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November 02, 2020

Why Model Homes Are More Important Than Ever

I recently read a blog from Lita Dirks about the importance of home merchandising (you can read that blog here) and it got me thinking. If you are a builder, you may be having second thoughts about building and furnishing a model home in this post-Covid world we live in. You might be thinking:

  • What good is a model if we are in lockdown and no one can visit it?
  • All I really need are move-in ready homes, right?
  • If everything goes to virtual, can’t I just create a virtual model?
  • If everything is selling, why do we need a new model?

Not so fast! Before you consider abandoning the furnished model, let’s instead focus on making your model thrive in a virtual world.

Photograph your model

Once you have invested in a great model, you now need to invest in great photography. It can pay multiple dividends and extend the value of your model home investment. It can be the key to capturing your buyer’s interest online and enticing them to learn more. At Housing Design Matters, we use photography to enter and win awards, so we know the time and investment great photography takes. Sure, you can get a real estate photographer to document your house in photos in a day, but that is not good enough. And if you have been in the home, you may not be the best judge of the quality of the photography simply because your memory can piece together the story of the house that the photos are not conveying.

An architectural photographer is an artist who can make your house look better than reality by capturing the perfect sun angle, lighting the fire in the fireplace, and creating the mood that makes the house so special. Great photography sells the story of the house. What story are you selling?

Matterport your model

Once you have a fabulous model, you’ll want to invest in a Matterport virtual tour. Using special three-dimension camera system, you can capture an amazing fully immersive experience. Websites such as Zillow and Realtor have been implementing this feature for some time and it has made a huge difference in the home buying experience. Friends of mine recently hired a Matterport photoshoot and it was eye opening. It’s starts with this crazy camera with nine lenses that rotates and takes multiple pictures. The software that makes it work must be mind numbing.


Our friends had fun with their Matterport experience by playing their version of Where’s Waldo. In every shot, they placed a small, memorable item. It was the same item in each shot, often peeking out from behind a chair or the curtains. Of course, they did it for fun, but who knows? Maybe this could be tied to a contest on your website or just a fun way to keep buyers on your website longer.

It’s always a sunny day in your virtual model site

Winter is coming, and with it comes snowy, chilly days for some regions of the country. If they have power, snowbound buyers can view your model online photographed on a warm, sunny day or gaze longingly at the flickering fire in your awesome fireplace. Regardless of the temperate outside, winter also means a shorter amount of sunshine – except of course in the photos of your model. And don’t forget to capture views of your house at both day and night.

Fit and finish, touch and feel

Lockdowns won’t last forever, but they have changed how buyers shop and pre-shop. Many buyers still want to step foot in your model before signing on the bottom line. They want to actually walk from room to room, imagining their family gathering around the kitchen island. They want to examine up close the included or upgraded finishes. They want to inspect the fit and finish of your home that just can’t be seen in photos or in a virtual model.

Showcase New Ideas

Models are a big investment, but so is buying a house. Post-pandemic, buyers have a new appreciation for design solutions like work-from-home spaces and parcel delivery vestibules. But what do they look like? Can I shut the door in my pocket office so others can hear me on Zoom and not hear the dog barking every time a squirrel climbs down from a tree? Even in a strong market, you want to capture the most buyers with the highest margins.

A Model is an Asset

Even when it is time for a new model, you still have the physical asset of the model home that you can now sell. You may even be able to sell the furniture with it. Compare that to a virtual model. At the end of the day, you have nothing you can sell. Of course, if you made the garage a sales office, you would have a little demo work. It’s a good thing that’s what you do best!

Maybe I’m Old Fashioned

I need to see, touch and feel my purchases. I am a reluctant internet shopper for clothes because I want to see the color, try it on to see if it fits, determine if it will wrinkle, and touch the fabric to see how it feel. And believe me, shopping with a mask on is not fun! We recently bought a new, small rug for the kitchen over the internet. It looked so promising. Ah, but when it arrived it was much thinner than I would have accepted and now it’s curling up on each end, making it a tripping hazard.

But then I hear stories of people buying houses without ever setting foot in them. While those buyers and scenarios clearly exist, I believe that is the exception to the rule and we cannot rely on them making up the bulk of the market. I believe our “new normal” will consist of a combination of virtual internet shopping and actual model visits.

What Do You Think?

What have you noticed during the past 8 months? Has there been a shift in the way buyers shop for homes? Do you think these new shopping habits will continue into next year and beyond? I’d love your feedback!

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This post was written by Housing Design Matters