Come fly with me on a 3-D virtual real estate tour

You're searching for a new or vacation home, but it's 500 miles away. Or maybe it's in Dubai...I hear they have some good deals right now. Even if it's just across town and you're dying to see the house and 'hood, who's got the time?

You do, now, with some cool new technology that allows you to check out real estate prospects in all their state-of-the-art, three-dimensional glory, right from your desktop. In addition to scoping out the home (inside and out, if you'd like) in 3-D, you can check out the home's proximity to your kid's new school, the supermarket, the cleaners, freeways and the closest fast-food joint.

CyberCity 3D, in conjunction with Google Earth's API virtual globe, is among a handful of companies that provide such a service, for about $150 per model. The company has contracted with and, the online listings giants known for matching agents and buyers, to display CyberCity's virtual home tours at the sites, giving member agents a leg up in attracting buyers to their own websites.

Are these high-tech tours worth it? Agents think so.

"It's a really great tool," says Syd Leibovitch, president of Beverly Hills-based Rodeo Realty. "Buyers can get a good idea of the surrounding neighborhood and the house, and frankly, a lot of sellers like to feel they're getting all the bells and whistles." He added that one downside to the technology is that buyers who use virtual tours to eliminate prospects might check a potential house off the list because even in 3-D the tour might make ceilings look lower than they are or a kitchen not as swell as it is in person.

On the other hand, that process of elimination saves buyers time.

"They don't have to schlep to seven houses and navigate 20 websites to gather all the information they want," says Jackie Murphy, CyberCity's director of product management and sales. "They can visit just the top three homes they've chosen."

In another year or so, it may be possible for buyers to, with one click of the mouse, virtually "fly" through a neighborhood and check out the street, "park" the car in the driveway and wander around the backyard. Then they can "walk" through the house, even check out the ocean view from the second floor.

Those low-tech hand-held videos that many agents use today? They'll be as popular as TVs with rabbit ears.

For more on real estate tech trends, check out Ann Brenoff's Walletpop story.
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