I’m househunting at the moment (sigh) and a friend said, “That’s easy for you, surely, you know exactly where to look and what to look for!” You’d think so, but, even with 25 years in the property business, it’s exhausting. It still takes a great deal of time and effort to find the house of your dreams. Or even one that ‘might do’.
Matterport, right and below, supply the very latest equipment and services.
Even putting in details like area, price, bedrooms, garden, garage etc., the buyer swims through the deep sea of the property portals, netting many possibilities. The first shakedown is the photo call, the second is the summary. The third, for me, is the floor plan. Photos can make you feel the love but the floorplan tells the truth.
Rightmove’s research found that 80 per cent of buyers rate the importance of a floorplan as seven out of 10 and listings with a floor plan generated 30 per cent more interest than those without. I’m more demanding – unlikely to shortlist a property without one.
David Opie at Metropix understands me, “Floor plans provide an instant visual outline, conveying far more in a single image than can ever be relayed in property descriptions, where agents are historically famous for flowery language and (ahem) an economic use of the truth.
Steven Flatman at PlanUp agrees, “Buyers skip by properties that don’t have a plan, and only revisit them if they either look spectacular or if they have found nothing else. For an agent it is key to balance the quality of the information they are putting across and the time spent to create it.”
It isn’t just buyers who expect floor plans. Forty-three per cent of landlords (Rightmove research) said they wouldn’t instruct an agent who didn’t provide floor plans, Tim Wright of KeyAGENT & PropertyBOX says, “Frankly, agents who aren’t using floor plans are dropping the ball. They provide an insight into daily life in the property. Whether they walk through the front door into a porch, hallway or open plan living room can be a game changer.”
When your market is scattered with Millennials and Generation X, it isn’t just advantageous to be ahead of the technology game, it’s necessary! Rebecca Arlington, Eyespy360.
“Digital floor plans enhance the value of the online hosting substantially, as an agency that sets itself apart from competition by offering these extra dimensions will see improved brand perception from buyers and sellers,” says Rebecca Arlington at Eyespy360. “When your market is scattered with Millennials and Generation X, it isn’t just advantageous to be ahead of the technology game, it is necessary. These buyers will be presuming that everything is digital, and agents will be expected to keep up with them.”
I’m not yet convinced by the fancier walk-throughs, but Owen Turgoose, MD at Floorplanz, says, “Technology is revolutionising the property market, so it’s no surprise that ‘walk-throughs’ and ‘virtual tours’ are becoming more popular as the technology improves and costs come down. Virtual walk-throughs combine photography and floor plan element, allowing potential buyers to explore every angle of the home at their leisure, thus, visiting the property holds less importance in the decision making process. Although walk-throughs and virtual tours can be useful tools, some agents view them as overselling a property, reducing viewings and the opportunity to sell. In addition, even if a property has a virtual tour or walk-through, vendors and potential buyers are likely to still demand a floor plan so they can see the layout at a glance. So, we don’t expect virtual walk-throughs will ever replace the traditional floor plan and photos, although understandably vendors may well demand both!”
Eyespy360 floor plans (right) will soon be automatically generated.
“A furnished 3D floor plan helps buyers discover whether their king-sized bed or sofa will fit into their potential new home. 3D plans also allow buyers to visualise how to add some personality, such as with artwork, onto the blank walls which aren’t visible on a standard 2D floor plan. Overall, 3D plans give a much better overview of the potential of a property.”
Navigable 3D and VR walkthroughs vividly bring properties to life. They lift the veil in a way that photos and floorplans, in isolation, cannot. James Morris-Manuel, Matterport.
“The humble floor plan remains an important and traditional tool in the marketing of a completed property to potential buyers. Pre-viewing, it offers the customer a very practical snapshot overview, allowing a quick reference to immediately assess whether a property is going to be suitable or not, and therefore valuable in the overall selection process, but it is limited in terms of what is actually shown,” says James Morris-Manuel at Matterport. “It’s best used in combination with other resources to bring a property to life. High-resolution photography is an obvious tool, but state-of-the- art, navigable 3D and VR walk-throughs are increasingly used to vividly bring properties to life. They lift the veil in a way that the floor plan and photo cannot in isolation, and they are an increasingly essential part of the property selling process.
“The reason is simple. The more information that is available to the purchaser, the better it is for rapid decision-making. The technology provides another layer of transparency, especially when all combinations are used together.”
Steven Flatman says that the downside is that the potential buyer has to stop and look at the listing, and purposely look for the link and click to view it – externally. “To catch the buyer’s attention I suggest either a 2D or 3D plan as standard, this will raise the interest and increase the click through of the property. Once this is achieved, the buyer will look at extra information such as a virtual tour or 3D walk-through.”
David Opie is very enthusiastic, “In addition to visualising the outline of the property, walk-throughs, 3D and 360 virtual tours invite the enquirer into the property from the comfort of their sofa.
“Previously the entry cost to these products and services was prohibitive (expensive 3D cameras/ tripods etc), but these technologies have come down in price significantly opening the door to innovative entrants to the market.
“Far from competing, walk-throughs, 3D and 360 virtual tours etc work alongside floor plans to help the enquirer better visualise their interest. The result is a greater level of detail, with a knock-on benefit of introducing more commitment to the viewing and a greater chance of an offer.”
