Real estate agents saddled with luxury homes often use creative strategies to sell them, hiring helicopters and throwing elaborate fetes, calling in favors from top chefs and wealthy friends and advertising in elite magazines.
But now the pool of multi-millionaires and billionaires able to afford such properties is growing younger and spreading farther around the world. To attract them, real estate agents have turned increasingly to technology, filming extravagant videos and commissioning interactive renderings to post on sleek websites.
In Brentwood, Sotheby's International Realty is going even further. The company recently began offering virtual tours of luxury residential properties using portable headsets equipped with 3-D virtual reality technology currently being used by video gamers.
The Samsung Gear VR, which looks like a set of goggles a Stormtrooper might wear, is powered by software from Oculus paired with a Samsung smartphone. Less than a dozen dedicated for real estate use exist nationwide.
"This is new technology and we're the early adopters," said Joe Cilic, branch manager for Sotheby's Brentwood office.
The tours, which feature panoramic footage from 10 cameras stitched together in post-production, allow potential buyers to meander through the property, linger in certain rooms and inspect certain details – all from a real estate agent's office.
Foreign clients don't need to hop on a long flight for an in-person viewing. Wealthy clients might even own equipment that allows them to view the property from their own home.
Sellers also benefit.
"If the property is rented or occupied by a very high-profile person, this is a great way for someone to experience the home without having to disturb the occupant," Cilic said.
So far, Sotheby's Brentwood offers one experience of a nearly $7 million home above Zuma Beach in Malibu and is working on footage of another home in Hollywood Hills.