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Without a plan… you’re floored

Homehunters want the full picture, says Sheila Manchester, so why don’t all agents supply floor plans for every property?

Sheila Manchester

property interior imageI’m on a mission. I’m buying a home in London, a cottage in West Country and, because I need to regularly visit my parents, I want to rent (I don’t know how long they will be around!) a flat in Cheshire.

I hunt online first. Starting with London, I find a snazzy new 12 bedroomed penthouse at Riverlight, on the River Thames. This could (had things

turned out differently) have been a great home for Ed Miliband; close to Westminster, it has four kitchens and would take him well into the Mansion Tax bracket at £14,495,000. Glamorous photos abound, but it isn’t yet built, so they aren’t ‘real’. Ah, there’s a floor plan but it’s so small, when I zoom in, it is just a blur. I print it at actual size – 10cm and it is too tiny to read. So, if it’s not built and the floor plan doesn’t work, how does a buyer make a decision on buying this £14.5m property?

floorplan illustration image

Great homes deserve great photography and floor plans – the complete picture.

Then I find a beautiful £10 million house in Hyde Park Gardens. Classic lines, spacious rooms and a floor plan that clearly shows each floor. And there is somewhere to put my giraffe. Fabulous.

As the London pad will be oh-so-cool, my dream for the West Country is a cosy cottage. I find one on the harbour in Lynmouth, very cute – but it’s currently a shop and flat, without a floor plan I can’t see if it would work as a home.

My next hit has lots of rooms, I can’t work out what is where, then I find a floor plan, this time by virtual360. It’s worth a look, three cheers for Geoffrey Clapp!

With the London pad looking expensive, I cut my cloth for the cottage but find that my job is all the more difficult – smaller/cheaper homes don’t have floor plans. Then I find one by the sea at St Michael’s Mount, Marazion at £295,000 with Bradleys, Penzance – with a Metropix floor plan. I’m on my way…

Renting

How will the renting aspect compare? A quick virtual visit to Cheshire shows that – sorry to say – tenants don’t seem to be worthy of the floor plan. A search on Rightmove of all 405 properties to rent in Chester through 38 agencies revealed just 10 agents with floor plans, including Humphreys, Cavendish and Minchin Fellows.

“It’s always hard for us to sell to letting agents,” says James Davis at PlanUp (formerly The Mobile Agent). “I think it’s because the lettings market is booming so agents don’t think they need them. “Our argument is that they impress landlords, to get more properties on your books. If a landlord is looking for an agent to manage his property and sees floor plans on your listings compared with no floor plans from competitors, it can only increase your chances of getting the listing.” Very true.

James added that their pricing is simple, £39.99 pcm for up to 30 new plans per month which includes 2D, 3D and Photoplans and use on all desktops and iPads in your office. “We also have a Pay As You Go option, at £7.49 per plan (2D, 3D and PhotoPlan still included).”

It’s a no-brainer for agents who want their staff out getting instructions and selling and letting homes!” Amanda Lindsey, Virtual 360

Brian Farrell, Metropix, imageBrian Farrell at Metropix, agrees that the use of floor plans is far higher in sales than in rentals. “The gap is closing as letting agents realise the benefits – a Landlord and Tenant Survey published in 2013 found that 84 per cent of tenants expect a floor plan.”

Urban expectations

Wondering if floor plans are an urban thing, I look at listings for Manchester. Out of 10 agencies, just three, Buckley Frayne, Thornley Groves and Karsons have them, so maybe it’s not a city dweller focus. Maybe my expectations are too high, but Sally Fraser at Stacks Property Search

Metropix floorplan image

Metropix: better quality viewings.

agrees, “The element of the property brochure that often holds the most information is the floor plan. You can see whether the layout works for you in its current form, whether it has the potential to be improved or adapted, and how it interacts with the outside space.”

Brian Farrell adds, “By providing more information upfront, including a floor plan, the prospective client has a good indication of how the home may work for them, this leads to ‘better quality’ viewings, we are told.” While use of floor plans is not yet universal, it is growing. Metropix recently celebrated its 10th anniversary with the creation of its seven millionth floor plan – supplied to Scottish agents Slater Hogg & Howison.

