We've become experienced house hunters thanks to the various Indian property apps out there. We've tested out most of the popular ones to provide our top picks, and recently, we came across a new feature on one of those that was interesting enough to warrant a more detailed look. Makaan - which we described in our roundup as our favourite house-hunting app to use - recently launched a new feature that makes use of augmented reality (AR) to help you to find a new house.
The new feature - called MakaanView - is a cool overlay that shows you nearby houses that fit your requirements, a showcase for how companies in the housing market have to innovate. Just a year or so ago, these same companies were investing in 360-degree cameras to provide virtual reality (VR) tours of houses.
Although the AR initiative is starting with Makaan, according to Elara Technologies (which owns Makaan, as well as PropTiger.com and Housing.com), this feature will be coming to the other two platforms as well.
The way MakaanView works is actually really straightforward. When you open the app, the search, apart from other criteria, will let you tap on find nearby properties - earlier, this would show you a map view but now it opens up the camera and lets you look around to find houses. Hold the phone in landscape mode and a smart prompt comes up asking if you'd like to switch to map view, and otherwise you can add the various filters you need to find the house you require.
As we'd mentioned in our roundup, Makaan comes with a friendly looking design that's easy to understand, and you can see the same sensibility in the new feature as well, which makes it easy to figure out where the houses are, how far away they are, and so on. As you look around, you'll see little floating icons that show you a small picture of the house, along with the rent, number of bedrooms, and distance from your current location. There's also a radar-view in the top left corner that helps you to see where the different houses are, so you know which way to turn.
At the same time, you can apply the same kind of filters that you'd apply on a regular search. Tap the top bar, and you can set the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you want, the minimum and maximum rent, type of property, whether the listing was made by owners only or by brokers as well, and whether it's ready to move it, and if it is unfurnished or not - all the usual bells and whistles you'd expect from a property app. At the bottom of the screen, there's one final filter you can apply - a range limit. The default is the maximum range of 5kms, but you can lower this to 200m if you want to something that’s near you.
Tapping the listing in the camera view pauses the live feed, allowing you to bring the phone to a convenient angle to peruse the listing, and you can then swipe along the bottom to see the other nearby listings. It's all really slick, and along with the chat interface that the app already had, this is a really good feature that helps it stand out.
The problem - as we noted earlier as well - is that at least in the South Bengaluru localities where we were testing it, Makaan has fewer listings from property owners than competitors like MagicBricks, 99acres, or CommonFloor. If you're fine with listings by brokers, then Makaan offers as much as the others to choose from, but in our experience at least, most brokers we ended up speaking to would offer a variation on: "that flat you're interested in just got rented out, but we have a dozen more in other buildings if you're interested," which rather defeats the purpose of shortlisting houses yourself.
That being said, does it really help to have an AR view for house-hunting? It probably won't make a difference to many users who just want to go into the listing view, find the most suitable house with their budget in mind, and that's it. But for others who are a little picky about the house, the map view can help locate nearby amenities, access to main roads, and even give you a sense of the neighbourhood you're looking at. The AR view will be helpful for people that are even more picky.
You'll be able to go to a locality, pull out your phone, and point at the buildings that look good to you, until you find something that has a house available. That's probably just a small portion of the consumer-base, but for the people who want something like this, it's going to be a huge bonus.
Earlier, the alternative - which this correspondent has done a lot - was to drive around and spot buildings you like, and then type their names into Google to find out if there's a listing online. If that sounds like something you've ever done, then you're clearly part of the target audience for the MakaanView feature.
For now, the MakaanView feature is only available on the Android version of the free Makaan app on Google Play. An iOS update will follow.