing the need to visit the physical unit, the number of units preleased has skyrocketed. Virtual reality provides the student or parent with the immersive feeling of actually being in the finished unit. This allows the potential resident to have a more accurate representation of what each unit will look like, how the furniture will be placed and outside views. This improves the confidence of a student or parent in making a rental decision before building completion. Along with getting units preleased, VR decreases the need for out-of-state residents to travel to look at student housing options, saving them time, money, and possible frustration.

By allowing someone to access a unit from any location, at any time, even before the unit is finished, virtual reality has created a level of personalized convenience that was not possible in the past.

How VR Benefits Feeder Markets

Feeder markets are essential for colleges and student housing. Having a strong feeder market expands your reach for new students. Since virtual reality gives viewers the experience of seeing a location from anywhere, students and parents will have a more accurate idea of whether or not a college or student housing property will work for them, without the need to travel out-of-state. The convenience of this increases student retention within those feeder markets for both colleges and housing. This saves them time, money and reduces the stress of the unknown.

How VR Is Reshaping Feeder Markets

Virtual reality is breaking down boundaries. Having this technology available in feeder markets increases their size and worth. A market no longer has to be constrained by its proximity to a college. For example, because of virtual reality, someone in Baltimore could tour the USC campus, visit its nearby housing developments, and get a realistic feel for its student atmosphere, all without leaving his or her home.

How VR Is Experienced Outside The Leasing Office

There are two ways that virtual reality can be accessed without having to go into a leasing office. The first is the most basic way that everyone can access VR — using your computer as a conduit into the virtual world. With this fast and simple method, a student or parent can quickly tour a unit or whole building by clicking around on the screen to view every area of the property. Even though a computer screen is not as immersive as a headset, it still does the job of providing an accurate portrayal of the real life images. The other way to view VR from of your own home is through a virtual reality headset. Student housing companies are starting to develop apps for VR that let the viewer choose which property to tour and which units they want to focus on. By using the headset, the viewer gets a more realistic feel of touring the property, increasing the overall effectiveness of the virtual experience. Both of these methods will help students and parents to come to a decision about which development is right for them from wherever they are.

How VR Is Benefitting Student Housing In The Long And Short-Term

Virtual reality has the ability to successfully reach a wider market through its immersive qualities and remote-viewing capabilities. As related to student housing, this means that developments have the long-term potential to experience increased viewer excitement about a property, greater interest, and more pre-sales when units are presented through this medium. In the short-term, since a student housing company can use their development’s leasing office, website, or app to show available units through VR, office expenses will decrease because less staff is needed to show units to students and their parents. Staff would also save time, which equals money saved. By incorporating virtual reality into student housing leasing activities, the leasing process may be shortened, the prospective tenants have a better idea about what it would be like to live in each unit and will be able to decide in a shorter timeframe.

Student housing developments and college campuses across the country are utilizing virtual reality. It is already proving its worth by generating higher unit-closing rates and changing thirty-three percent of students’ minds about a campus for the better after touring their campus with VR. While the future of virtual reality is not set in stone, with results like these, it’s difficult to see a future without it.

— Rami Kalla is the founder of Point in Time Studios, a Phoenix-based video production studio with a specialty in Virtual Reality. He has worked with the student housing and multi-housing industry since 2003. Rami has had the privilege of working with such amazing brands as Asset Campus Housing, Ford, PetSmart, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, and AOL. For more information about Rami and Point in Time Studios, please visit www.PointinTimeStudios.com.

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