Homebuying in Class and in 3D

Of course, I’m hoping that the only homes you are buying are in 3 dimensions. But what I’m talking about is a better way of vetting the hundreds of property postings you might see when on the search.

Silicon Valley’s Matterport, along with a host of other companies are developing 3D tech that allows real estate companies to easily create virtual showings, post them online and easily show potential buyers the ins and outs before even stepping out of the door.

Redfin-Matterport

redfinUber, GrubHub, PeaPod and Amazon have provided their respective services for a few years now. You can look, order, often spin in 3D and pay for the whole shebang on their website. Until recently, though, the real estate market lacked that tactile sense of its counterpart markets.

Part of that lag is the nature and stigma of the industry. Homebuying is touted as being the “biggest purchase you’ll ever make,” or “the most important investment.” The importance, grand scale and (usually) one time nature of homebuying has made it a bit of laggard in adapting to the virtual sphere.

But now that it’s getting going, it seems to be gaining traction. The real estate research (and broker) website Redfin has had a 3D Walkthrough option since 20XX, but it’s become more popular recently. The Walkthrough allows you to check out plenty of nooks and crannies around the house in the privacy (and lazy comfort) of your own home.

funny computer

Matterport sells the camera system, a company can use it on site. The real estate company then sends the data back to Matterport, which formats it into a virtual tour, and the company can post it on its websites to its heart’s content.

According to a recent post on Curbed DC, the CEO of Matterport, Bill Brown, says “The process is very easy. It’s intuitive. Most people after they place the camera in a couple locations, they kind of get it.” You place the tripod in a room to let the machine take photos of enough angles for Matterport to make seamless transitions. Then you do it at a few more angles, press go, and then on to the next room until you’ve covered the house. It’s supposed to be pretty quick and pretty easy.

Just like any new technology, the more the new generation gets into it, the more it loves it, depends on it—and ultimately needs it. More and more potential homebuyers are looking for shortcuts, feeding the market for these products. Personally, I’m currently looking at a 9-12 month timeline for a home purchase. The last thing I want to do is spend every weekend from now until closing going to open house after open house, showing after showing.

funny-for-sale-sign

No, I expect more from my purchases. Hell, I’m a Millennial—don’t I deserve in-home service?

I have already sessed out the market on rather broad terms. (Which is also how my wife and I found our apartment in Silver Spring—the gateway for DC neophites). But now, we have two kids, and even less time. So we don’t just want better investigative and weeding out powers—we require it.

I’m probably the exact market that Matterport is going after. I’m young, have kids, plenty of work and no time to waste on showings that I’m not seriously interested in buying.

If you have no interest in the real estate market, you’ve probably gotten as far as you want to in this blog, but if you like delving into the mechanics read on:

With my economics hat, this new tech is more than just user-friendly. It increases market visibility and liquidity. Real estate is long held as one of the least “liquid”—or fluid—consumer markets. In comparison to less sticky markets, like commodities (where there’s always a buyer and seller), when you want to sell a house, it’s super hard to find a buyer, and vice versa.

The first step to overcoming that was obviously brokers—who have a portfolio of houses and a portfolio of clients. They’re basically like a dating service for the housing market. The next era was classified listings (thank God we don’t use those any more!), which gave the buyers and sellers more visibility into what was being offered.

The latest iteration of all this is… da-da-da-da… the internet! Redfin and Trulia, among many others, post hundreds (if not thousands) of listings that you can scan through—and better yet screen for the characteristics and “keywords” that you want.

3D virtual tours allows buyers and sellers one more—much deeper—layer of market visibility. I know a lemon on the screen when I see one, and I don’t have to waste my Saturday just to tell my agent, “na, not this one, not this week—but thanks.” The more angles of the house I can see, the less likely I am to drive a two hour round trip and fight for parking only to find out the place is busted down. In addition, that adds to getting buyers and sellers better matched up more efficiently, increasing liquidity in the real estate market.

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