We said several weeks ago that a big believer in the value of Second
Life real estate (see other Second Life articles published on May 15,
is the very grounded-to-earth firm of Coldwell Banker.
We were, after many tries unable to secure a tour of the Coldwell Banker properties
in Second Life; neither the helicopter tour we were most anxious to take or
even a walking tour but we did manage to stumble around and get some information
on the Coldwell Banker developments, both rental and for sale, and were able
to interview two top-ranked Coldwell Banker officials who were most helpful
in talking about their company's interest in such an unconventional
The Coldwell Banker offices are located in a region of Second Life called Ranchero.
Like most physical buildings we visited in Second Life, the offices are very
stylized with high ceilings and lots of glass. Russell, the Golden Retriever
guards the door, greets visitors, and, if asked, will supply the visitor with
real world listings either as regular emails or as a "widget" which
delivers search results to the requester's desktop.
The office, as we have said, is not staffed full time but a visitor can walk
around and look at mock-ups of rental developments and a gallery displaying
the 100 year history of the corporation on a time-line with major historical
milestones. The rentals appear to be located in five areas of Second Life and
a rough guess would be that there are about 190 rental properties 30 or so of
which seem to be taken. The rents were certainly reasonable - $250 Linden dollars
or approximately $1 USD.
We interviewed Charlie Young, Senior Vice President, Marketing
and David Siroty, Director of Public Relations, Coldwell Banker Real Estate
Corporation about the corporation's decision to take a stake in Second
Mortgage News Daily: What drove the decision of Coldwell Banker
to make what is really a pretty radical move?
Charlie Young: "We had been looking at Second Life for
a year trying to figure out the right way to enter. We wanted to enhance the
experience for users, not simply have a corporate presence. It was learning
about the land baron issue that mandated our involvement. Coldwell Bankers was
founded in 1906 after the San Francisco Earthquake when our founder Colbert
Coldwell wanted to bring ethics and integrity into the real estate market. Back
then, the unscrupulous were taking advantage of the real estate consumer and
that was what we were seeing in Second Life."
MND: "I don't understand what you mean by "the land
David Siroty: "At the time we entered Second Life there was
an issue that the majority of available real estate within Second Life was owned
by a few individual land barons. They were able to regulate how much land would
sell for because they owned the available properties on the mainland and could
set higher prices. Once we made the decision to enter Second Life, we quietly
bought properties from these land barons, developed this land into our homes
and office space, and then made these properties available at a lower price."
CY: "We also see Second Life as a way to connect with the
coming generation of homebuyers and sellers who are using technological innovations
in their daily lives."
MND: "Is Coldwell Banker advertising this venture in the real
CY: "No, we relied on a strong public relations push to generate
traffic to the Coldwell Banker headquarters in Second Life. We do have a strong
advertising push within Second Life."
MND: "And how are you promoting the business 'in world' as
CY: "We've done an in-world PR push as our launch as
announced in many of the Second Life publications. We're also running
advertising on the largest in-world ad network to promote our properties for
MND: "Have you had much feedback, positive or negative, from
your real-world agents?"
CY: "Overwhelmingly positive. In fact, over the course of
the first month we opened in Second Life, we had 30 or so Second Life residents
approach us inquiring about the availability of a job working for Coldwell Banker
within Second Life. Brokers/owners, managers, and sales associates of Coldwell
Banker affiliated companies have been overwhelmingly positive to this initiative."
MND: "Do you plan to offer traditional real estate services
- take listings, charge commissions, etc? I found the whole process of
buying Second Life properties to be incredibly confusing. A good real estate
agent would have been helpful."
CY: "We feel that having a virtual agent simplifies the process
of buying homes within Second Life and will give Second Life residents a good
experience to take into the real world. We have also made an effort to incorporate
many of the tools on our national website www.coldwellbanker.com into our Second
Life headquarters. And we've had a number of Second Life residents ask
our virtual agents about real life real estate offices and agents. So we've
trained our virtual agents to direct them to the appropriate tools on our website
to help them not only meet their virtual real estate needs, but real life as
MND: "How much land has CB bought? Why the decision to scatter
purchases rather than concentrate them on an island or continent?"
CY: "Our initial entry into Second Life was on the Main
Island in a section called Ranchero. As our 500+ homes are purchased and rental
units occupied we plan to grow the Coldwell Banker presence in other parts of
MND: "I read somewhere that your home designs are pretty traditional.
Is there a market for suburbia in such a far-out place? Are all properties built
out or do you sell lots? I believe I read that land is clustered in subdivision.
How large to these tend to be? How many houses/lots have you moved so far?"
CY: "We have homes in all types of architectural styles. From
Victorian to Colonial to Southwestern to even a Greek Island style; we have
places to meet a variety of tastes. We do sell some open lots but we wanted
to give Second Life residents more than just blank land. Previously to buy real
estate you had to buy a blank piece of property, and then you had to build your
own structure or pay someone else to build it for you. And of course then you
have to fill it with furniture. We've made the process pretty turnkey
by giving you land, a home already built, and we even give you some virtual
furniture as a closing gift. So far we've sold over 10 percent of our
current listings and we're constantly looking at ways to improve our efforts
and provide Second Life residents with a better experience."
MND: "What is the pricing structure for both rental and sales?
Maybe you could direct me to a list of available properties."
CY: "Our homes sell for anywhere between $20 and $30 (USD)."
MND: "How has traffic been thus far? I think you opened in
late March, correct?"
CY: "We officially opened towards the end of March and we're
excited about the response to far. We've had over 75,000 visits in the
short time we've been open and on average Second Life residents are spending
9-10 minutes browsing through out headquarters and our properties."
MND: "How many agents are staffing the site?"
CY: "We have two avatar sales associates available from 5-11
p.m. EST on weekdays and Saturdays."
MND: "Do you expect other big companies to move to Second
CY: "A lot of big companies are already there. You'll
find Nike, the NBA, Cisco, Circuit City, and Reuters to name a few. But what
I think separates us within Second Life is that we are not just an advertisers
but are interacting with Second Life residents within the metaverse by providing
a service that is appropriate to Second Life."
DS: "Another thing; Coldwell Banker is not looking to benefit
financially from our presence in Second Life. This is a learning experience
for us. It is a way to connect with a technologically savvy audience. We are
able to track what the Second Life resident is interested in when they come
to the Coldwell Banker headquarters and how they interact with our "real world"