Step 3
How To Tour Your New Build Options

So, you’ve set your sights on a few new-build options and it’s time to schedule model home visits to see which is the perfect fit.

Gone are the days of simply flipping through glossy brochures and hopping into your car to tour showrooms and model homes that make your shortlist. With major advances in technology and in the era of online shopping, homebuyers are relying more on virtual reality and digital resources.

Cutting-edge digital technology, including virtual tours and augmented and virtual reality, have become a game changer for both builders and homebuyers alike, revolutionizing the real estate industry. With these resources at their fingertips, builders can show homebuyers various model homes before ground has even been broken; prospective buyers curious about different floor plans or custom finishes are no longer confined to artistic renderings and color swatches to help in their decision-making. Families can even shop from the comfort of their homes, removing the need for travel, especially for long distance moves.

If you’re ready to get up close and personal with new homes on your shortlist, here’s a look at five ways – both traditional and innovative – to tour your new build options.

Online listings

Online shopping isn’t limited to clothes, electronics and houseware – it’s become commonplace with real estate shopping too. Half of all home buyers found their new homes online, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Just a decade ago, home listings and pamphlets for new housing developments were grainy with uneven imagery and plenty of blind spots. Now, prospective homebuyers flock online first. Polished, professional photos, 360-degree room tours, and sleek, high-quality videos are a staple for every online listing and website for a new housing development.

Zero in on what you’re looking for, whether it’s a two-bedroom condominium in the city or a three-bedroom house in the suburbs, and where you’re aiming to build. With these parameters in mind, get acquainted with builders in your ideal neighborhood, their new community developments, and the lots and house styles.

Many builders’ websites contain a portfolio of their work with photo galleries and 360-degree room tours, along with their community developments in progress.

If you’re curious about a new housing development, check its website for an overview of the master-planned community, the style and size of homes, layout options and customizations, and the plans for the neighborhood. Most websites will list existing schools, green spaces and amenities nearby along with the neighborhood expansion plans.

Builders’ sites also display detailed photo galleries of their various housing types, a room-by-room view of the interior, and images of how they envision the neighborhood streets and the wider community when completed.

Digital floor plans are like a map to your potential home’s layout, listing room measurements, and detailing how every square foot of the home’s space is being utilized. They even capture where windows, doors, closets, built-in cabinets, major appliances, light switches and electrical outlets will be placed in each room to help you visualize your potential home.

Keep in mind, floor plans list the total square footage of your new home, but this only refers to the finished portions or the “heated areas.” Garages, porches, unfinished basements, attics and backyard space are considered unfinished and aren’t included in total square feet calculations.

Virtual video tours

Virtual tours are crucial to your home buying process – while you can’t physically step into the home, with the help of detailed video walkthroughs, you’ll get a much more intimate glimpse at what you’re buying.

Virtual tours are filling in the gaps from glossy brochures, static renderings, and photo galleries to help prospective buyers interact with model homes until they zero in on their dream home. Forty-eight percent of homebuyers found virtual tours a “very useful” tool in their research, according to the National Association of Realtors report in 2019.

With new housing developments, builders will detail your house options and their specs prominently in brochures and other digital resources mentioned above. If you like what you see, you can ask your builder’s sales representative to set up a “virtual viewing” of model homes. In most instances, they already have professional videos of model homes ready for your viewing pleasure.

In a private viewing, you can ask your sales representative to video chat with you from home via FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Zoom or other video chat services, so you can look, point out details or ask questions. He or she can also do a thorough walk through the home, recording a video for you to refer to again. Your sales representative will be familiar with what’s on your wish list and will be able to provide commentary. They act as an extension of your senses, describing what they see and how it feels. They will also let you know if the finishes, customizations or upgrades are relevant to your wants and needs in your dream home.

Because these tours are conducted virtually, your builder can arrange for real-time video tours of model homes that suit exactly what you’re looking for in layout, look, or customizations, no matter where they are located.

If you’re unsure, you can ask your builder to take you through virtual tours of various model homes, furnished and unfurnished, standard and fully upgraded, to study different layouts and fixtures. You can discuss available material options and ask for various floor plan blueprints and color swatches to help with your planning.

Virtual reality technology

Virtual reality (VR) technology is playing a prominent role in helping families shop for a new construction. It also provides shoppers with the ability to tour model homes and even set foot – virtually – into the home of their dreams, fully customized to their liking.

VR technology has improved by leaps and bounds, revolutionizing entire industries, from healthcare to education, retail and gaming. Real estate has been no exception. The virtual reality market is projected to be valued at $80 billion by 2025, with $2.6 billion of that stemming from real estate, according to a Goldman Sachs report.

