The rival merits of showhomes and viewhomes

From a developer’s perspective, showhomes and viewhomes offer competing attractions. In this latest article in our Insight series of in-depth analyses of all-things property, Queensberry Properties’ sales and marketing director, Hazel Davies, appraises the rival merits of each.

“New homes pose certain challenges for developers in terms of demonstrating what prospective purchasers might expect when they move in. A construction site is usually off-limits on safety grounds, while half-constructed properties give little hint of their eventual form and style. As such, developers have sometimes struggled to highlight what people will actually be buying – site plans and floorplans don’t always paint a vivid picture.

“Showhomes and viewhomes are popular marketing tools for helping buyers to visualise what a future home might look like. It’s comparatively easy to transform an unsold property into an unfurnished viewhome once the interior fit-out is completed. Showhomes require more investment (in every sense), though they do a better job of filling in the mental blanks for purchasers whose imagination may need a bit of  stimulus. But is one approach preferable, or are both equally meritorious?

The advantages of a viewhome

“Unveiling a viewhome to the public is usually pretty straightforward in terms of preparation. Providing the property has been finished to a high standard, it’s ready to be shown. There are no delays while awaiting furniture deliveries, no costs incurred from interior design services, and no need to ask visitors to don carpet-protecting shoe covers. The risk of display items being damaged, lost or stolen is also eliminated. Plus, an empty room optimises the sense of spaciousness.

“Showhomes can look slightly careworn by the time they’re decommissioned, typically being sold with a full roster of landscaping and interior furnishings. A showhome dating back to phase one of a development may not be representative of property styles under construction in later phases, but the costs incurred mean it’ll probably be retained until the development is complete. That may confuse buyers if the property portfolio evolves, or if specifications change due to materials shortages or revised supplier agreements.

“By contrast, viewhomes can be swapped around quickly and easily; one site could even have multiple viewhomes. Visitors get to inspect the property style they want – an apartment, a townhouse, a detached villa – rather than a single dwelling being expected to sell an entire development. Plus, if there’s high demand for that particular property style, selling it and switching to another house type won’t cause any problems.

The advantages of a showhome

“In an empty property, even the most savvy buyers can sometimes struggle to imagine how a lounge might be laid out, or how much floorspace a bedroom would offer, with furnishings in situ. They can’t be expected to understand that pull-out baskets would improve kitchen storage, or how optional wardrobes with bi-fold doors could transform a bedroom. A showhome therefore, is an opportunity to sell a vision, rather than requiring people to use their imagination while inspecting blank spaces.

“Showhomes can, where applicable, also enable developers to showcase the availability of optional extras. While Queensberry has always taken pride in offering a higher standard of specification, some buyers naturally wish to add their own flourishes. By its very nature, a viewhome is a blank canvas, whereas a showhome can reflect everything from premium appliances and high-end flooring to an interior design service. This obviously demonstrates the degree of customisation on offer – something many buyers value highly.

“Paradoxically, a showhome doesn’t actually have to be housed within a completed property. Developers have mocked up representative interiors inside temporary structures, complete with designer bathrooms and opulent kitchens. These can be placed on-site before construction has even started, enabling sales staff to immediately begin selling a lifestyle, rather than just selling off-plan units. Best of all, these modular units are reusable elsewhere, increasing their cost-effectiveness and justifying the time invested in creating them.

The advantages of both

“Showhomes and viewhomes both offer unique advantages for customers, and there’s no obvious right or wrong option. The choice between one or other may depend on construction stages, completion dates and other factors, while some developments may be able to offer both. By providing full-sized examples of what buyers can expect from their next home, showhomes and viewhomes can each play a valuable role in the sales process.“