West: Welcome Kurt and Bjørn! So, how long have you been in brokerage and in real estate in general?
Bjørn: I’ve been in real estate for 30 years and sold more or less the whole time.
Kurt: Well, I’ve been in real estate, but that’s many years ago. I was a broker from 2004 to 2009, so many years ago. Bjørn is more up to speed for the real estate part of our company.
West: Sounds like you both have seen it all and done it all then, right? And how have you seen technology evolve since you began in the field?
Bjørn: It’s developed enormously. When we started in the 80’s, we started with colored pencils and colored in the blueprints, and we hung them up in the window of the real estate broker. So, the development from where we were to where we are today has been enormous. And we made a giant step forward using QiSpace. No doubt about it. I truly think we have a long way to go, and there will be more exciting news in the future. And what we did with Byhagen, was a real eye opener for a lot of people, as that was the first time QiSpace was used up north. There were a lot of people that hadn’t seen it. They had seen 1 apartment in 3D, but that was extremely costly. It’s been fantastic to have been part of this journey.
Kristian: But now that you get to show all the apartments, what’s the advantage you find by being able to show them all?
Bjørn: Absolutely, we get feedback from our clients that they’ve used the apartment chooser and moved around several times in all corners of the apartments, for several sessions. And they say they haven’t done anything else for two weeks! And some use it a lot and go through ALL the apartments. And they go out on the balcony and see the view, it’s quite amazing, and for the users, it’s very helpful. And for those who learn how to use it successfully, it’s fantastic. And to see how the sun is, how the view is, how the buildings are, the neighbors, and the rest of the town.
Kristian: Especially, to see the buildings that haven’t been built yet.
Bjørn: Exactly. And in Byhagen you also see the buildings in the same project that are coming in the later stages of the development. And that’s the same in terms of marketing. Will we bring back the real time sun feature when standing on the balcony?
Kristian: It’s been discussed and we probably will in the future.
Bjørn: That’s the only thing they’ve had difficulty responding to when talking to clients. (The way we approach this now is) we have two building site cameras live at the site and by showing that view, we can show where the sun is. These cameras take a photo every 10th minute. But now we don’t have any sun in the north! But in the summer, I was looking at the cameras on a regular basis to look at the position of the sun. And that’s a good supplement and maybe it could be included in the solution. It’s called ‘Bygge Camera’. If we could make something work with that solution, don’t ask me how, but it would be a killer.
West: Shifting gears, how long have you used QiSpace for?
Bjørn: I’ve used it since May 2021.
West: And how many projects have you used QiSpace on?
Bjørn: 1 so far. But we’ve said we’re going to use it on all future projects. First, Larsneset Phase 2, and then Borkenes, and then Kroken, which is a huge project.
Kurt: Have we seen the two big ones in Tromsø? Kroken, and there will be a similar one at Hamna, about 400 units. Not entirely finished yet, but it’s useful for you to have it in the back of your head. We’ll go to market with that project after the summer next year. Worst case, autumn next year. And then we have Finnsnes. Coop Finnsnes will be a combination building, much like Larsneset, with ground level retail and apartments on top. Coop owns the ground level, and they will have the shops and we will have the apartments.
West: Exciting times to expand our partnership! Pivoting a little bit to previous tools that you’ve used, how would you say that QiSpace stacks up to other tools that you’ve used that are comparable in the past?
Kurt: Before I was introduced to QiSpace, we had another real estate developer in Tromsø, who has a son that is into programming gaming. So, he took that technology into his boy’s room and he started developing his own apartment viewer, based on the gaming technology. So, some of the issues we talked about is that you can walk and use your finger to move around. But the problem with that is that you need a pretty big computer to run the program. So, when I was introduced to it, they had this big gaming computer- it was a laptop, but it was ten times the size of that one (motions to computer in the room). And I have no clue about computers and how strong the hardware has to be, but it is really difficult if you have to take people in and just have one sort of computer to have the tours. So that’s the good thing about this QiSpace program, is that you can use it on all sorts of tablets and phone or computer, or ipad or something like that. So there are some parts of that gaming technology we want to see if it is possible to adapt to in device. And you’ve already addressed some of it, and we’re working on some of those-
Bjørn: We talked about it in the meeting in Tromsø, being able to walk around, using your fingers, instead of “jumping.”
Kurt: When you also come to that part, you can change the color on the walls, and the kitchen is already done, and that’s already in there.
Kristian: I think the spec you already sent us for BT2 is going to be fun, you’ll have contrast wall colors, different colors on the floor. And I think that will give a much bigger, and deeper impact on the visualization.
