Author: Laura Valic
Featured in HIA Housing Magazine March 2021
Are we entering the age of virtual homes sales? A new projection studio in Adelaide is proving homeowners are content to buy house and land packages without setting foot in a display home.
As most building businesses of a certain size can attest, developing display homes to showcase your house designs is a costly and time-consuming venture. In a trend-driven new home building market, once you have gone to the effort of construction you can soon find the style has dated, chosen building products have discontinued or it is simply not a true reflection of the scope you can offer your clientele.
Is there a simpler way then to sell to consumers than by building your brick and mortar display homes?
Victor Said, Managing Director of Rivergum Group in South Australia, certainly believes so. The HIA member building company recently spent 18 months developing a state-of-the-art home design projection studio in Adelaide’s CBD that allows homeowners to immerse themselves in full-size floor plans and elevations in any design they choose.
While the full-scale projection concept, known as Plan Lab, is a response to the needs of customers to explore designs not displayed or to confirm amendments on modified/custom plans, it has already led to some quick sales from interested parties.
‘Web enquiries or undecided customers [are encouraged] to book an appointment if their design option is unavailable and we have signed up a number of clients to build a home this way rather than through the display homes,’ Victor says. ‘They came into Plan Lab, picked their block of land, then picked a design product after they experienced the projections and put down a deposit straight away.’
Victor, who has been in the building game for several decades, started the Rivergum Group in 1994, which through its various businesses ‘strives to create and deliver market leading outcomes’ for its customers and clients. An early adopter of both augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) into its sales processes, the group can now add this latest initiative to its core business – a big step forward in its virtual technology offering, and, according to Victor, ‘a first for South Australia’.
‘Innovation for our business drives everything we do, and Plan Lab is just one of a number of new innovations we have to offer,’ he says.
Officially launched on 15 December 2020 with South Australian Premier Steven Marshall in attendance, the projection experience in the 370m2 facility – which has the capability to project large apartment complexes, not just detached housing – has so far been welcomed by the consumer market. One of the reasons Victor believes this to be the case is because people generally find visualising floor plans and whether they will capture their lifestyle requirements to be a challenge.
Even with the benefits of AR and VR, which bring 2D drawings to life upon a screen, physically being able to walk around in a full-scale floor plan and get a sense of room sizes and layout, plus interact with moveable furniture and walls, provides a much clearer picture for homeowners. Of course, this is why display homes have long been considered a powerful sales weapon in a builder’s arsenal. However, when you don’t have the customer’s desired house design available to browse through, you may well end up losing their interest to a competitor.
This is where Victor hopes Plan Lab will be able to fill the gap. ‘Plan Lab gives us the convenience of an inspirational home centre where we can show customers any one of hundreds of designs without going out to a display village,’ he says, adding that the company will soon be able to showcase its latest designs hot off the press. ‘It accompanies the release of our new 2021 home design range and the launch of our Adapt Series dual occupancy designs that have been created to meet the changing needs of Australian families.’
The facility also won’t be limited to consumers comparing Rivergum Group’s designs; if they’ve worked with a building designer, those plans too can be projected in a booked session.
‘We’re making Plan Lab available to developers, architects, designers and small builders – anyone who wants to take the leap from page to projection. We have had design consultants bring their customers, and some customers demanding a Plan Lab session from their design consultant!’
The technology utilised by the facility is fairly well resolved, meaning Plan Lab has the flexibility to showcase the latest products from industry manufacturers directly to consumers.
‘If it appears in a plan, elevation or render we can show it. Video and animations are also no issue,’ Victor says. ‘The projection studio is also a good opportunity for developers to launch their projects or building suppliers to launch a new product range. We are excited to help our supply partners showcase new products at Plan Lab.’
For an industry that is often touted as being slow to change and behind others when it comes to adapting and adopting new technology, Victor believes the projection concept will soon be the way of the future for construction companies.
‘In the first four weeks we had more than 50 clients go through the facility, and if the overwhelmingly positive feedback is anything to go by, this innovation initiative is just what the public are looking for to enhance their home building [experience],’ he says.
‘Customers have expressed relief and delight at walking through their selected plan for added confidence. I believe it’s going to be a game changer for the home buying journey.’