Is real estate heading towards a virtual revolution?
- In a new normal where the demand for immersive 3D virtual tours continues to grow, Peek’s all-in-one virtual solutions are bringing a new reality to fruition for businesses and customers in the real estate industry
The demands of 2020 have led us to become accustomed to doing things virtually — whether it’s socializing friends, meeting with colleagues, and browsing stores. And for industries heavily impacted, the doors are open for innovative, creative solutions that can substitute, improve, and even replace traditional approaches.
The real estate sector is no different. Not only facing an uncertain property market, but the industry has also faced unique challenges in ensuring the business continues to tick over, despite offices forced to close and in-person property viewings banned.
But for an enterprising few, these challenges presented an opportunity to accelerate disruption and transform industry norms, creating one-of-a-kind immersive experiences.
Even before the onset of COVID-19, according to a survey conducted by Matterport, more than 80% of prospective buyers said they would switch to a real estate agent offering immersive 3D virtual tours.
In addition, according to online real estate database Zillow Research, 36% of Americans are more likely to try to buy a home entirely online during the current coronavirus outbreak, while a third would prefer taking a virtual home tour instead of touring a home in person after the pandemic ends.
One such enterprise maximizing the ability to keep businesses moving forward virtually is Peek. Headed and co-founded by Chris Kostoulas, the idea for the company took off after discovering the lack of existing accessible and user-friendly tools to create virtual tours. As a former engineer and one of the first 300 employees of Uber, Kostoulas had witnessed hyper-growth in its truest sense when the taxi-hailing company went from 300 employees to 25,000 by the end of his tenure.
It wasn’t until 2019, however, when Kostoulas decided to embark on a new venture with one of his long-time friends to make the real estate industry, and estate agents in major cities such as New York, as efficient as possible.
Together the duo discovered two key statistics. One is that over 70% of an average real estate agent’s time was spent in transit going from place to place, and the other was that over 50% of showings are less than 5 minutes long.
By offering virtual solutions for agents and leasing managers, Peek has slotted into a niche, showing a growth of 136% in revenue since March of this year at a rate of 22% per month, and is now working with some of the largest multifamily property managers in the US.
“Peek is an all-in-one 3D virtual leasing solution changing the way multifamily leasing gets done,” said Kostoulas in an interview with TechHQ.
Using the platform, managers and agents can rapidly create professional-quality virtual tours for every unit of a portfolio using virtual tour creation software, or by leveraging Peek’s in-house operations team.
By seeking to go beyond the virtual tour, Peek simplifies the leasing process with seamless integrations to websites and other services, as well as with powerful marketing tools designed to turn virtual tour leads into leases.
Having started the company just over a year ago, in just a short space of time, Kostoulas is seeing yet another explosion of disruption in his career, as the transition from 2D to 3D tours has been accelerated and condensed into only a few months.
“Currently, every leasing manager and agent is thinking about virtual tours, and it’s often the first question a prospective renter asks when inquiring about a listing,” said Kostoulas: “What this meant for our company was that we needed to scale rapidly.”
Over a one-month period, the company went on to make key staff acquisitions through an intern, two salespeople, and head of operations, while building scalable processes from day one. The forward-looking approach allowed Kostoulas and his team members to hit the ground running to meet extremely fast-paced demands in less than ideal circumstances: “What hiring during a pandemic meant was that many of us had never met in person. We grew our non-technical headcount 150% completely remotely. It wasn’t until August where I met our first employee in person. It honestly was kind of weird to see that he actually had a torso, arms, and legs, and wasn’t just a head in a Zoom box,” said Kostoulas.
In an industry that has undergone an unparalleled change, Kostoulas believes that Peek’s hard work is meeting opportunity as companies start to think more about efficiency while maintaining a focus on long term technology-based solutions.
“We started as a fast, affordable solution to make high-quality virtual tours. We’ve evolved over the last few months into a full solution to run your leasing office completely virtually. These were a result of thousands of hours of talking to customers, understanding their pain-points, and executing.”
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As many businesses continue to wade through uncharted territory, Peek has been a facilitator in “building out offerings that help clients the most,” rather than forcing a solution upon them that is not logistically viable.
In addition to their dynamic approach in meeting customer needs, Kostoulas also credits Peek’s ability to adjust during such socially distanced times. Without the possibility of everyday conversations by the water cooler or ad-hoc ideation meetings, the company has prioritized internal communication and collaboration through alternative ways.
“What this means specifically for our team is a daily ‘remote standup’ to kick off our days and make sure we’re aligned every single day, as well as a weekly all-hands to make sure everyone is informed. We’ve also done virtual happy hours and team video-game nights which have been incredibly fun,” Kostoulas said.
As Peek continues to grow, the company is confident that the future of the industry will continue to benefit from adopting such flexible solutions.
“From the management and brokerage side, we’ve had conversations with national partners who have indicated that a virtual tour for every unit is now a core part of their strategy indefinitely. They adapted as a matter of necessity during COVID, saw the benefits, and are now building it into their processes,” Kostoulas told us.
Big changes have been expected in real estate, and with the emergence of highly adaptable and agile companies like Peek, they have proven how digital solutions can effectively ride the waves during such uncertain times and beyond.