Bjørn: It will be a lot more exciting for the clients.
Kurt: And we can add the part where you can add furniture, and arrange it differently. That’s going to be a huge step. Because, I don’t know about you Bjørn, but I remember when I was working in real estate and I was selling a project, many guys were like “is this sofa gonna fit? How big can the bed be? Dining table… how many chairs can I have, if I have some extra space how is that going to look? Is there going to be space for 8 or 10 or is there only a maximum of 4? It’s pretty hard to do that with a drawing, to get a mental idea, so when we can have that. I don’t know if it’s necessary to have the exact type or furniture, but if you can have models of different styles, it can be just a start. Like a sofa with an l-shape, or a chaise lounge, or just 3 plus 2…
Bjørn: The thing you’re mentioning there is one of the things we have the most difficult time answering, how will that sofa fit. If they bring an old sofa into the apartment, how long is that wall, etc…? And that’s all about displaying the placement of the furniture in the apartment. That’s hard when you don’t know the measurements of the walls.
Kristian: That’s where we try to furnish the apartments in a clever way. In a small apartment, we don’t put a big sofa, we add a two seater instead.
Bjørn: Will it be possible to get sort of a measurement tool integrated?
Kristian: That would be a great feature to have. And I think it is a subject addressed in our future plans.
Bjørn: If we just could go in and measure a wall, and see that that wall is 3.4 meters, with certain subjects, of course it would be a lot easier. I see my colleague, Eric, is working with a client where these questions have been raised, and the contractor is a bit reluctant giving the answers, because they don’t want to have legal responsibility. But if they could have a tool like that in QiSpace’s apartment chooser, that would be fantastic and improve the client’s experience.
Kristian: Have an apartment with all the measurements included?
Bjørn: Then you have made big progress.
West: So going diving into the marketing side of things, how has QiSpace impacted your marketing efforts, specifically in terms of the benefits of the 3D renderings all the way to the 4K resolution images of the apartments?
Bjørn: It makes it a lot easier to have variations of the advertisements with the 4K pictures we have available. We use it actively on social media, and on Finn.no. And our sales team can go in and choose the pictures they have from the model. And it helped us because we don’t have to go and order new 3D pictures. And the model itself helps us in the marketing and we get a lot of good feedback from the market. And the market told us “wow, here they’ve spent a lot of money, millions doing this.” We received lots of comments through different channels that this was a really, really great solution, and they were envious of us having such a tool.
And if we could do real pictures in the scenery, that would be a great advantage.
Because we took drone footage from different stories, and I thought that this footage would be used in the first stage of the integration.
Kristian: We don’t have that at the moment. In BT2 you will experience much better scenery through our improved engine/solution: QiScape. It is much more accurate, and you will be able to see houses in the far distance.
Bjørn: Will that view be used in buildings 5 and 6?
Kristian: That’s the plan. We might have gotten even further when we get to the later stages, we will see. The trees and the buildings will look a lot better. We spent a lot of time and effort on developing these features over the last 6 months.
Bjørn: The images aren’t 100%, so I really look forward to seeing these improved features. We have used some of these existing landscape images for marketing. If you improve the sharpness, quality, or resolution, it will help a lot.
Kristian: It’s fun to see how the quality has improved. The next project we are delivering will be for PBBL and the quality is much better. What we’re going to deliver to you will probably be even better than that. It’s fun to see how we improve ourselves. And that we take the input we get from you / BONORD and others seriously.
West: Many of the solutions on the market will create a wonderful showroom apartment, but one of the things we love about QiSpace, that kind of sets us apart, is that we show all of the rooms in all of the apartments. How has that total showing, rather than just a single showroom impacted your experience with buyers? Are they surprised by it? Excited? Does it impact your marketing compared to perhaps having worked with showroom solutions that you might have been working with?
Bjørn: It might be good with a combination. One thing is seeing it on the screen, another thing is touching it and experiencing it. A combination between this QiSpace and an example showroom/dummy apartment would be fantastic. Then we’re talking about a building project that will evolve over several years. It’s quite clear that the impression of us as a broker has improved because of the tools we’ve used, but then again, some people think that the threshold is too high for using the QiSpace program.
Kurt: But Kloken and our other two big projects, like Hamna, they’re going to use a viewing center with a dummy apartment so that the kind of people who think that it’s difficult to see this on digital can come into the showroom and actually walk through and apartment to see how it is. And then you can combine that with having a computer, or having a digital showroom as well. But, like Bjørn said, you need to have a project that goes over some years, because the investment of building a showroom is pretty high. Maybe we should have done it on Larsneset, but we came in a little too late I think to start all over. We should have had a showroom down to the building site.
