February 24, 1997 in Nation/World

Stacy, Anne Morse House-Shop At Home With Virtual Reality Realty

By The Spokesman-Review

Stacy and Anne Morse invite house-shoppers to stroll through dozens of residences without leaving the comfort of their own home.

“Buying a house can be so stressful. We think, ‘Why does it have to be?”’ said Anne Morse, president of Home Debut, a virtual reality real estate company.

The Morses just celebrated the one-year anniversary of Home Debut. Their company, at 1625 W. Fourth, offers photographic tours of homes on the Internet, plus other real estate services.

Bright, clear, color photographs provide viewers with a virtual glimpse inside homes before they ever set an actual foot on the property.

At Home Debut’s downtown Spokane office, potential buyers can go online and not only look at houses, they can also choose a Realtor, learn about a neighborhood, find a mortgage lender or even list their home.

Those are among the amenities the Morses have included on their Internet site at http://www.home-debut.com.

In their first month in business, their Internet site received about 40 visits - or hits - per day. Now hits are totalling about 4,000 daily, and include people worldwide.

Anne Morse said the service received 3.5 million hits the first year. “We had a contact from a family in Lithuania that was relocating. Turns out they went to Tacoma instead, but they loved our site.”

Though only the interiors of 100 homes are displayed, Home Debut’s site includes the entire Multiple Listing Service of the Spokane Association of Realtors. Many of those listings feature outside photos.

Each morning the Morses sit in the hot tub at their North Spokane home and dream up ways to make their Internet site more useful. “Every single working minute we think, ‘How do we make this better?”’ Anne Morse said.

The site strives to teach potential buyers about the neighborhoods in which they are interested. There are links to school districts, police departments and restaurants. A brief history of each area helps potential buyers choose the South Hill, North Side or the Valley.

The Morses plan to add links to daycare, doctors, dentists and virtual tours of golf courses.

Last April, the largest real estate directory on the World Wide Web listed Home Debut’s site as one of the top 10 for the month. The International Real Estate Directory ranks sites based on design, usefulness and efficiency.

The Morses earn money by charging for advertising. Among their accounts are Realtors, real estate companies, mortgage firms, title companies and law firms. They also charge to develop online pages that are added to the site.

Additional revenues come in when a home is sold through a referral developed at Home Debut. A percentage of the Realtors’ commission goes back to Home Debut.

They also offer incentives to potential buyers. If a buyer chooses a Realtor from among those who advertise with Home Debut, they’ll receive a package of benefits including a free home inspection, free legal advice and a discount on the home’s appraisal. Home Debut, in return, is guaranteed a percentage of the Realtor’s commission when the buyer purchases a home.

The business is still young, however. The majority of the company’s revenues still comes from Internet lessons the Morses give to businesses.

The idea for Home Debut was conceived three years ago when Anne Morse was working as a marketing manager for Windermere Real Estate. She also had worked as a Realtor and met her husband when she sold his home in the Tri-Cities.

“Several clients said it’d be great if you could videotape our house so people could see it before they got there,” Anne Morse said. “I told that to Stacy and he just didn’t let it go.”

They flipped a coin to decide who’d be company president (Stacy Morse, who lost, is vice president), rented office space and started the business.

Originally, they wanted to put video of houses online, but settled on photographs because most computers aren’t fast enough to download video, Stacy Morse said. That remains a goal for the future, he said.

When a Realtor asks Home Debut to put a house online, the Morses visit the home and take dozens of color photographs. The images are scanned into their Internet site, and text is added to give viewers a descriptive guided tour. The entire process takes about five hours, Anne Morse said.

Within the next few months, the Morses plan to open three satellite offices - in North Spokane, the South Hill and the Valley - to make their service more convenient and accessible to potential buyers who don’t have computers.

“It’s just grow, grow, grow,” Anne Morse said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

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