Digital twins of real estate projects in the metaverse to help developers push sales

Virtual tours can build brand awareness and promote properties in the market at a quicker pace

From left, Sarah Forster from 'The National', Samuel Hamilton, creative director at the Decentraland Foundation, Joe Abi Akl, chief corporate development officer of Majid Al Futtaim, Ali Sajwani, general manager of operations at Damac Properties, and Guy Parsonage, metaverse lead at PwC, during a panel discussion at the Dubai Metaverse Assembly on Wednesday. Khushnum Bhandari / The National
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Real estate developers stand to be among the biggest beneficiaries of the metaverse, with digital twins of their properties seen to help drive marketing and sales, experts said at the Dubai Metaverse Assembly.

By providing virtual tours of projects, developers can build brand awareness, promote the developments in the market at a quicker pace and also scale their reach to investors.

"There is a whole collection of use cases for real estate in the metaverse; it’s a very interesting space," Guy Parsonage, metaverse lead at PwC, told The National.

"It’s an addition to what they’re already doing in the real world, adding new ways to engage their customers in the real world."

The metaverse is the emerging space where people can interact in virtual worlds using three-dimensional representations.

The technology also allows companies to market products through interactive means, specifically by immersing users in a fully digital world with the help of hardware such as augmented reality headsets and the related software.

For real estate developers, taking clients on a tour of a digital twin of their properties will allow potential investors to experience the feel of the project.

Shifting to the metaverse is seen to have a positive business impact, according to 71 per cent of respondents to a recent global survey from consultancy Accenture.

Its market opportunity, meanwhile, is projected to be worth more than $1 trillion in annual revenues, US bank JPMorgan said.

UAE real estate companies are slowly tapping into the metaverse.

Dubai property brokerage Union Square House said in April that it planned to sell the region's first “metaverse mansions”, where buyers can own a non-fungible token with and without the bricks and mortar asset.

Meanwhile, Damac Group also announced plans in April to invest $100 million to build "digital cities" in the metaverse.

However, real estate companies need to learn how to carefully integrate the metaverse into their operations, said Ali Sajwani, general manager of operations at Damac Properties.

The Dubai-based developer has been posting sales of about $100m using video conferencing applications, "convincing clients halfway across the world", he said.

"We can push sales with digital twins [of our properties]. It can also give them an idea of what the future looks like in real estate," he added.

Companies need to "keep evolving to meet the evolving needs of customers, to make the experience much more seamless and effective", said Joe Abi Akl, chief corporate development officer of Dubai conglomerate Majid Al Futtaim.

Dubai's metaverse strategy

Dubai's metaverse strategy

Government property is another area where the metaverse can help.

Embassies, for instance, can be costly for smaller countries to build overseas, and a virtual equivalent can instead serve the purpose, Mr Abi Akl said.

"It saves money and can provide services such as for visas. So it makes sense," he added.

Mr Parsonage, however, cautioned against blindly investing in the metaverse, urging companies to focus on the potential tangible returns it would bring.

"You need to get in and explore, as you don’t want to be the one that’s taking advantage while others are already starting to seek create revenue and benefits from it," he said.

"Our advice is to invest at a strategic time in looking at the relevant opportunities for your business. Along with looking at the overall strategy, start smaller and develop quickly so you can start to understand it."

Updated: September 29, 2022, 4:30 AM