With modern innovation, VR doesn’t involve bulky headsets and pixelated, blocky cubes – now VR devices are sleek and light, with sharp graphics and crystal-clear resolution. Unlike virtual tours, VR fully immerses homebuyers so they’re “stepping” into model homes using headsets that block out their physical world during the tour.

Ultimately, virtual tours show prospective buyers the closest viewing to a finished property. And they can do so at home, or with their builder’s local sales representative, saving time and travel expenses. Some builders even keep VR headsets at their model showrooms to virtually transport curious homebuyers to other home options based on their feedback.

Builders create a portfolio of virtual tours that illustrate every house type in their collection using existing stock and current show homes as the basis. The properties are scanned room-by-room, angle-by-angle, fully furnished and empty, by companies like Matterport that create virtual “twins” of the homes. With the heavy lifting completed, builders will have dozens of VR-accessible home plans to show shoppers. They’ll also have their own personal library of 3D virtual tours of their model homes to help buyers get acquainted with a potential home without using VR tech. Matterport statistics suggest that virtual tours get clicked on 40 percent more often than listings without this capability.

Thanks to VR, buyers on one side of the country curious about house styles, floor plans or finishes can see a precise example of what they’re looking for in a model home on the other side of the country. Buyers simply pop on a VR headset to “walk” into a model home to take a personal tour at their own pace; they can get a first-hand feel for the flow of different layouts, room dimensions, and even step outside to examine the home’s exterior and surroundings.

Matterport includes a unique feature of a 3D dollhouse view of the home that’s fully interactive. Understanding the flow of a layout based on 2D floor plans can be tricky for homebuyers to fully visualize. But with this feature, families can see how the floor plans come together.

While physical model homes only present one of infinite possibilities for finished home designs, the Matterport technology and other VR simulators can help buyers play around with different schematics of the layout, flooring, and fixtures. If homebuyers are curious about swapping color schemes and custom finishes, these can be applied to their potential home in the virtual setting.

Curious about tearing down a wall to make the main floor open concept? What about adding a breakfast nook in the kitchen? With the use of the latest 3D modelling software, homebuyers don’t have to rely on their imagination as they design their dream home.

Augmented reality technology

Builders are using augmented reality (AR) tech to show homes that are built or still in the design phase too, but these are viewed via your smartphone, iPad or through AR glasses.

AR takes a real-world environment and enhances it with computer-generated imagery that’s overlaid onto reality, either adding to what you see in your natural environment or covering something that’s in front of you.

Do you want to see an empty model home filled with furniture? What about overlaying your customizations on top of the existing finishes in a showroom? Through AR, homebuyers can look at the range of possibilities within a space that already exists.

AR is also handy when it comes to experimenting with renovations and upgrades within an existing home or a new build. It’s already being used by contractors and interior designers so clients can see what their kitchen renovation will look like. And they can take a peek into the future and see their master bedroom, with a new walk-in closet before any construction begins.

Buyers can narrow down their search with the help of AI to zero in on the model homes that suit their preferences. Then they can download the virtual home tour, and then step into the tour on their smartphone, tablet or VR tech. Once inside, they can interact with pop-up labels in each of the rooms pointing out granite countertops, hardwood floors or upgraded kitchen appliances.

Visiting showrooms and model homes

The traditional method of visiting showrooms and booking private tours of model homes is still incredibly effective if prospective buyers are in close proximity to a construction site. Builders will often have a handful of model homes to show buyers their different floor plans, upgrades and finishes to help them narrow down their preferences.

Model homes are always stunning because they are usually packed with upgrades and finishes you will be paying extra for. While touring model homes, ask your builder or sales representative which amenities and features are standard and which are upgrades. In some cases, builders even have a basic model home that you can walk through.

Take pictures, jot down notes and come armed with a few questions to understand more about your potential home. Some common questions include:

  • How long will building take? It’s important to know what the timelines are for a new construction build, especially if you’re on a deadline for closing and moving in. You won’t want to sell and move out of your current home without somewhere to live.
  • What are the standard finishes? As we’ve mentioned above, if the base cost looks too good to be true, compared to the model home you’re visiting, ask your sales representative to point out which features are standard and which are upgraded.
  • Are there any homeowners’ rules or regulations? Even if there isn’t a homeowners’ association in the community, your builder may have guidelines in place, such as adding an extension to the home in the backyard or using specific fencing materials.
  • Are there any financial incentives for using the builder’s preferred lender? Buying a home is an expensive endeavour – it’s worth knowing if your builder can provide any discounts or bonuses if you choose to obtain a mortgage through their preferred lender.
  • When do you anticipate completing the community? You may be scoring a deal and securing a home in the first phase in a new housing development, but that could mean you’ll be surrounded by construction for the next few years.
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