“Welcome to my office. Put on these goggles and take a tour of my listings — then let’s talk business.” In the months and years ahead, a growing number of agents may use that opener to kick off their meetings with prospective clients.

  • Prospective homebuyers can now use virtual-reality goggles to view all of Matterport's 3-D home tours.
  • There are 85,000 Matterport models of active residential listings.

When prospective clients walk into Larry Story’s office, the Greenboro, North Carolina-based broker encourages them to strap on a pair of newfangled-looking headsets.

They can use the equipment to virtually meander lifelike 3-D home tours that Story has generated using technology provided by Matterport, remotely peering into Story’s listings and sampling technology that sets him apart from many competitors.

Story is among a handful of real estate agents that has been offering immersive viewing of Matterport models to clients. Now many more Matterport customers can provide the same experience.

Matterport has rolled out virtual-reality (VR) compatibility to all of its roughly 85,000 3-D models of active residential property listings, marking what Matterport calls a “huge leap forward for the VR ecosystem.”

What will users need and what can they view?

For now, users can only tour Matterport models in virtual reality using two types of VR goggles, both of which fit around smartphones: Google Cardboard, which costs $15, or Samsung Gear VR, priced at $100. But in the months ahead, Matterport plans to make all of its 3-D tours synch up with more sophisticated headsets, such as a headset made by Facebook-owned Oculus Rift.

Two VR headsets and a gaming system

Story’s office features a VR gaming system, including at least two headsets (one of which sits on the nearest table shown in this photo) and a controller. Clients can use the system to virtually tour 3-D models and 360-degree videos of listings and neighborhoods. Credit: Larry Story

Matterport had previously added VR viewing capability to a few hundred models on request from customers like Story. But with the launch of “CoreVR,” Matterport has brought the experience to all 250,000 of its 3-D tours, which include around 85,000 renderings of active real estate listings, according to Matterport.

“The conversion capabilities have been there, but it’s now completely automated,” said Matterport spokesman Tim Smith.

Users who click on a goggle icon that appears in the lower-right corner of 3-D models — which are typically viewed on desktop computers or mobile devices — will be prompted to download a Matterport app. If they open the app on a smartphone, users can then slide the phone into a compatible headset, put it over their eyes and explore the model in VR.

matterport-model

Users who click the goggle icon in the lower-right hand corner of a 3-D model can activate VR viewing.

Matterport is offering CoreVR free of charge for both all existing Matterport models and those that are created before the end of 2016. Starting in 2017, customers will have to pay a one-time fee of $19 to add VR compatibility to one model.

More about Matterport

Real estate marketing firms around the country use Matterport cameras to churn out 3-D models of listings for real estate agents, often charging between $100 and $200 to capture a typical home. Some agents also buy Matterport’s camera, which costs $4,500, so they can produce the models themselves.

Matterport charges $45 a month to host up to 100 models at a time.

Story says offering Matterport tours to clients sets him apart from the pack. Beyond demonstrating his innovative approach to the business, the technology “helps cut down on the tire kickers and useless showings,” he tells prospective sellers.

The technology also helps the firm recruit new agents by showcasing the “tools and mindset of our firm, as opposed to the standard fare firm that is concerned with nothing else but charging fees, commission splits and money, money, money,” he said.

In addition to producing VR-compatible home tours for clients, Story also uses a special camera to film 360-degree videos of “local area attributes, local greenways and parks. 360-degree videos are also viewable with VR devices.

Matterport models can be embedded on websites, and agents can syndicate links to their models to major listing portals through multiple listing services (MLSs).

Prospective buyers who view listing pages for properties with 3-D models on the likes of Zillow and realtor.com can click a listing’s “virtual tour” link to pull up the model.

When VR meets listing portals

Realtor.com is collaborating with Matterport on ways to increase accessibility of its models from realtor.com listings, said Matterport CEO Bill Brown. And Mansion Global, a luxury listing portal, publishes “Listing Of The Day” articles that include embedded Matterport models.

Both realtor.com operator Move and Mansion Global are owned by News Corp., which has made a “strategic investment” in Matterport.

Ryan O’Hara, the CEO of Move, said Move is “excited to enable consumers and our professional customers to capitalize on emerging opportunities in online real estate made possible by innovations in visualization such as Matterport’s CoreVR.”

O’Hara said that improvement in the time and cost of implementing VR “will drive a significant increase in its use in real estate marketing in the years ahead.”

Brown said that Matterport’s addition of VR compatibility to all of its models is “the first really mainstream big application for VR.”

Email Teke Wiggin.

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