NEW YORK — Realtor.com pioneered online property search, but let’s face it: In more recent years, it hasn’t been known as an innovator.
But two years after News Corp.’s acquisition of the listing portal, that image no longer applies.
Drawing on muscle from News Corp.’s real estate and media subsidiaries, realtor.com is churning out new technology.
AR, VR and 3-D
Inman Connect recently served as a sort of coming-out party for this R&D push, with the listing portal’s top dog unveiling augmented-reality (AR), 3-D and virtual-reality (VR) features.
“Rather than be a laggard,” realtor.com wants “to be new and to be first” — and to “lean into trends,” said Ryan O’Hara, CEO of realtor.com-operator Move Inc., on stage at Inman Connect.
To show the firm is walking the walk, he introduced patent-pending AR and image-recognition mobile features. Then he invited attendees on stage to test a VR app that’s under development.
“Sign Snap,” a feature the listing portal recently added to its mobile app, lets prospective homebuyers take a photo of a for sale sign on their smartphone to pull up a property’s realtor.com listing, he said.
Putting a spin on similar features built into a few other property search apps, Sign Snap uses patent-pending “optical character recognition” and GPS technology.
O’Hara also described a feature in realtor.com’s pipeline that will use AR technology to offer real-time pictures of real estate markets as homebuyers walk around neighborhoods.
It lets homebuyers point a smartphone at a group of a homes to see property information overlaid onto them in the phone’s camera view. For example, the feature could project home value estimates and numbers of bedrooms and bathrooms onto three properties as they appear on your camera view.
But O’Hara saved the best for last: a virtual-reality app.
Prospective buyers can use the app with VR goggles to tour immersive 3-D home tours generated by 3-D provider Matterport.
“I really love that floor,” said one attendee who climbed on stage to demo the app. Transported to a space the audience couldn’t see, she looked about while wearing a newfangled-looking headset.
Using its resources
The coming app illustrates how realtor.com is leveraging News Corp.’s portfolio of companies to boost its technology, O’Hara said.
Realtor.com developed the VR app in partnership with REA Group — an international online real estate company owned by News Corp. — and Matterport, which counts News Corp. among its investors.
“I sit on the board meetings,” O’Hara said, when offering insight into realtor.com’s relationship with Matterport in a separate interview.
Realtor.com also plans to allow agents to stitch Matterport home tours into realtor.com listings later this year — integration that REA Group has already performed.
In yet another joint initiative, REA partnered with realtor.com last year to launch what News Corp billed the “world’s largest source of global property listings.”
In the meantime…
While realtor.com may be forging ahead with VR, AR and 3-D feature, don’t think for a second that Zillow has missed the boat.
Zillow Executive Chairman Rich Barton said in an earlier session at Connect that Zillow is investing in VR technology and hinted of plans for “virtual co-shopping with your agent.”