The Virtual Future Of Real Estate

TV personality Bryant Gumbel and his wife, Hilary, attend the Focus Features & Loreal premiere of "Scoop" at the Museum of Modern Art in New York on July 26, 2006.
The Internet is transforming the real estate business. In fact, experts predict in the coming year, you'll actually be able to find a house, bid on it and even close on it all online, without ever visiting your new home.

The American public may not be ready for that yet, but home buyers certainly are flocking to the Internet before turning to a Realtor. Drew Griffin of CBS station KCBS reports.

When Leslie and Kip Haggerty decided they needed a new house, they didn't call a broker. They turned to the Internet.

"We found three places to look at, called them to set up appointments the next day and were in escrow within a week," says Leslie Haggerty.

How the Haggertys found their new home is part of the wave of the future in real estate. They didn't have the time, and their kids don't have the patience to go from open house to open house.

And at the very beginning of their search, they wanted to avoid the pressure of dealing with a real estate agent. Says Leslie Haggerty, "We like the anonymity of being able to look without talking to a Realtor, before we know what we want to do."

They logged on to a realty start-up company called ZipRealty. And within a few clicks of the mouse, they found every home for sale in the area they wanted to live in.

They got reports on schools, crime and transportation, the addresses of the homes they liked and even a map telling them how to get there.

Virtual tours showed living rooms, kitchens, back yards - everything the Haggertys needed to narrow down their search to just a few houses, without even leaving their own house.

"You get more information from the Internet in just one hour that it would have taken a week to accumulate 10 years ago," says real estate author Ilyce Glink.

Glink says the Internet is revolutionizing house hunting. Some have estimated 80 percent of Internet users looking for a new home will find their house just like the Haggertys. And that means the traditional real estate industry needs to change, according to Glink.

"Those who are hungry and technologically savvy will survive. Others will go out of business," Glink predicts.

Real estate companies are now scrambling to get online and find out what the new breed of Internet house hunter wants.

The Haggertys say they chose ZipRealty, because unlike traditional Realtors who only try to sell the homes they are listing, ZipRealty gave them the entire multiple listing service - and something else, an Internet style bonus for trying something new.

"We're going to get a $10,000 rebate," says Leslie Haggerty.

ZipRealty is giving back part of its commission as a rebate. That has traditional brokers worried the most because commissions are the only way they can make money and stay in business.