Technology

3-D tours catching on like wildfire in New York City

Douglas Elliman sees potential for technology to 'really shake things up' for real estate industry

Virtual 3-D tours that let Web surfers saunter through photo-realistic models of homes could soon become the norm in New York City, with a number of big-name brokerages adopting the technology to market luxury condos and homes.

Halstead Property recently began scanning listings with a 3-D camera sold by Matterport and has published two online 3-D models on its website. Spokeswoman Robyn Kammerer said the brokerage, which has 1,200 agents in offices in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, plans to roll the technology out in other regions “for the right type of homes.”

Douglas Elliman has 3-D augmented reality technology in development “that should really shake things up for the real estate industry” in 2015, said Jonathan Evans, vice president of marketing at the brokerage. Evans pointed to a 3-D virtual tour for a Douglas Elliman listing in Boca Raton, Florida, that is powered by Google’s Business View technology.

Brown Harris Stevens is gearing up to produce 3-D models powered by Matterport starting in late January, said spokeswoman Amy Gotzler. Brown Harris Stevens and Halstead share the same parent company, Terra Holdings LLC.

The Corcoran Group told Inman that it’s also been looking into 3-D virtual tours.

Another New York City brokerage, Town Residential, was working in August with 3-D provider Floored to produce an interactive 3-D model of a listing.

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Unlike Matterport, Floored does not sell a camera. It builds models using either its own proprietary camera or computer-aided designs of properties. The models cost more and are less realistic, but they can portray unbuilt spaces or reimagined existing spaces.

Matterport has gotten a head start as a provider of low-cost 3-D products in the real estate industry, partnering with Redfin among a slew of other brokerages.

But competitors such as Planitar, InsideMaps and perhaps even Google (as Douglas Elliman’s 3-D tour seems to suggest) are trying to get in on the action.

Real estate agents across the country are using 3-D technology to win listings. A smaller number have also begun to use the models to stay top of mind with future prospects and referrals sources by giving branded models to past clients.

Looking ahead, virtual representations of listings could help agents weed out “lookie loos” who aren’t serious buyers.

That could free up agents to spend more time serving as transaction navigators and negotiators, but it also might make agents less important as tour guides and sales people, both aspects of their traditional value proposition to clients.