Kristian: What’s the estimate of the cost of making a showroom like that?
Kurt: Depends on how big. Sometimes you just use a container, but the problem with that is that you have a problem with getting the exact roof height. 3-500 hundred thousand to build one of those. So the project has to have some size.
Bjørn: We actually have the possibility of doing this, we have discussed with Nordic. The question is where to place it in Hamna. I suggest we build it in the city center.
Kristian: We hope a showroom will be unnecessary when this is topnotch.
Bjørn: It’s strange, we still get those clients who want to come into our office and get the sales material, written out, printed, and we have to do that for them. And the same people really like to touch and feel the qualities they get in real life. Fewer and fewer are amongst those that want this though. I think I’ve maybe printed out 5 out of the 450 interests we’ve had in Larsneset. And if we have this showroom in a shopping center, we can guide them on both QiSpace and in the showroom.
Kristian: Then they can go in there and play with the solution.
West: And to that end, with both (digital and physical) being important to the final sales decision, when people can see their digital view from every window or their balcony before the apartment has even been built, does that add a wow factor to your marketing? Have customers responded to that by being surprised because this is unique? Sorry, I don’t want to put any words in your mouth, how have you seen the reactions from your customers to the views in particular?
Bjørn: As I stated earlier, it gives the experience a new dimension, being able to go out there and actually see. You can actually go out on the balcony, turn around, go around the corner, of course it makes it easier and easier to make a decision as a buyer.
Kurt: When the outside area is real photos, because the only thing people ask is: is this correct?! Because it’s so new, they want to know, is it really this high?
West: If I didn’t work here, I wouldn’t believe this was real either!
Kurt: So, that’s the only thing, if you can add those other elements in better resolution, then you know, it’s gonna be an even better customer experience. “What you see is what you get.”
Kristian: “Seeing is believing.”
Bjørn: It’s quite clear that the feedback is positive. I’ve been talking to some friends and they think it’s great, and even though they’re not in search of a property, they have searched through all the apartments. Do we have a count on how many have been in?
Kristian: We don’t know, I’m not sure if we can see how many, and or unique users. But that would be really interesting.
Bjørn: I know that several users have been in lots of times before they can make a decision. And then again, I think some buyers have only been in once and then they make a decision to buy. And we also get buyers that haven’t signed in previously, like the one last week that bought the most expensive one. They hadn’t shown any previous interest, but they had been into the QiSpace apartment chooser. We first talked to them on Thursday, and on Friday they made a decision. It was a special case, some buyers had been looking at different projects in the SpareBank NordNorge and my son in law recommended they should have a look at this project. So my son in law sent them down to us.
Kristian: Did he receive his part of the commission?
Bjørn: He will get a big Christmas gift.
Kristian: But with this tool, would it be possible to get some newspaper coverage? I think it was tried on doing this with Larsneset, but not sure if it happened.
Bjørn: We talked about it, and Ole (H.K.) was involved, but nothing was done. But I don’t think it’s too late. It’s still news and maybe we can do it on the next stage. Using the local paper in Harstad, telling them about the unique tool for showing. Maybe Boxing Day is a good day, as there are no other new stories in the paper. We should really try to do this.
West: Going back to a point made earlier about the buyers imagining their furniture in place, vs the buyers seeing the apartment unfurnished, how have those options impacted the marketing and the customer experience in a positive way?
Bjørn: I feel it’s really hard to give an answer. We have not had any serious talks about seeing unfurnished, but what they really respond to is the possibility of changing kitchens. Much better to change the kitchen’s appearance, this offers a big wow factor. And much more useful than seeing unfurnished.
Kurt: But if you combine these two, also when you see real estate as used, when you break this code, I just bought a new house myself, and you can download these drawings, that you can try to use to furnish the living room. And even though I can “stand” in the living room, it’s hard to see if this couch is going to fit. You try to measure it, but if you can add a 3D aspect of it, where you put real furniture in the space, it’s going to make a huge difference. Then you can use it on all kinds of real estate sales, not only new projects. As long as you have the right model. And today, most of the new properties that are built are going to use BIM, so you already have it.
West: Do you think that adding real life measurements, even without the ability to add a piece of furniture, as an inbetween measure before that furniture changing option might be deployed, do you think that will….
Kurt: …yeah, I think that’s going to have a huge impact. Then you can have the apartment unfurnished with all the measurements. So you can say, from there to there it’s 1.8. But then the contractor that’s going to build it is going to be a little bit hesitant to give you the exact dimensions because there can come some shafts and stuff that change the build, so that’s the only thing that might hold that back.
