Israeli-American Augmented Reality (AR) startup, SparX, is reshaping the property touring experience, allowing potential homeowners to visualize their could-be living spaces with virtual staging and realistic furnishings. A much needed solution for a pivotal segment of the home buying process.
While the property technology (Proptech) arena is flourishing with innovation and investor interest ($12 billion in funding raised by Proptech startups in 2022 according to Houlihan Lokey) – from marketplaces for purchasing and rentals, to automated management software – the staging aspect has been largely overlooked. But when Dan Lowenthal relocated with his family to California, his personal struggle gave rise to a spark that’s upending traditional staging methods for the better. He couldn’t envision his life in the apartment spaces he was visiting, marred with an emptiness that disserved both potential homeowners and sellers. Combining his two-decades worth of experience in marketing and virtual reality, Lowenthal set out to eliminate the barren properties with an immersive and real-time visualization solution.
Founded in 2020 and backed by Terra Venture Partners, SparX, targets nearly a third of homes in the US (or 44 million homes as of 2019 figures, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s count of multi-tenant residential properties). Frictionless and fast calibrating, SparX’s AI and AR platform transforms any vacant unit into a fully furnished, visually appealing home. It allows potential tenants and homeowners to experience properties in all of their glory, with realistic furnishings and customized looks tailored to individual preferences, room specifications, style, budget, and function.
“Experiencing the frustration that empty spaces cause, both as a real estate agent and as a tenant, placed me in a unique position to pursue a solution to this bothersome issue,” explained Lowenthal. “My ambitious goal was to instantly transform any vacant space into a dream home. Thanks to the remarkable power of AR and the dedicated team at SparX, my dream has now become a vivid and achievable reality. This innovative solution eliminates the pain for both agents and tenants in one fell swoop.”
The startup currently operates in U.S. markets, including California, Washington D.C., North Carolina, New York, and New Jersey, while R&D operations are based in Israel.
Upon arrival, visitors are handed a tablet or phone set up with SparX’s virtual staging software by the property management company, enabling them to view different furnished options in real time as they move freely throughout the unit. SparX only requires a floorplan from the property managers in order to render the entire unit with a number of different staging styles. Their immersive experience is a stark contrast to the alternatives as SparX is the only solution on the market offering on-site virtual touring, replacing physically staging unit, which can cost property managers upwards of $60,000 per year, according to Lowenthal.
The startup’s technology combines advanced computer vision, deep learning and AR techniques. Their technology engine is built on top of the ARkit by Apple and ARcore by Google, and their approach ensures a “glitch-free”, smooth running technology at scale during an on-site tour.
The startup operates on a SaaS pricing model, charging by the number of units staged by the property management company. They also earn commissions from furniture providers on purchases made directly from the SparX platform. 3D models of the furnishings are provided by the vendors themselves. And for vendors without renderings, SparX has their own studio to generate 3D model assets.
They’re VC backed, with $5 million in funding from Terra Ventures Partners, strategic real estate investors and several grants.
In the last quarter, SparX has doubled its staged units to 10,000, capitalizing on the rising U.S. homeownership rates and multi-tenant housing starts, pegged at 6.3 million units in 2022 and climbing. But more than just virtual staging and filling empty spaces; SparX is setting a new standard in proptech, offering a glimpse into the future of how home buying deals come together.
“SparX delivers a trifecta of advantages, benefiting homeowners, prospective home seekers, and furniture manufacturers all at once,” added Lowenthal. “In a seamless and harmonious ecosystem, SparX brings substantial benefits to each of these stakeholders, creating a mutually enriching unforgettable experience for designing and showcasing spaces.”