House hunting in Hertfordshire? Don’t forget your drone...

Virtual real estate is coming...

Virtual real estate is coming... - Credit: EPA

Apparently, in 10 years time, house-hunting will have become incredibly creepy. It has been predicted by a company called The Future Laboratory, that by 2025 we will be house-hunting via methods which are, frankly, intrusive.

Drones will be used to view houses for sale, remotely, by 2025

Drones will be used to view houses for sale, remotely, by 2025 - Credit: Archant

These are my words, not The Future Laboratory’s. In fact, they seem to think that monitoring a house-hunter’s web browsing history and sending aerial cameras to hover above someone’s property in order to allow you to get a feel for living there is indeed the way of the future.

An article in the Telegraph last week discussed the findings of this report, opening with the line “would you buy your next house wearing a virtual reality headset?”

Tsk tsk, Telegraph.

It elaborated by explaining that The Future Laboratory are suggesting that soon enough we will be taking full advantage of “new advances such as gloves that simulate touch, and drones, in order to buy a house”. If the drones aren’t intrusive enough, don’t get me started on the simulating gloves!

Who, precisely, are The Future Laboratory, I sense you wondering (not via the magic of mind control)? Their website says that they’re “unique, with a dedicated team who constantly research, analyse and document the new and the next...using a proprietary methodology named Cultural Triangulation, which results in robust actionable strategies”.

Oh right, that’s much clearer.

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Let’s look at the “proprietary methodology” that will dictate how we buy property a decade from now...

My big fat Greek data

Chrome leading to Google leading to Rightmove just won’t do in the future, apparently. Search engines are about to go all 2001: A Space Odyssey on us.

British television presenter Rachel Riley demonstrating a virtual reality headset

British television presenter Rachel Riley demonstrating a virtual reality headset - Credit: AP

The filters of today aren’t cutting the mustard. So the house-hunters of tomorrow “will have access to highly specific, personalised search engines” designed to collate “big data, including social media interactions and web history, to form a ‘psychographic’ profile of the buyer’s lifestyle, in order to present their dream home”.

Now, as someone who happens to think current property search portals are in fact not good enough, I am not adverse to the idea of making this process a little easier. But I fear it is perhaps a little much when my internet history starts to psychoanalyse me and piece together what it thinks is my ideal home. An elaboration from the Telegraph explains that “a buyer’s expressed and intuitive desires which have been revealed on the internet will go towards their requirements for a home”.

I don’t have anything to hide by way of my browsing history online (honestly!) but I can’t help but think this is an accident waiting to happen. I can see it now: teenage boys of the future will be sitting down with Mum and Dad to look at potential places to live when they migrate off to university, and their pschyo-search engines will offer up, basically, the Playboy Mansion.

Drone baby, drone

You won’t have to do a drive-by of the neighbourhood you want to move to anymore - drones will take care of this for you.

“As drone technology becomes more affordable, we imagine potential house-hunters will cotton on to its use for conducting those vital pre-purchase searches,” said Rob Ellice of easyProperty, as part of this report. “Explore the outside of a house that is unreachable with a ladder, or check noise levels at night by using a drone that can be controlled remotely”.

Again, I’m back to feeling creeped out. So by 2025, if we put our house on the market, we’re going to have drones hovering outside our bedroom windows, computing noise levels and making sure that crack in the tiling isn’t about to cave in at any given second. Who’s to stop these remote controlled drones from doing a bit of boudoir spying while it’s at it?

I’ll let myself out...and in

Last month, St Albans Magistrates’ court heard the case of a Hertfordshire estate agency that displayed a For Sale board illegally on a telegraph pole. Worry not - this kind of predicament will soon be a thing of the past. Property selling in 2025 will see For Sale signs become extinct and replaced, instead, with beacons. These will broadcast details of a property which is for sale to anyone wearing wearable technology or using a smartphone.

Wearable technology makes me think of those simulating gloves again. And what precisely is this beacon they speak of? I am picturing a red floating siren-type contraption loitering mid-air by the front gate.

There’s even talk of technology coming to fruition where a seller can let a potential buyer pop in to view the house when they’re not even there. These so-called Smart Homes remotely unlock, with buyers guided through on a tour of the house using 3D video presence technology. This way, you don’t have to be at home to show off the walk-in fridge, demonstrate the all-in-one media centre or tell them where all the family jewellery is hidden.

Touch! Smell! See! (Hear? Taste?)

An alternative to granting access to your home to a load of complete strangers while you’re out walking the dogs would be a virtual reality tour using 3D 360-degree cameras and a headset, providing a multi-sensory tour of homes for sale. You will even be able to feel your environment – with haptic gloves, which give you a realistic sense of touch in a virtual world, and olfactory VR which is currently in development to allow a virtual sense of smell.

I guess this makes sense - if a house you’re looking at has a family of dead rats in the walls, you’re going to want to know about it before handing over your deposit. And while you’re at it, says the report, you can chat to your builder over hologram. How very Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Matt Ratcliffe, co-founder of VR software development studio Masters of Pie, says: “For estate agencies, this will be a no-brainer because it will let people feel like they are actually in a space, exploring it, and building up a relationship with it.”

Nothing gives you a sense of being somewhere like not actually being there, right?

In summary, the future of home buying looks bright - as bright as a flashing red For Sale beacon by the letter box. You can burgle in reality while the vendor’s doing their weekly shop, or loiter on the street corner virtually, controlling your spy-bot from the comfort of your own living room. Roll on 2025.