Zillow Surfing 2.0: Real estate giant uses AI to beef up virtual touring tool

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Zillow Surfing just got an upgrade.

Zillow Group on Wednesday rolled out a new feature for its virtual tour experience that uses machine learning to pull together various media content with an interactive floor plan. The idea is to make it easier for homebuyers to get a feel for a property without actually visiting in person.

“It allows the shopper to have a deeper, more authentic sense of home,” said Josh Weisberg, VP of Zillow’s Rich Media Experience team.

Virtual tours have been key for real estate sites such as Zillow and Redfin during the pandemic. Zillow already offers its 3D Home tours that stitch together panorama photos. The number of 3D Home tours used on for-sale listings more than tripled between 2019 and 2020. Zillow’s data also shows that virtual home tours attract more traffic compared to listings without them.

The new feature shows viewers room dimensions and the exact location of the vantage point on a floor plan as they virtually move about a home.

Seattle-based Zillow giant is riding a wave of interest amid the pandemic as more and more people use its platform to look at properties. A red-hot housing market and people simply fantasizing about their dream home — the subject of a viral Saturday Night Live skit last week — helped drive a record 9.6 billion page views last year, up 19% year-over-year.

The virtual tour tool is free for Zillow Premier Agents who use the platform to help generate leads. Revenue from the company’s Premier Agent business last quarter was up 35% to $314 million.

The technology also may help boost Zillow’s growing Zillow Offers home-buying and selling business that aims to streamline real estate transactions.

At the least, it’s another feature for those engaging in Zillow Surfing. The pastime “has become a primary form of escapism for those who want to flee not just their homes but the reality of 2020,” The New York Times wrote in November.

The Times in December also spotlighted Zillow as part a roundup of food, products, and other activities that people have turned to amid the pandemic. “No better way to channel your despair at having to stay home than by stalking someone else’s nicer home,” the Times quipped.

Published by GeekWire

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