West: We’re always trying to improve, so if you have any suggestions for ways we can do that, or if you have any pain points with using QiSpace that you want to raise, that we can bust through to make you much happier with your user experience, on both your end and on your customer’s end, what would those be?
Bjørn: For our customers, if you can move through the screen with your mouse instead of pressing the button to move in the apartment chooser, it would result in a much more natural experience. And some text should pop up with, for instance, a user manual or instructions. Some people would benefit from such information, and it would make their experience much better.
From our side, I think we’ve addressed the pain points earlier. But it might pop up new suggestions from our side in the future.
And that we communicate if we, by any chance, get a bright idea.
Kurt: If you can measure the rooms, this is something I would like to stress. I think that can be a huuuge benefit in a really short amount of time. Because then you know if it’s 1.2 okay, my bed is going to fit in, I can’t have 1.5. And some of the rooms, they have king sized or queen sized rooms, and you think it’s not that much at 30 cm, but in some rooms it’s going to be impossible to have 1.8.
West: Is there anything else you’d like to say that maybe we didn’t ask about that you’ve, for example noticed about your customer interactions with QiSpace.
Bjørn: No, nothing comes to mind. Nothing that we didn’t address or talk about in the meeting in Tromsø.
Kurt: I think it’s really good that you are open minded and always looking for improvement, because that’s the key to success. The day that you think you’re finished developing, then you’re dead. The drive to always find some small things to make a difference, I think that’s really, really important, and we feel that’s been a really good- I think it’s only been improving since we started to interact with you guys.
Bjørn: I think the journey since Alumen in Bergen has improved a lot. And with the project in Porsgrunn and stepping up in Harstad, it’s gonna be good.
Kurt: And for the contractor, it’s also going to be interesting to see if we can model this in some way that you can actually prebuild the whole construction, to try to see the timeframe from the beginning to the end of the build. So, if you can actually show the customers the issues that come up as they are building the project, so if they need to put a shaft in a living room or something, then this can be a huge benefit to the customers.
Kristian: One other aspect, I know that you looked at it as you put the price on the different objects in Larsneset 1, how did you experience that? Before you launched, you had access to QiSpace, and used it to put the price on the apartments.
Kurt: I think you and Ruth used it to see that some of the apartments that would be pretty tricky, or these apartments have no sun, it only has the view for the fjord and the ocean, and then that was the thing that we ended up discussing most, if building 5 or building 6 is going to be the most popular one. Because one is facing towards the sea and has the marine aspects, and the other one is facing the city. And we thought that the one that was facing the city and also had a view to the ocean was going to be the most popular one, but it was the opposite! So that was a tricky part. And now we start selling building 6. And before last week, we had not sold 1 in the penthouse for building 6. But now people are starting to see where the buildings are actually going to be. But now as the building is rising, we are starting to sell more. So if you have some pictures of the building rising in real time, that would be a huge step if you could do something with that. And then I think when people see the actual location, instead of visualizing it in their heads.
Bjørn: Concerning the sun and the view; in this project I know Harstad so well I can tell where the sun is, so in this project it really didn’t matter. But it’s really useful to go inside and look around, and that matters to the price. It’s a great tool.
West: Have you noticed that QiSpace helps you sell apartments faster, compared to before you started using it?
Kurt: Probably difficult to answer 100%. But I think we can see, in some parts, yes. Like we said, the apartment we sold last week, that was a customer we hadn’t been in touch with, and he just called and asked and then next day it was sold, because he had been into the QiSpace tools himself.
West: So maybe it reduces the amount of time between initial contact to final sale.
Kurt: It can be, yes.
Bjørn: Yes, it can.
Kristian: I’m just thinking out loud, would it be possible to do a questionnaire with 5-6 questions that we can send to your clients?
Kurt + Bjørn: Absolutely!
Bjørn: Both who has bought and those 400 we have on a list. That could be really clever. And back to the question, the first question (does it help to sell apartments faster?) — At the first presentation we used it on a big screen to present the project and it helped make them feel more secure in the buying process. There is no scientific study behind it, but that it has helped us, that’s for sure!
Kurt: I think it’s been a game changer, for projects.
Bjørn: We shouldn’t make it complicated for the clients, we should make it easier. Some of the projects in the market, you push a button, then you’re inside the apartment. With QiSpace, you can turn the building, only problem is, you might not know where you are. There is a challenge there, and if you can solve that problem, then the user experience will improve a lot.
Kristian: These are the things we like to hear about, and then do something about. So this is useful.
West: Thank you so much for your insights!