Open Houses Get a 3-D Virtual Rehaul

The days of unlimited flowing champagne and delectable canape trays floating through a beautifully staged, uninhabited home may be numbered, thanks to the birth of the virtual open house.

How we buy real estate is an ever-changing process and with the 3-D technology of Canadian company Uther Interiors (part of the Virtual World Web and provided by Utherverse Digital, Inc.), potential buyers don't even need to get off the couch in their old home to find a new home. They can test out the couch in the new home from the old couch and old home too! By eliminating any pre-schlepping to listed homes that lack potential, time and energy is saved for all parties concerned.

HousingWatch spoke with Uther Interiors CEO and founder Brian Shuster about how a virtual perspective on real estate is in our future:

Will the 3-D Web revolutionize the U.S. real estate market?

Brian Shuster: The Virtual World Web [3-D Web] will give real estate the same kind of benefits that the flat web gave to stores like Amazon. It will totally revolutionize the U.S. real estate market by making it much more efficient than it could ever have been before. More than anything else, with UI's new 3-D Home Tours, the potential buyer will instantly know if the place feels like home. Within a few years, all serious houses for sale will have to have virtual listings on the 3-D web, just as today, any real business must have a website.

How does this work for potential buyers?
Homebuyers will have the ability to visit dozens of houses in a single day from the comfort of their home. First, they'll use something like Google Maps and Street View to find homes for sale in their price range [and] that are in areas that they like. They'll view actual pictures of the neighborhood and the exterior of the home. The time saved from spending weeks or months going to homes that are disappointment-after-disappointment will be enormous. Being able to narrow down the choice from 50 to three or four will make buyers much less discouraged, and will speed up the sales process tremendously.

How does the 3-D technology do that?
They'll simply use a 3-D web browser to place themselves along with their spouse and agent into each home that they want to view. They'll walk around the house inspecting each room to see the size, the shape, and the overall flow and feel of the house. With the Utherverse Interiors 3-D Home Tours, the potential buyer will walk from one room to another, through the hallways, looking at the placement of the bathrooms and the closets -- they can even stand in the showers. Users can walk up to the windows and see the view, or, they can sit in a chair and decide whether they like the angle of the television set.

Doesn't this already exist online for listings?
The current state of virtual tours is a fish-eye video that spins around a room. This kind of tour provides the viewer with very limited information. It fails to give the potential buyer a sense of size and proportion of the room. It also fails to give perspective on the whole house. There is no way to sense how it feels to walk from one room to another, or how the room works in relation to the hallways and the doors.

How do you "place yourself into each home?"
By having avatars that represent the buyers, [they] will be able to gain perspective that they could otherwise never have obtained. The sensation of navigating within the house this way is very lifelike. Once a user has tried it, they usually say that it was just like actually visiting the house. Within minutes, they'll know whether they like the house and whether it "feels" like home.

How does the seller of a home use this?
A home seller simply takes a few pictures of each room in their house, and sends those, along with a floor plan, to's design department. Within a few days, a 3-D model of the home will appear online.

Where does this leave real estate agents?
For real estate agents [it is] the ability to have open houses 24-hours a day and to have listings that are always accessible to potential buyers. [It] will speed up the home-selling process dramatically. Selling agents will only actually tour houses to people who have already visited the home virtually, so [it will be] only qualified interested buyers who are just doing a reality check of the house before they purchase.The job of real estate agents will be made much easier, meaning that they can handle more listings, and homes will sell more quickly.

This could be very helpful from an aesthetic perspective, as well when it comes to furniture and design.
As an added benefit, the buyer of the real home will also obtain a copy of the virtual home, so that they can then use that model to plan their move or redecorate their home virtually. Users even have the ability to replace the furniture that they see in the home with their own furniture. They can really discover what the house will be like to live in. They can virtually repaint the walls, redo the carpet or drapes. Once they've got the house looking the way they like, they can hand the plans to an interior designer, contractor, or to the movers to let them know where everything should go.

Do you anticipate there being people who buy without ever seeing the property in real life?
Some people will certainly use the ability to view a house remotely to make actual home purchases. But those people will be the exception. Most buyers will use the 3-D Web to sift through the dozens of potential properties so that they only have to see houses that they know will be suitable for them and their family. I envision this as a huge time-saver, but it will not replace the final walk-through for anyone who can visit the house before they buy it.

Could this technology mean the death of the open house?
Calling for the death of the open house is a scary proposition. But the ability to experience a home and to experiment with it in ways that you can't do in the real world, like testing how your furniture will look, makes an open house seem like a very inefficient way of attracting real buyers to a house. I think there will always be a reason for an open house, if for nothing more than to have a party for the seller and to attract the attention of buyer's agents.

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