Virtual Realty

If you've ever searched for a place to live, you know driving from house to house with a broker can be time consuming and downright frustrating. But now, as CBS New Correspondent Sandra Hughes reports, there's a different way.

Looking for any way to save time, Fort Worth, Texas, attorney Mark Lane rented a vacation home he found on the Internet.

Using a new three-dimensional technology, he's confident that although he's never seen the property itself, it will be just what he wants.

"You can scroll around, look up and down, and do a 360 on the photograph if you like, but you see what you're renting," says Lane. "My wife and I were just real excited about that."

But it's not just rentals. Movie star Will Smith actually bought his $3 million home after taking only a virtual tour of the house. And Eddie Fisher's Hollywood home is currently on the virtual Web tour.

"What you end up with is a picture that allows you to step inside the picture and look all around, as if you're inside the picture," says Jim Phillips, CEO of Interactive Pictures Corp., a company that develops interactive imaging for the Internet. "Do that from anywhere in the world at your convenience."

Mark Lane rented a vacation home he found on the Internet.

And it's that convenience and privacy that are fueling the online buying trend. The National Association of Realtors estimates that within three to five years, 85 percent of people looking for homes will start on the Internet. And by next year, a majority of home buyers are expected to use the Internet for at least one transaction, like applying for a mortgage or hiring a home inspector.

Some realtors worry the online trend could make their services obsolete. Others are eager to integrate cyber-sales.

"It gives the buyer the opportunity to get into the market and gives them a little edge," says Leah Brenner of Caldwell Banker.

An edge and a lot less hassle when making the biggest purchase of their lives.