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3D imagery and virtual reality: Tools for finding a home in 2017

New technology allows realtors to show homes in new ways. Photo courtesy of Matterport / Special to The Forum1 / 4
Matterport's Dollhouse View allows potential buyers to see how a house fits together. Photo courtesy of Matterport / Special to The Forum2 / 4
Special 3D cameras and apps allow users to highlight special features of the home. Photo courtesy: Matterport/Special to The Forum3 / 4
New cameras can provide 2D and 3D images as well as virtual reality tours of homes. Photo courtesy of Matterport / Special to The Forum4 / 4

In 2017, a prospective home buyer doesn't have to wait until an open house to take a peek inside their dream home.

Recently, more potential homebuyers are experiencing close-up views of what could be their new home without ever walking through the door. Sophisticated, immersive media technology — including 3D imaging, virtual reality walkthroughs and 360-degree photos — are changing the way buyers are buying and sellers are selling.

"I've had people contact me specifically because I'm using 3D virtual imagery," says realtor Ericka Schott of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Premier Properties in Fargo.

Schott says she's been using 3D technology for approximately six months and is one of only a handful of realtors in town who are using it.

"I love the immersive virtual tour," she says. "It allows you to look step-by-step through a home the way you would if you really walked through it."

"Sellers love it," says realtor Melissa Evenson of Beyond Realty. "It's kind of like a video game."

The new tools, which allow you to zoom in and out on 360-degree images are beneficial to the seller, the realtor and those looking to buy a home.

According to Realtor.com, sellers who use virtual reality have less foot traffic in their home, but more serious offers because people can make a decision earlier in the process. Only those ready to purchase will actually visit the home.

"We might not have a showing every day or every week, but we can show the sellers (through these videos) that eyes are on their property," Evenson says.

And both Evenson and Schott say that means greater sales.

"The more (potential buyers) see a home, the more emotion they feel toward it and the more likely it is that they'll make an offer," Schott says.

For buyers, it's a time-saver because the authenticity of the 3D images and virtual tours provide an accurate sense of the layout, construction and features of the home.

"Pictures are great, but you can't always tell how the house flows from room to room and these aerial views allow them to do that," Evenson says.

3D imaging works best for new construction where a completed model can be a blueprint for other homes in the community, according to Realtor.com. Showing a model also allows the realtor to keep showing the property even if it sells; there is no need to shoot repeated 3D videos every time a house comes on the market. It also works best in homes with open-floor plans because the 3D imagery from providers such as Matterport and 3D Property Tours don't always translate well in confined spaces like hallways and small rooms.

But 3D virtual reality tours aren't the only thing helping buyers make their decision. Matterport's Dollhouse View allows them to get a complete sense of how the home fits together from basement to rooftop. Other features allow sellers to highlight favorite aspects of the home through the use of graphics.

Despite the complexity of the programs, using 3D imagery in real estate is a relatively simple process. A camera is mounted on a tripod where it spins around in a full circle, collecting images from a 360-degree view. Most homes can be photographed this way in approximately one hour and uploaded for viewing just a couple of hours later.

Schott says it's been worth the time and money she spent to learn how to properly operate her camera. It's been helping her clients sell their homes and assisting her buyers to easily and efficiently find what interests them.

"I've found it's been really nice for people wanting to relocate from out of town," Schott says. "They might only have one day to look at homes while they're here, but they're able to go online while they're still at home and make some decisions."

Tracy Briggs

‘The Great Indoors’ with Tracy Briggs appears every Thursday in The Forum. For more information go to her blog at thegreatindoors.areavoices.com.

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