This changes everything

There are some moments using technology that are seared into my professional memory. Like the first time I used an iPhone and thought:

Holy shit. This changes everything.

The idea that a device could precisely locate where you are in the world and give you nearly limitless access to the full breadth of data available on the Internet was dizzying. It was clear: Finding a home for sale was never going to be the same.

I recently had a similar experience.

A few months ago at a conference, I had a chance to try out Matterport’s new 3D demo on the Samsung Gear VR headset.

Living the future #encon2015

A photo posted by Joel Burslem 🌲⚽️ (@jburslem) on

As I pulled the goggles over my head I was instantly transported from downtown Denver to a home in suburban California.

Holy. Shit. The experience of buying a home is going to change.

A few years earlier, I previewed Matterport’s technology at Realogy’s FWD event. It was impressive back in 2013, and, understandably, wowed the crowd and won the grand prize that year.

But three years ago the tech was fairly rudimentary and expensive – not unlike that first iPhone – and hardly ready for primetime.

We’ve come a long way in a few years.

Admittedly, as one commenter on my Instagram feed quipped, wearing a VR headset still looks pretty dorky.

But the experience is transformative. I toured a home from thousands of miles away. I remember the master bedroom and how it was connected to the kids rooms down the hall. I remember the ensuite bathroom and the fixtures inside. To this day, it still feels like I have walked through that home.

And that’s the key. I formed memories it – lucid, technicolor memories of a structure I have never been anywhere close to. Browsing photos in an app or watching videos on a webpage doesn’t even come close.

So what does the mean for real estate?

Perhaps it means that markets start to see more and more out-of-area buyers as the local walls around real estate start to fall. Maybe we see a new 3D/VR media company rise to take on Zillow. Alternatively, for brokers and agents, buyers might start coming to the table with more fully formed opinions around the property they want to buy. Certainly, sellers may start demanding their home be mapped in 3D. And home staging will become even more important.

But the truth is I’m not sure what it will mean. If you’d asked me in 2007 after buying my first iPhone whether I could predict today’s mobile-enabled, real-time, app-powered economy, I’d be lying if I said yes. All I knew was I sensed a seismic shift in tech as soon I held that device in my hand.

With Virtual Reality, a real confluence of events is happening right now.

In 2014, Facebook invested $2 billion and acquired Oculus – the fruit of which should be released this year. HTC and Steam are releasing the Vive. Sony is releasing its Playstation VR headset. Microsoft has its Hololens. And Google is plowing forward with its Cardboard project.

While I don’t see 3D making a real dent in 2016, and probably not in 2017 either, I’m certain I’ve seen – and felt – what the future could be like.

[Disclosure: Realogy is 1000WATT client.]