Brian says, “Your findings that larger homes are more likely to have plans are interesting, we believe that this would be the case where an agent pays for floor plans on a ‘per property’ basis. However, Metropix clients pay a fixed monthly subscription, giving the flexibility to be able to develop a floor plan for every property, irrespective of market value or size.” Ben Stenseth, at Zentuvo says it is pretty obvious that lower priced houses/lettings have fewer floor plans. “From what we have seen the agents selling lower priced houses for sale or to let generally don’t require professional photos or floor plans, they may be doing this themselves or use existing photos and plans, however most of our London clients include a floor plan.”

Amanda Lindsey imageAmanda Lindsay at Pure360 says that floor plans are definitely catching on with vendors. “We are finding that many more letting agents are starting to offer floor plans now, although they have been slow to start. The feedback from our clients is that vendors are pushing agents to offer floor plans and, even if they have been resisting doing so, we make the process fairly pain free and easy for them as well as incredibly cost effective.”

Are floor plans expensive?

“Almost all floor plans we deliver are standard 2D, although we do the occasional 3D plans,” says Ben. “We have capabilities to deliver high quality 3D plans, but we see little interest for them. Considering the relatively cheap price we definitely see it as well worth it in any regards to include one, be it sale or lettings.

“Pricing depends whether pictures etc. are added or if it is a redraw, a larger property and so on. As a ballpark figure for 5 floor plans a week I would say between £200-400, usually towards the lower side of that figure. As we see it, it creates a valuable addition, it’s informative to any property and it definitely helps!”

Brian says, “Our subscriptions are monthly and start from £39.75 – this equates to £1.99 per plan if you produce 20 per month, as a guide. This includes added features and services including unlimited amendments, free access to ‘Plan Bank’, interactive ‘Picture Plus’ plans, plus free use of our ‘Space Planner’ tool.”

Amanda at Virtual360 says that they charge just £4.50 for a standard floor plan per property no matter the size of the property, “It’s a no brainer for agents who want to free up their staff to do what’s important – get instructions and sell/let property.

“They send us their sketch and we get the finished plan back to them next working day. We are flexible and do whatever the client wants in terms of layout, format, colour, watermarking, logos, 3D and interactive.”

Andrew Cole at Floorplanz confirms that costs are low, “We cover the whole market through Floorplanz for the mid to upper end of the market and our sister company, floorplansUsketch, an online application for agents, energy assessors and surveyors that require a cost effective next day solution. With subscriptions from £6 per plan and a digital re-touching service from £1 per photo you can see the appeal for agents that operate with limited budgets. “We are currently finalising our floor plan sketching App for the ipad which will enable clients to quickly sketch out the floor plan layout to scale whilst at the property.”

The future for floor plans

All these suppliers offer a range of floor plans but most agents still opt for the simple versions. That could change, says James Davis at PlanUp, “2D plans are still the standard for floor plans and for a sales listing people do still like them. I know from my personal experience of buying a house, a floor plan showing the layout is really helpful.

“However, we are seeing a rise in 3D floor plans, with us it is almost one in three plans get converted to 3D. That’s a strange one because in our Rightmove research we rarely see 3D plans, so I think they must be used more on brochures. We’re also seeing increased PhotoPlans – this is adding a photo onto a 2D floor plan. Again use of that is increasing all the time.”

So it seems that cost isn’t really a big issue, and nor is the creation of a floor plan a hassle, so let’s see more of them – if few agents in your area offer them it’s a great differentiator!

Note: my property mission was a virtual one, I don’t need and cannot afford to have three homes.

Contacts:
  • Datography www.datography.com
  • Dowling Jones Design www.dowlingjonesdesign.com
  • Floorplanz www.floorplanz.co.uk
  • Metropix www.metropix.co.uk
  • Planup www.planup.co.uk
  • Virtual360 www.virtual360.net
  • Zentuvo www.zentuvo.co.uk
June 12, 2015

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