Show me, don’t tell me – 3D modelling boosts remote house buying
Several recent articles in mainstream and trade media have discussed how the use of online engagement is offering new ways of viewing and buying residential – and potentially other – properties during the coronavirus pandemic and how these new channels may well change how developers sell houses long after lockdown has been lifted. Peter Brown, Studio Director and Head of Residential at Stephen George + Partners’ Leicester office, looks at SGP’s expanding capability to create engaging and detailed Virtual Reality and 3D marketing materials to support a client’s sales strategy.
SGP has used Revit in designing award-winning residential developments for many years, applying the strong 3D modelling and rendering functions to produce images and plans for planning submissions and site drawings, as well as to help developers visualise how the individual homes fit together in the scheme. More recently, we have been asked by developer clients to expand the use of Revit models into producing detailed and accurate virtual reality marketing materials to show to potential purchasers.
Renders and fly-throughs are not new in themselves. They have been done by specialist creatives, where buying off plan was a key part of the marketing strategy. Because of our use of Revit modelling at the design stage, it is straightforward for us to create renders of yet-to-be built homes or 360 degree photo views of show homes, in any type or scale of development.
SGP can now make 3D representations of the various house-types, accurate internally and externally down to the texture and shade of brick and roof tile or a vase of fresh flowers, as well as placing them in a similarly detailed virtual development. Here we can show how the different house types fit together, plan out views and give an interactive indication of how the whole scheme feels and works as a whole. A potential customer can walk the streets, take in the surroundings from different pre-set viewpoints, before viewing individual rooms in individual house types. Our next step will be to make it a seamless process, walking directly from the street, through the front door of the house to roam about within.
The finished presentation has an expanded reach, being hosted on a range of platforms; on agents’ websites, on flat screen TVs in on-site sales offices or be mobile on tablets or smart phones. Our introduction of business cards with a QR code also extends the dwell time for our clients product, allowing potential customers to take away links to consider at their leisure or show friends and family their prospective new home from the luxury of their own sofa or over the dinner table.
At the on-site sales office, a 3D presentation, particularly if the client decides to add in a Virtual Reality (VR) headset to completely immerse the potential buyer in the home of their choice, can be especially useful. Whereas previously a developer would only be able to build a small selection of the most popular house types, with a 3D visual, the customer can mix hands-on judgement of the feel and quality of a pre-built show home with the opportunity to appreciate layouts and features of house types not currently built on site. Whether working with renders or photographs, the detailed views offer an engaging alternative to asking customers to imagine a room from a floor plan and brochure pictures.
Some developers have taken the plunge into 3D models, albeit choosing their featured developments carefully, whilst others remain happy with the more traditional format of floor plan and brochure. With SGP, there’s no need for a third party creative to be involved. We can offer a complete in-house service, using Revit for everything from masterplanning the site to sketching out alternative layouts and mixes of house types and other facilities, to creating detailed and accurate 3D representations of the finished houses, inside and out, down to the style of window and the colour of the walls. We can use CGIs or take 360 photos from our clients existing show homes, which can increase the access to new homes on a development, in addition to a limited number of physically built show homes. And if changes are needed, from replacing the brick stock to swapping whole house types, we can update and refine the existing model quickly and efficiently, time and again if needed. Even for schemes SGP has not designed, or developments rendered in 2D software, it is possible, though more time-consuming, to convert them into a 3D model and add all the necessary detailing to produce a full walk-through.
Given the economic uncertainty every industry in the world is facing today, many are turning their vision to not only finding new ways of working remotely, but also positioning their companies to get back into business as quickly and effectively as possible, once the virus has been beaten. Expanding or introducing online, remote channels through which the developer or their agent can maintain engagement with existing and potential customers, and quickly get themselves back in the game once the threat has passed, has become a key focus.
At SGP, we use Revit as architects and designers to work collaboratively with our clients. In this increasingly digital age, it’s a natural progression to use the powerful programmes and the skills needed to use them fully to step beyond the traditional finish to the architect’s role and embrace the opportunities these 3D visuals offer for the agent and ultimately the buyer.