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Until now, virtual real estate tours meant clicking through online slide shows and videos to get a panoramic view of homes for sale.

New Westminster, B.C.'s Pilothouse Real Estate has changed all that with the launch of its In-Real Theatre technology, an immersive real-life tour that projects architectural plans on the floor in the same size and scale as a condo would be in real life. For example, if a condo totals 580 square feet, the entire area would be represented on the floor.

Viewers walking through the cavernous theatre see lines showing where the bathtub would be on the floor, closets, bedrooms and windows, all positioned exactly as they would be in the completed condo. Looking out the window openings in the plans, viewers see time-lapse photography on the walls portraying the view from that particular condo, with the views changing to reflect the location in the building and the time of day. To complete the immersion, the space is filled with the sounds and smells of the neighbourhood.

While the concept borrows technology used in museums and other immersive exhibits, it's a first for real estate and it is drawing thousands of curious buyers to Pilothouse's showroom for New Westminster's 258, a new condo development.

"The buyers have been coming through this site for almost a month now and the response to the theatre has been overwhelming," said Vince Taylor, a partner in Pilothouse. "We've had nearly 3,000 people through the centre; in fact, we had 500 through on the very first day."

He said while online virtual tours are a good idea, they don't give potential buyers a realistic sense of the neighbourhood. For a buyer choosing from floor plans for condos before the building is even constructed, this new technology allows them to switch between different floor plans to get a realistic idea of what the environment around their condo would be like.

"People want to come in and be part of the environment they are going to live in, which is quite different from (looking at) a small computer screen."


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