If Lauren Taylor has her way, PCSing is about to get less stressful, more streamlined, and less time-consuming for military families everywhere. Taylor, a Realtor and the CEO of Savvy Homes and Savvy Homes Portal, is disrupting the house-buying experience through the innovative use of virtual reality.
Taylor, a five-year Navy spouse, made the move to become a Realtor in 2014 during her husband’s second deployment while she had two children under the age of two. Having a professional focus helped her keep going and deal with “the redundancy of doing deployment and being alone.”
“I fell in love with our military niche,” Taylor says, estimating that 90 percent of her business is military relocation. Unsurprisingly, the San Diego military market is huge, but Taylor’s ascension into the upper ranks of Realtors is noteworthy. In her first 18 months, she found herself in the top one percent of San Diego Realtors and marks herself in the top three percent nationwide.
Last October, Taylor noticed that families began receiving shorter and shorter lead time on official orders and PCSing, with some unable to take house-hunting leave at all. As a result, families spend long weeks crammed into one room at a hotel, frantically searching for a home once they arrive at their new location. Often, the non-serving spouse is forced to go it alone while their partner is immediately TAD/TDY, deployed, or otherwise separated.
Taylor began video-chatting with clients to help families find homes before they arrived at their next installation. “We have exhausted the limits of Facetime,” Taylor jokes, noting that the video options were limited and that she continued looking for better ways to show homes to her far-away clients. She prerecorded tours but transfer times meant that videos could only be one-minute clips. “We could feel something was missing,” Taylor says.
Recognizing that there was no platform for professional video tours from buyers agents, Taylor did what military spouses do when a problem presents itself: She rolled up her sleeves and fixed it.
Hiring a coder, she developed a platform called Savvy Homes Portal that offers a variety of options for the agents of buyers interested in a home in a different location. Originally built for standard video, “we pushed into the virtual reality space” in the last twelve weeks, Taylor says.
She points out that virtual reality and video tours are available for expensive homes of the rich and fabulous, but homes that sell for more modest prices usually don’t have that option available. “Our platform is really designed to make it completely accessible by any realtor to use with any of their clients.” Agents are able to purchase a monthly membership starting at $99, which includes the ability to show 25 homes to an unlimited number of clients.
Once an agent has a monthly membership, home-buyers are able to use Google-certified virtual reality goggles with their own phones. The video is supported through Safari, so all clients need to do is snap their phone into the goggles and begin exploring a potential home. “I wanted this platform to be super easy for military relocation professionals and even easier for military families to request,” Taylor says.
Already, the virtual reality platform has helped her close on houses for military clients in Japan, Germany, Italy, Washington, D.C., and Spain. “I want our families to know there’s a better option out there,” Taylor says, noting that virtual reality means families no longer have to cram in marathon open house sessions. “They can have the same house-hunting experience whether they’re five minutes away or 5,000 miles away.”
Savvy Homes Portal is also expanding its resources for home buyers as well. In the near future, they’ll be adding a map of all agents who use the virtual reality service, a section where potential buyers can connect with an agent using the platform, and the ability for buyers to send the portal information to their agent, so they can use the services to find their next home.
Taylor is energized by the trajectory and purpose of the virtual reality platform. “I always tell people when they learn about our system, you can’t go back to ordinary once you know extraordinary exists,” she says.
By J.G. Noll