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RISMEDIA, December 31, 2009—Property coordinates could become as important as street addresses in the future. We may soon view property listings remotely, according to Ed Krafchow, president and CEO of Prudential California/Nevada Realty.

Krafchow spoke at a recent gathering of relocation and real estate professionals at a Worldwide Employee Relocation Council (ERC) conference in San Diego, California.

As one of three panelists who addressed current market conditions and post-recessionary environments, I was intrigued by exciting new tools now being developed for the next era.

One company, Cybercity3D (see sample URLs provided at the end of this article), has developed the capability to tour properties through Google Earth, allowing prospects to view the property in its context or setting. “In its context” is a distinction that could make searching for property by its content—or data—obsolete.

Peering into the future, Krafchow, a well-known promoter of cutting-edge technology and ERC-recognized technological leader, believes the time is coming soon when we’ll use property coordinates to have a sort of “Wii” viewing experience. Prospects will fly over communities of interest with the ability to see the speed limit on the subject’s street…proximity to schools…grocery stores…the closest java joint.

In his ERC conference talk, Krafchow described using our PCs to “fly” into the neighborhood, park in the driveway, enter the front door and walk upstairs to see the view from the second-floor bedroom window. Current technology brings us to street level, but will soon offer 3D viewing inside and around the home. Buyers can inspect the backyards and interiors of potential new homes from their old homes. But is the experience real enough to make a purchase decision—or at least eliminate certain properties from consideration?

This possibility is especially exciting from the relocation industry’s perspective. Corporate employers typically cover transferees’ home-finding expenses for one five-day trip for homeowners (less for renters). But employers often grant exceptions to extend the home search duration upon request. Could virtual showings speed up this process to benefit transferees and employers? Initial destination-area trips typically include orientation tours and previewing potential new communities, but not always enough time to finalize a home selection. What if the “down time” in between trips could instead become valuable home-search time using agent-provided coordinates and consultation from afar? An added bonus: the entire family may participate in the new home selection. It might go like this:

“Typical Transferee Family” settles in after dinner to view nine potential homes, along with their agent, who participates from the destination area. Zooming down to the first property, they find the street approach appealing. The home is on a cul-de-sac and has an ample, private lot and mature trees. Pleased, they “fly” around back where a large deck and in-ground pool sits in a landscaped, level lot. Perfect, except for a large object looming behind and over the trees at the end of the property. Moving in closer, a bright yellow water supply tower soars above the mid-summer foliage. Unable to envision ever enjoying the backyard, they see no need to go inside and move on.

Property #2 offers exterior appeal, but the front door opens into a narrow hall, leading to a cramped kitchen with little cupboard space and dated appliances. Upstairs, the layout and decor is also not to their taste and they agree to move on.

Over the next two hours, six other homes are eliminated for reasons including proximity to a heavily traveled road and back yards lacking privacy. But the agent now has a very clear idea about features critical to this family and next week’s final home finding trip is shorter and productive.

For transferees, eliminating properties in virtual space clearly reduces time and travel stress. For employers, potential avoidance of additional cost and policy exceptions administration is welcome and each benefit with productive, focused employees on the job sooner. As agents, you must still research potentially suitable properties, but will spend less time escorting potential buyers to rejected properties. For so personal a decision nothing may really replace being there. But being able to speed search progress by early elimination of unacceptable properties is the next best thing.

Other types of real estate purchasers screening for specific property traits will greatly benefit by virtual viewing technologies, too. Investor-buyers of rental properties and REITS requiring particular features, those sensitive to mixed-use zoning or seeking the perfect high-rise view will also find this a time-saving technology.

CyberCity3D provided URLs for two sample residential properties currently on Google Earth; you may need to download Google Earth plug-in to view. (3D interior views not yet viewable from Google Earth’s Virtual Viewing of 3D listings):

Property Address: 80 Lau Awa, Lahaina, HI

Property Address: 18305 Calle Stelina, Rancho Santa Fe, CA: RE

Peg Guinta, CRP, is projects director for RIS Consulting. For more information, please e-mail