Coldwell Banker Opens Office in Second Life

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Second Life (SL) is like World of Warcraft – they are products largely driven by virtual communities that have very quickly developed its own meta universes. They’re also kind of like twitter (you can follow me here) – I don’t really get it.

But I’m probably alone here. Thousands, if not millions of people are using it to live out virtual fantasies through their SL avatars.

Being that it’s a virtual world, many of these fantasies center around real estate, and buying and trading virtual land. Some residents like Anshe Chung, the “Rockefeller of Second Life” claims to have made over $250,000 from creating, renting and selling virtual homesteads to new residents.

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So it only makes sense that a real estate company would try and capitalize on this virtual land rush too…

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Coldwell Banker (CB) announced today that it is the first national real estate company to sell homes to SL residents. From their press release:

Coldwell Banker has an inventory of more than 500 homes on 550,000 square meters in the Ranchero section of the Second Life mainland, one of the largest home developments in this virtual world. These virtual homes will vary in price based on size and style, including southwestern, colonial and contemporary, among others. In addition, Coldwell Banker is offering homes perched atop a picturesque hill overlooking the ocean. Second Life residents can meet with a Coldwell Banker sales associate avatar in the brand’s virtual office and schedule an appointment to tour virtual properties of interest. Homebuyers who close a purchase with Coldwell Banker will receive free “virtual furnitureâ€? for their new home as a closing gift.

You can see a current map of the SL world (or “grid”) here – Ranchero is located just in from the inlet on the eastern side of the island that kind of looks like a “J”.

It’s a interesting idea. Large companies like CB are making all kinds of creative plays in SL’s cyberspace – HSBC has a bank, Toyota has a dealership, even Reuters has a SL news bureau. For good reason too, SL can be a test bed for new ideas and it gets people interacting with their products and services; and it’s a relative cheap investment:

…an island costs $1,675 for about 16 virtual acres, plus $295 a month for maintenance fees…

(more in Investor’s Business Daily: Companies Are Finding Second Life)

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to figure out where CB’s headquarters was. If anyone can find it, can they post a SLURL in the comments?

This commercialization of SL is not without controversy however. Folks who resent this corporate intrusion (nicknamed “Grievers”) have taken matters into their own hands; apparently there’s a Second Life Liberation Army who have shot virtual customers outside a virtual American Apparel store and even gone as far as detonating virtual nuclear weapons (more in USAToday article).

Then of course, there was the infamous “Phallus attack” on virtual Realtor Chung earlier this year (see Virtual Real Estate Tycoon Assaulted in Second Life).

I’m sure we’ll see more attempts to capitalize/advertise in these virtual worlds in the future. CB is definitely ahead of the curve on this one and, in a day and age where advertising is becoming so ubiquitous and consumers are becoming increasing desensitized to tradition branding efforts, this is a way for a major real estate brand to try and cut through the message clutter.

If you’re interested in checking out Second Life, click here to join.

Of course, in the mad rush to take advantage of the opportunities in Second Life, let’s not forget that you should also Get a First Life.

Update:

I found it.

Coldwell Banker

Here’s the SLUrl to teleport you there.

Porsches and Beamers parked outside and CB-branded helicopters on the roof. Nice.

Nobody was home when I visited, but there’s coffee and donuts and there’s a nice boat to hang out on while you wait.

Coldwell Banker