Posted in The Philadelphia Inquirer January 27, 2017, by Caitlin McCabe, Staff Writer

At first blush, local broker Brett Furman’s listings seem like many others: There are pricey properties and cheaper ones; some close to the city, and some far away. Million-dollar English Tudors and $175,000 townhouses sit side by side on his website, waiting to be snatched up by buyers.

But unlike most brokers, Furman can show you all of them, in a matter of moments.

No, not pictures. Actual walk-throughs of homes. One minute, you could be inside the master bedroom of a $1.4 million Bryn Mawr property, making your way through a walk-in closet. Ten minutes later, you could be in Malvern, examining countertops in a new kitchen.

All with one silly-looking scuba mask.

Actually, it takes a little more than that: Furman is one of Philadelphia’s first to embrace virtual-reality real estate technology, a burgeoning industry that’s already made a splash in such markets across the nation as San Francisco and New York.

Though it’s still in the early stages of adoption in this region, industry observers predict that virtual reality could transform the real estate field’s days of open houses and blueprints into a future of more efficiency and ease.

Already, observers are bullish about virtual reality, with Goldman Sachs predicting that it could become part of an $80 billion overall market by 2025, nearly the size of the desktop PC market today. Citi, meanwhile, has set expectations even higher: By 2025, it predicted last year, virtual reality could become a $692 billion industry.

“There’s a bright future for virtual reality,” said Jeff Maurer, CEO of Virtual Xperience, a New York City-based company that creates virtual 3-D renderings of blueprints for luxury spaces – often before the buildings break ground. Virtually constructing and staging what the property could eventually look like can help buyers determine early on whether they would like to purchase. Developers, meanwhile, can sell multimillion-dollar units before they even exist physically.

For nearly three months, Furman has been using the immersive experience, applying the Matterport technology to about 30 properties. He has space and a headset in his real estate office for clients to view the listings – and soon, he said, he will send out lower-cost headsets.

“Their faces light up and they just keep saying, ‘This is really cool,’ ” Furman said. Plus, he said, it saves people from going to properties that are a waste of their time.

According to its advocates, one of the main advantages of virtual reality is the ability it gives house hunters to access distant properties conveniently. Want to view a property in Philadelphia but live in New York City? Strap on a VR headset and take a look without ever having to leave your home…

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