Floor plans are an essential marketing tool, which play an important part in helping an estate agent sell a home.
A floor plan may not strictly be required to attract prospective buyers, but then neither are property descriptions or photographs, and yet you simply would not want to consider listing properties without those vital components.
Whether listing property online or in printed format, floor plans are proven to help agents win more instructions, while prospective buyers and increasingly renters want them and consider them a must-have when making a decision on whether to view a property.
Providing properties with a floor plan not only enables the prospective buyer or tenant to picture themselves living in the home, but it also allows them to visualise what the property actually has to offer, including the dimensions and layout of the rooms, while also acting as a ‘quick reminder’ of layout, often needed at a later stage, especially when an applicant is viewing multiple properties.
“Often it is the case that even when an appointment to view has been made and a negative reaction incurred, a floor plan can often save the deal by demonstrating to the buyer that changes can be made which may substantially alter the desirability of the property,” said Lauren Abrahmsohn (right) of Glentree Estates.
A well-documented study by Rightmove has shown that those properties marketed with a floor plan receive up to 30% more interest than those without.
Research by the property portal has also revealed that 78% of sellers rated the importance of having a floor plan when selling as “7/10” or higher, 20% of potential buyers or tenants said they would either “ignore the property advert completely” if a floor plan was not published, while 42% of sellers would not invite an agent to value their property if they did not use floor plans.
A glance at a sample of the property listings on Rightmove show that the bulk of agents use standard 2D floor plans, often in black and white, accompanied by a selection of high quality images, but 3D floor plans, some with furniture layouts and others that are unfurnished, are growing increasingly popular, as more agents look for additional ways to differentiate themselves.
3D floor plans, a virtual model of a building floor plan, depicted from a bird’s eye view, often in HD, can significantly increase the user’s retention time on an agent’s website, partly because the enhanced software systems offered by the main floor plan providers now include more tools that can be employed for all property types.
These additional enhancements include colour, bespoke branding, 3D and interactive floor plans that enable visitors to add and remove furniture to help visualise the space.
Metropix’s iPad compatible software system, for instance, which enables agents to create low-cost professional floor plans in-house with no expertise or training required, includes Space Planner and Picture Plus, which provide the option to include furniture, either manually or automatically, as well as choose the exterior style of the property for extra customisation.
Steve Sanashee (left) at Metropix explained: “Space Planner is a furniture planning tool providing a visual representation of what furniture might look like in the room. Picture Plus provides focus points in the room where photos can be attached to the plan on the same screen.”
As these tools evolve, agents will inevitably be offered new ways of applying old techniques, especially when it comes to home staging, according to Katey Gibb at BoxBrownie.
“With increased affordability of ‘virtual staging’, you will find many agents abandoning traditional staging for the faster and more affordable virtual version,” said Gibbs.
This is a view shared by Hannah Markall at Floorplanz.
She commented: “A furnished 3D floor plan helps buyers discover whether their king-sized bed or custom-built sofa will fit into their potential new home.
“3D plans also allow buyers to visualise how to add some personality, such as art work on the blank walls which cannot be conveyed through a standard 2D floor plan.”
The growing popularity of 3D floor plans has also boosted demand for other advanced visualisation systems, including 360 Virtual Tours, motion graphics, property videos, virtual planning, video walkthroughs, and computer generated images.
“3D walkthroughs, virtual home planning and video marketing offer a far more honest, ‘what you see is what you get’ service, helping to clear up any doubt in the buyer’s mind,” Markell added.
Progression in technology is revolutionising the property market, so it is no surprise that ‘walk-throughs’ and virtual tours are becoming far more significant.
Markell continued: “Virtual floor plans combine photography and floor plan elements, allowing potential buyers to explore every angle of the home at their leisure. This provides an alternative to physical property viewings, which is particularly useful for overseas buyers.”
The availability of affordable 360 cameras and the 360 photo capture apps like Google Street View and Facebook means that there is a far wider application of 360 degree photos now being used. This is helping to standardise the technology and create an expectation from customers of certain service providers such as estate agents, according to Bruce Adams at Hive.
“Beyond anything 360 VR tours are excellent listing tools. They are impressive, fun and engaging. Adding to these important factors are their practical usefulness as they help prospective buyers in two ways.
“One they provide a unique feel and understanding of a property and two they help them sift through multiple properties quickly without the need for physical viewings. The result will be better qualified buyers and time saved by the agent,” said Adams.
As a company providing multiple technologies to enhance property marketing, Hive Estate Agency Systems has seen growth in the number of agents promoting new technological services, reflected in the popularity of its HIVE 360 photographic VR (Virtual Reality) tour, which allows for 2D floorplans to be integrated, which means that they can be used in conjunction with a 3D tour.
Adams added: “3D walkthroughs provide a unique ability for a person to actually feel like they are walking through the property. The Virtual Reality capability of our service further enhances this perception.
“This is just one of the reasons why 3D photographic walkthroughs compare so much to floor plans in that they add a unique value that enables a viewer to experience and grasp the feel of a property on such a unique and important level.”
As new technologies come to market, the way estate agents market properties for sale and to let is changing rapidly, which according to James Morris-Manuel, EMEA director at Matterport, is “altering business models and feeding consumer demand”.
By using products, such as such as 3D media, agents can provide prospective buyers and renters with a greater idea of how a space actually flows together by making the experience even more immersive by providing enhanced visualization and easier navigation in spaces with multiple levels.
Morris-Manuel said: “Today video tech offerings have largely come of age, however, 3D walkthroughs, virtual home planning, and technologies such as VR are only on the cusp of what they can offer agents and viewers.”
With VR, AR, AI and gaming technology continually improving and becoming more accessible to the masses Matterport is constantly researching and developing new product offerings which will help drive forward this area of the market.
Matterport’s ‘Dollhouse View’, for instance, allows users to peel back floors one-by-one, providing an understanding for how different levels fit together in three dimensions, while offering an unobstructed view of lower floors.
Morris-Manuel (right) continued: “Immersive media such as 3D walkthroughs and VR tours provide transparency and efficiency to the sales and lettings process. A viewer is able to ‘visit’ multiple properties from the comfort of their own home in the time it would take to view one in person.
“The technology also lessens the need for repeat viewings. Matterport uses True3D technology which is extremely high definition using 4K imagery. This means that every detail is captured in real perspective, so if there is something you don’t quite remember about a property or its layout then you don’t have to travel back to the destination to confirm information.”
Morris-Manuel insists that the use of immersive technology in the sales and letting process is “not a flash in the pan fad”, but rather is demonstrative of the shift in mind-set which is altering the fabric of how estate agents conduct business.
“The rapid take up of Matterport technology by clients such as Arun Estates, Foxtons and JLL shows us that there is a real need for tech solutions that address efficiency, transparency and provide ROI,” he added.
Sometimes you need to keep it simple
Although floor plans are evolving as new technologies emerge, many industry experts still believe that a standard 2D floor plan remains the best way to show someone how the space works within a property.
Mark Twain, an American writer, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher, and lecturer, famously said: “if I’d have time, I would have written a shorter letter”. This is how James Fenner (left), MD of property brand agency, Silk Road, sees floor plans.
“They [2D floor plans] show the space and dimensions in very simple terms,” he said.
“There’s no customer need to complicate them, but there are occasions when the likes of VR and 3D walkthroughs will complement them. But I don’t see a reason why you’d ever market a property without them.”
- Glentree Estates
- Silk Road
*Marc Da Silva is Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today Features Editor and Editor of Landlord Today. You can follow him on Twitter @propertyjourno