Ridgefield startup developing ‘immersive’ app for home listings

Photo of Alexander Soule

A Ridgefield startup is building a virtual reality platform to give real estate agents a better way to show listings without ever stepping foot on the properties — a major plus with skyrocketing inflation making it far more expensive for people to travel to those locales.

At the January CES show that showcases emerging technology products, Domotics was one of more than 500 products from corporations and startups globally that were nominated for “innovators” awards. The company plans a “soft” launch of the app this fall, with plans to raise as much as $3 million in early-stage funding to support hiring 10 people or more.

While real estate agencies already have access to virtual reality tools — many getting wider use during the early COVID-19 mandates for social distancing — the company’s founders believe the Domotics RE platform offers far better ways for agents and buyers to interact.

Using the app on a digital device — to include virtual reality goggles — buyers can get “walking” tours of houses with nuances captured in 360-degree images that can create 3-D floor plans to help visualize the layout of a house. Domotics plans to add video chat functionality to the app, and buyers can give an agent access to their screen to allow them to call up relevant information and images as they come up in a conversation.

“It’s an immersive type of listing platform,” said CEO Jason LaVardera who co-founded the company with brother Josh LaVardera and Michael Sturges. “We really tried to solve two things — what you’re able to see while you’re online, and how you are able to see it.”

Jason LaVardera worked for the Westport-based hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, then a real estate investment trust in New York City called Torchlight Investors. He said the idea came to him when he and his spouse were looking to buy in Ridgefield in 2019, and grew frustrated with the online tools available at the time to view properties.

The three founders planned originally to market the platform to house “flippers” who renovate and resell houses for a profit. But after the LaVardera brothers’ father suggested they run the idea by an executive with a California company called IntelliMedia Networks, they ended up expanding the Domotics idea as an all-purpose app for listings. Domotics uses IntelliMedia’s “Mixie HoloPort” technology for elements of its immersive virtual viewing capabilities.

Under the Domotics RE business model, agencies would subscribe to the platform and use it to build listings for clients selling their houses and condominiums. Jason LaVardera said the company plans to create a subscription option as well for sellers who do not retain agents under the “for sale by owner” model, and for people who use platforms like Airbnb to rent out vacation properties.

Real estate technology startups — dubbed “proptech” by the industry — drew more than $30 billion in funding in 2021, according to the Real Estate Tech360 website that tracks the sector.

Jason LaVardera said the three are well aware of what they are up against in trying to get onto the radar of real estate agencies — but notes there is precedent with the successes of companies like Zillow, Redfin and Matterport which pioneered 3-D photography for the real estate industry.

“Zillow is just a listing platform — in it’s simplest form, that’s what it is,” he said. “This is a new way to show your home.”

Due to a reporting error, an initial version did not correctly identify and quote Jason LaVardera in his role as CEO of Dometics. Co-founder Josh LaVardera is chief operating officer.

Includes prior reporting by Paul Schott.

Alex.Soule@scni.com; 203-842-2545; @casoulman