NAR Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends Report 2017 definitely was time well spent. As expected, the importance of online presence and the importance of agents on both sides were confirmed. Yet the most interesting contradiction was the floor plan.
According to the report, buyers rank photography as the most important website feature. The second most important feature is detailed information about properties for sale. The floor plan is the third – more important than e.g. virtual tours recently sold properties or even agent contact information. If it’s simple and visual, it matters.
Why many listings lack the third most important feature? Everyone, buyer, seller, agents, want to get deals done. There must be something.
To answer that question, let’s have a look at two other real estate markets, UK, and Nordic countries.
Floor plan usage in the UK
The RICS organization sets strict guidelines on property measurements. Some examples:
- The item must be capable of being measured.
- The measurement must be objectively verifiable.
- The measurements and calculations must be clearly documented and the following stated: (i) the method of measurements, (ii) the unit of measurement, (iii) the measurement tolerance, (iv) the date of the measurement.
- The service provider should state the degree of tolerance, as a percentage of the area measurement reported, to reflect the maximum potential for inaccuracy.
The agents and brokers apply the rules in real estate marketing. Most floor plan images in real estate listings follow the standard. This makes sense, older studies by Rightmove and Metropix confirm that buyers love floor plans, and the absence of floor plans is an obstacle.
Floor plan usage in the Nordic countries
In Nordics, there are equally strict official guidelines on measurements, with one exception: using floor plans in real estate listings isn’t understood as perfect replications of original building documents. While the original may include the relevant and accurate measurements, the floor plans being used for marketing purposes don’t need to be as strict.
After all, the purpose is different: to provide an understandable layout what the property is like. The floor plans include a disclaimer, like “instructional, not in scale” or “sizes and dimensions are approximate, not in scale”.
Simple and functional, like the Nordic design stereotype.
What are the floor plan related obstacles?
In both examples, everyone has the literacy to understand the floor plans. One relies on exact, professional-level accuracy for all possible uses. Another one relies on the idea of what is enough for each particular case and context. Google helps with other questions.
- “Expensive to produce, hard to acquire original floor plans, take time to redraw, may need expensive software. Copyrights, floor plans can be misleading, thieves would use as roadmaps. Original documents may get outdated during the years. New developments are an exception, since they have direct access to original documents.” –Quora thread
- “Many people who are shown a two-dimensional drawing have no clue as to what they are looking at. Most buyers out there need to see, feel and touch the walls to get an idea of a home’s suitability.” –Q&A on realtor.com
- “Many agents hate them because it cuts down the number of visits.” –Q&A on Zillow
- “Around my area, it becomes a liability. If any numbers are off its another thing for us to get sued for.” … “Simply for most houses in the US, it doesn’t exist.” –Reddit thread
- “Floor Plans from the builder are usually copyrighted information. So please be careful with them. If an agent creates them on their own then that’s another story.” City-Data forum
What bigger players say
- “A floor plan can save a lot of driving and looking.”
- “Floor plan qualifies a buyer before even seeing the home.”
- “They may not tell the whole story, but there’s a lot that can be determined just from the floor plan.”
- “Floorplans would encourage potential buyers that know what they are looking for. It will also help keep away potential buyers that basically walk in the door and walk right back out because they hate the layout.“
- “My husband uses a wheelchair and we have viewed several homes that were not accessible for him which we would never have viewed had we been able to access a floor plan ahead of time.”
- “The safety reason is ridiculous to me, an average tract type house is pretty simple. It’s not like by posting the floorplans your giving away the blueprints for Fort Knox lol. I think posting pictures of the current homeowners 60 inch LCD tv is more dangerous.”
So, is there anything left?
Yes, a lot, with answers.
Availability of source floor plans? The toughest part. But, one day we all have indoor space scanners in our pockets.
Accuracy? The current way of using laser measurements makes floor plan creation expensive. For listing and marketing purposes, a “not in scale” would do just fine.
Copyrights? There seems to be a difference with an original blueprint and an interpretation of an indoor space. Like, nobody owns a general idea of “love”. Yet, a musician can own copyrights on his or her interpretation of love – when being expressed as a recognizable song.
Literacy? No standards required. Just clarify the difference between an absolute and a “not in scale” kind of interpretation.
Priorities? All sales listing are made for buyers, and buyers see floor plans as important property information.
Security? It seems to be more a personal preference than an actual probability of danger.
Targeting? Not showing relevant information might get a few extra emails – while risking the sales opportunity. Well, if there is an agent or a brokerage who prioritizes the number of contacts higher than the number of successful deals, please let me know…
Usability, simplicity, price, no hassle? What if there was an online service that cuts out all the intermediaries and diminished all the spending and effort?
My favorite argument was hidden in a ten-year-old New York Times article. “It would be easy to show a buyer between 6 and 25 homes a weekend. After 25 homes, which are you going to remember? The ones you are holding paperwork on.”
Tuomas Aarni, Sales Manager