Have you ever wanted to buy a house, but didn’t want to get off the couch?
While lenders and real estate brokers may request such transactions be done in person, those in the market for a new home can at least tour potential abodes — without getting off the couch.
Conceived in Silicon Valley in 2011, cutting-edge camera technology has made its way to residential real estate in Colorado Springs.
The Behr & Behr Team, a real estate company founded by Ed and Renee Behr in 1985, has grown to be part of the Platinum Group Realtors consortium, which they helped found. Today the group has approximately 65 agents.
Ed and Renee’s son, Brandon, is a full-time broker and the company’s marketing and technology manager. When he saw an article in The Wall Street Journal describing Matterport’s 3-D patented camera, he knew it would be the perfect marketing tool for his industry.
“Everyone we’ve shown it to — it’s been a jaw-dropping, expletive-filled moment,” Brandon said.
Living in the future
According to Matterport’s website, “The Matterport 3-D System uses a patented camera, controlled through the user’s Apple iPad, to capture 3-D and 2-D images of an interior space. The camera rotates on a tripod that the user places around a room to capture every aspect of the space. Matterport’s proprietary technology then stitches together the data to create one complete 3-D mesh with images overlaid onto all surfaces. These models are then ready for users to walk through the interior, view as a dollhouse, or see a floor plan through Matterport’s immersive online interface. The models also include complete linear and area measurement data. The resulting model can be viewed, modified, annotated and shared using any computer or the Apple iPad.”
Essentially, the Behr & Behr Team utilizes its Matterport camera — perhaps the first in the state and beyond, according to Brandon — to create a high-definition, 3-D image of sellers’ homes. Those homes then can be interactively “toured” via myriad media.
According to Brandon, the camera is set on a tripod in each room throughout a home, where it performs a 360-degree scan of its surroundings. Each scan takes approximately 45 seconds and one can expect to spend 45 minutes to scan 1,000 square feet.
Once the scan is completed, the images are uploaded to the cloud where Matterport’s algorithms “stitch” together the rooms, resulting in a digital 3-D model of the home. It can be viewed as a whole, like a dollhouse with no walls, and the user can rotate the image to view the home in its entirety.
But wait… Want to check out the cabinets in the kitchen? Click on that room and seamlessly view the space in 3-D. Want to walk from the kitchen to examine the fixtures in the downstairs guest bathroom? Interact with the screen (clicking the mouse on a desktop computer or utilizing tactile controls on a tablet or smartphone) and roam through the house as though it were your own. One can climb stairs, walk through doorways and, in the near future, switch the colors of the walls or swap the existing furniture with digital versions of one’s own furniture or furniture from catalogs.
IKEA, for instance, already has an augmented reality app which can superimpose furniture from its catalogs into space in your home via a tablet or smartphone. Brandon said a similar concept would allow for removing furniture in a Matterport-photographed home and superimposing furniture from a catalog or one’s own furniture into that space.
“You can create your model home out of nothing,” he said.
Part of the package
According to Brandon, the feature will come standard for customers who use the Behr & Behr Team.
“We’d like to offer this as an exclusive to Behr & Behr clients,” he said. “It’s part of the marketing plan, and we’d offer it to them for free.”
Brandon said four homes can be viewed at behrandbehr.com and that the virtual tours “offer sellers a chance to have a competitive advantage over others who don’t have this [technology].
“It also helps to eliminate a second or third showing,” he said. “[Interested parties] can take your home with them. There they can view it, show it to their friends.”
According to Brandon, “A buyer will look at a home online two or three times before scheduling a visit. It’s not unusual for them to review a listing up to seven times before making an offer. This will help the purchasing process go quicker.”
Brandon said the technology is particularly useful in a military-heavy market, as personnel stationed outside the region can begin a detailed housing search without setting foot in Colorado Springs.
“Pictures can be deceiving, with wide-angle lenses and such. This eliminates that. You can walk around and feel the space instead of relying on photos. It gives out-of-state buyers a huge advantage.”
With the rapidity at which today’s technology moves to obscurity, Behr & Behr has plans to maximize the impact of its modest investment. The $4,500 camera and monthly fee for cloud storage is a relatively cheap marketing tool, Brandon said. Within the next month, Virtual Visit, a spinoff company conceived by Brandon, is expected to launch. The spinoff will provide 3-D imaging for clients beyond real estate, he said.
“It will launch shortly, and we’ll offer this service to hotels, retail, climbing gyms — anywhere that has a unique interior space that the business would want to [be] visited before [clients] even get there.”
Brandon said emerging virtual reality technology, such as Samsung’s Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard, can combine with Matterport’s capabilities to create an even more immersive experience. Technology exists that allows users to wear virtual reality headgear and control movement via a video game controller. The user can turn his or her head to view their digital surroundings and use the controller to move about the structure.
“For the really high-end luxury market, I thought of creating a package where we can send [potential buyers] a package including a headset and controller — everything to get them that 3-D experience. If they’re interested in a high-end home, it’s worth the investment on that client. They could keep the hardware to view homes they are interested in buying.”
To view a Behr demo of Matterport technology, visit: tinyurl.com/mdfx25t.