Rebecca Arlington adds that, “Research from realtor.com shows that 75 per cent of the interviewed potential real estate buyers preferred interactive virtual tours over normal photographs and that these tours influenced their purchase decision.”
Property portals still have limitations for virtual tours but with developments such as Zoopla allowing video to replace photos as the first item shown to potential buyers within their mobile app and Rightmove trialling Virtual Reality functionality, we’re starting to see major steps towards improved visual content,” says Tim Wright, “I’m really pleased that the decision makers at Rightmove and Zoopla are now realising that they can provide more value for all parties by supporting the most engaging visual content.
“In the UK, full virtual walkthroughs, like our Virtual Reality 3D Showcases, are the domain of the luxury market. But in the US, you see small rentals listed with similar technologies. I predict that the UK property market will see a surge in the use of Virtual Reality. This may not be a rapid process, but a deliberate decision to better attract a homeseeker whose standards for visual content are rising exponentially.
Rebecca Arlington at Eyespy360, says, “Imagine FaceTime or Skype embedded inside of a virtual tour! A recent development is the release of pre-recorded, narrated virtual tours. These attract buyers and allow the agent to market their properties 24/7.
“They can also be uploaded onto YouTube and integrated into the normal virtual tour. Customers will simply press the play button in the taskbar to watch the recorded tour.”
Metropix’s latest innovation is a Plan Bank repository of 10m re-usable floor plans and the launch of Metropix Mobile. No more paying fees to DEAs and waiting two to three days to get it back. With simple to use software the average time to complete a plan is just six to seven minutes.
Metropix (right): Far from competing, 3D tours work alongside floor plans to help the client.
New visual innovations make floor plans more accessible on other marketing platforms. Interactive floor plans, whether that be the inclusion of furniture, or a visual/360 walk through are increasingly being used online and in social media to engage prospective purchasers.
Steven Flatman at PlanUp maintains that people want the basics from a listing. “Layout, size, number of rooms, descriptions and location. Past this anything else is a bonus. But it is the little bonuses like tours, 3D or a virtual walkthrough which make an agents plans stand out from the crowd, and not only generate sales, but also win instructions.”
It’s a no-brainer; agents who aren’t doing floor plans are missing the mark. Sketch your floor plan and upload it – the proper floor plan comes right back! Tim Wright, KeyAGENT.
Tim Wright says that their basic floor plan is free. “It’s a no-brainer; agents who aren’t doing floor plans aren’t meeting the mark. If an agent sketches their own floor plan and uploads it into the PropertyBOX app, they’ll get it back to their inbox without spending anything.
Premium users can step it up a gear and add in logos, brand colours and personal preferences for £49.95 per month per branch. PropertyBOX is aimed at improving the branches whole property stock, without them requiring to spend the time using complex floor plan software.
“Until all major property portals like Rightmove update their software to universally support new products entering the market, agents are held back by property portals limitations. However we have seen positive movements towards new developments after years of minimal development in this area. It’s just a matter of time before Rightmove introduces Virtual Reality options for marketing UK properties, in order to keep up with a demanding consumer base. Rightmove needs to aid its agents by supporting a diverse range of visual content – specifically Video and Virtual Reality.”
Matterport is at the forefront of video content and sees floor plans in many guises, “If, by floorplan, we mean any recreation of a property, whether that’s a line drawn plan or a VR tour then yes there is scope for the technology to increasingly enhance the vivid user experience,” says James Morris-Manuel, “For example, our tours can incorporate Mattertags, which are information points embedded into a VR or 3D tour allowing a customer to get extra insight into their potential new home. This information may range from a simple caption providing additional detail through to true multimedia content, including video, audio and so on. The technology is already advanced to a stage where virtual tours can be used for interactive storytelling (you explore an environment, looking for clues), news journalism (the reader can explore a war zone or a palace) and even motion picture marketing. Our captures also generate a ‘doll’s house’ view that provides an unobstructed 3D view of all of a building’s floors, and can be immersively toured and fully rotated as the visitor wishes. This is a million miles away from the simple line drawn floor plan.”
THE LATEST THING
Owen Turgoose at floorplanz tells me that the smartphone just got even smarter. “The new generation of Apple and Google Project Tango smartphones are able to measure distance and size, eliminating the need for a laser. This technology and the apps that go with it are in their infancy, seem fiddly, time consuming and don’t provide the level of detail we need, though we are certainly watching closely to see how they develop as technology improves!”
And coming soon…
Eyespy360’s Automatic Floor Plan Generator is due for release in the next three months. This, says Rebecca, will map out a room and create a 2D and 3D floor plan, as well as providing property measurements automatically, using computer vision and artificial intelligence. It will be an absolute groundbreaker in the property industry, reducing costs and increasing efficiency and productivity. Gone will be the days of having to lay out £4,000+ for expensive ‘high end’ equipment. One 360-degree photo will have the ability to map out an entire room automatically and create the 3D model.”
LOOKING A ‘HEAD’
Finally, James Morris-Manuel says, “We expect that 3D tours will become the industry standard. However, VR is also arriving in a big way. As VR headsets become more easily accessible, we will see even more demand from consumers. I believe that VR is the future, and we shouldn’t underestimate its potential.”
Watch this space!