Real $3.1M mansion causes a virtual stir

Flipping through the real estate section is so yesterday -- touring an exact replica of a home for sale in Second Life is what's in store tomorrow.

By Jessica Dickler, CNNMoney.com staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Gone are the days of browsing through the newspaper in search of houses on the market. Now, most potential buyers look online and and view slide shows. But soon they'll be walking virtually through homes and even sneaking a look at what's in the refrigerator.

That's what Coldwell Banker is banking on. The real estate firm has created a brightly colored, three-dimensional reproduction of a $3.1 million property on Mercer Island, Wash. in Second Life.

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This marks the first time that a real estate firm has used the virtual community to market an actual home for sale, according to a spokesman for Second Life. But it likely won't be the last.

"I think it's very innovative and could very well start a trend," said Brad Inman, founder of Inman News Service, which covers the real-estate industry.

Inman says this is the next step up from virtual video tours, which have been a very successful real estate marketing method. "Sellers are always looking for all sorts of clever ways to sell a property," he said.

The newly constructed house Mercer Island, currently listed for sale by one of Coldwell Banker's Seattle outposts, is attracting a lot of interest from prospective buyers within the virtual community, despite its hefty price tag.

Listed at $3,095,000, the 5,702 square-foot home was designed by architect Rick Jones and built by Western Construction. The gated property has a two-story great room with adjacent outdoor living space including a fireplace (see photo gallery). The lower level media theater opens into a gathering room and sports bar. The home also has a full wine cellar.

In real life, a house like this might normally attract the attention of 50 to 100 people, but since Wednesday 3,500 people have toured the home in Second Life, according to its broker, Suzanne Lane. Not all of them are prospective buyers of course -- in a virtual world it's easy for anyone who's curious to just stop by.

"I feel comfortable that it will sell within the next couple of months," she said, despite the fact that the Seattle real-estate market has cooled recently.

In Second Life, potential home owners can tour the Mercer Island house, check out each room and even the property's landscaping by using the avatar, or virtual alter ego. Avatars can even peek inside the fridge, open the stove and flick the lights on and off.

From within Second Life it's also possible to talk to the broker's avatar, Suzanne Ibanez, or other interested avatars touring the digs.

Different touch points in the house allow potential buyers to click through to Coldwell Banker's Web site, where they can request more information or even set up a real-life appointment with Lane.

Although it looks like a version of Grand Theft Auto, Second Life is not a game, it's more like a phenomenon. The virtual world, which is free for casual visitors, has about 440,000 regular visitors.

Soon, more and more of them just may be looking at real-estate. Top of page

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Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.