August 6, 2007 The ritual of traipsing all over town to queue up at countless real estate inspections every Saturday could soon be a thing of the past as real estate agents move selling houses into the realm of virtual reality. Coldwell Banker Real Estate has taken a step beyond Internet listings and online tours to offer a reality inspection of a scale model of a real life property within the popular virtual world of Second Life.
Second Life, a 3D virtual world built and owned by its residents, has a unique advancement in the world of virtual reality online gaming in that it actually offers players the ability to purchase virtual property with real money. Gamers trade in their US dollars for ‘Linden’ dollars and are able to purchase clothes, consumer goods and even property to house their online personalities known as avatars. Real people are making real money through the purchase and sale of virtual real estate - turning $US9.95 into virtual assets worth at least $US1 million in real money in the case of teacher Ailin Graef.
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So far the game has only featured virtual land and virtual homes, but Coldwell Banker identified a unique marketing opportunity to offer tours of a multi-million dollar house to people in Second Life that they could purchase and enjoy in their “first life”. The US$3.1 million Mercer Island home in Washington, USA is currently listed for sale by Coldwell Banker and available for showing to prospective buyers within the virtual community of Second Life.
“Societies like Second Life are allowing industries to completely revolutionize how they interact with their consumers,” said Charlie Young, senior vice president, marketing, Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC. “What makes this so unique is that prospective buyers can literally ‘tour’ this home from the comforts of their home and computer. Prospective buyers can get the most comprehensive view of the home possible short of actually visiting it.
This new level of direct consumer marketing with global reach has the potential to mark a boom in international property sales to the tech-savvy nouveau riche. Further, there is the potential to market all kinds of products to prospective buyers. Providing scale, virtual models within Second Life for people to use and experience would enable them to seriously consider these items for purchase in the ‘real world’. Holiday resorts and luxury cars are but two examples that spring to mind. With a trend seeing increasing numbers of people dedicating as much time to their second life as their first, the ability to (virtually) test drive the new model Maserati or Mercedes-Benz before it was released would certainly appeal to many cashed-up gamers.