Real estate agents and architects haven’t always seen eye to eye - a weird revelation considering one can scarcely exist without the other.
Real estate agents and architects haven’t always seen eye to eye - a weird revelation considering one can scarcely exist without the other. One designs the building, works with clients and engineers to manifest a conceptual melting pot of ideas and constraints into a code-compliant dream made up of wood, steel and herringbone curtains. The other sells that dream...
So why all the animosity?
The easy answer is: architects are pretentious, ego-maniacal, status-quo disruptors who look down on real estate agents as a mother pig would look down on her teet-feeding piglets, all the while real estate agents speak nothing but ill-will towards architects at company cocktail parties due in large part to their misunderstanding of the words “budget” and “schedule”. While faint hints of accuracy pepper these brash assessments, there is so much to gain between a healthy relationship between the two stubborn sides… and all I can really say is:
Can’t we all just get along?
I’d like to start this session of couples therapy by focusing on an important aspect of that relationship: marketing. An architect’s design is only as good its hype train. Since Don King is busy reminiscing about the good ole days of Tyson, Holyfield and Foreman, it’s up to designers and real estate agents to pack that train full of fast burning coal.
Architects are great at making things. They are an eclectic bunch who think weird and dream big. They are idea men and women who take bold risks and champion quality of design and cultivation of unique human experience above all else. So, how do you sell experience? How do you sell quality?
It all starts with the communication of design from the architect’s pencil to the consumer’s eye. The buyer must be told what the thing is before the thing is made. More often than not, speculative development is sold before it’s fully constructed. A tour of a half-framed building surrounded by a construction site filled to the brim with discarded red bull cans and rusty nails is nice, but often leaves people with an apprehensive taste in their mouth. There has to be something to facilitate the finished design so the perspective clients can digest the entire meal before forming a proper opinion.
In these instances, real estate marketers can rely on 3D rendering and other architectural drawings to spoon feed them what they weren’t able to get from the site visit. Elegant animations and spatial processions put together with 3D rendering software such as VRAY, 3D Studio Max, and Maxwell and platform such as Easy Render provide the tools architects and designers rely on to give buyers the experience of living before the paint dries and the keys are turned. This is where agents must work closely with architects to best develop an imaging strategy that sells the most essential components of valuable real estate.
These should be represented in the house itself, but also in important views, landscape and garden potential, as well as location and context in the form of bird’s eye drawings of an entire neighbourhood. When potential clients get fatigues with numbers, closing costs and construction schedules, these 3d rendering and visualization images can put a positive spin on the process of purchasing a home.
More important than the beautiful images at the end of the marketing brochure, though, is the up-front collaboration between the architect and the agent. I’m talking about the groundwork - the conversations about site potential, target market and design possibility. This is where the foundation of the entire project gets ironed out, and it all boils down to what “can we get in this particular market for this particular location”. That’s all the real estate agent is really concerned with, and it’s up to the architect in speculative projects to squeeze the most design out of limited opportunities for compelling architecture.
How do you do this? Frame every question and every solution in terms of value.
Floor to ceiling windows and exposed steel columns don’t just look nice, they add tangible dollars and cents to an already profitable endeavour. The only real way to accomplish this is by making a case through 3d visualization and 3d design communication techniques. Explain to developers and agents through 3D renderings and images exactly how increasing the quality of the final project adds more value than simply cranking up the square footage. This isn’t always an easy task to take on, and requires the proper tools and skills to pull off.
The tools architects and agents utilize together to woo prospective clients are, in fact, the same tools architects use to legitimize their designs to real estate agents in the first place. That’s where the first sale takes place, and can be the point in their relationship where things fall off the rails. If the two entities can’t move forward with an agreed upon set of criteria for the end product, distrust seeps in and ruins a potential mutually beneficial relationship. The architect must communicate the design intent to the real estate agent just as they would to a contractor, albeit with a different set of rules and goals.
Let’s take a look at a few design components that can add value to a project strictly through good architecture and smart design.
· View Potential. This is a no brainer for any architect. The site must be analysed in order to identify the best views from the site. This might be towards a mountain range or body of water, or perhaps between structures in an urban environment. Framing views appropriately can add immense value to a realtor looking to sell high (and which ones aren’t?). Google Earth is a great tool to quickly get an idea of lines of site, with tools that allow you to import 3D models and explore potential using their mapping data.
· Solar Orientation. Not only can proper tracking of solar exposure give way to passive heating and cooling techniques, it also has a massive effect on interior natural light. It’s an easy design step that can lower monthly electric bills (something to put in the marketing brochure) and promote bright and interesting interiors. With the help of 3D rendering and 3D modeling software designers can give realtors and buyers location specific 3D renderings that will replicate realistic sun tracking to show exactly where the best solar exposure is at any time of the year.
· Exterior Space. In many cases, the subtraction of sellable interior square footage can make for a more desirable piece of real estate. Designing exterior spaces that are site and region specific can expand upon interior space and present a total package that is worth more than simply maximizing lot potential. Cantilevered building mass to produce covered exterior gardens, patios and decks add a lot of value, especially in urban centres where greenery can be scarce.
These are just to name a few. These visual and experiential components of the design can’t be properly measured by numbers on a page. That’s where the intersection between architecture and real estate marketing works its magic. Because the fact is, people who are about to send a pirate’s ship full of money on a stunning new home want to know every nook and cranny their money is giving them. They want the whole picture - a picture that can only be properly painted by the left hand of the designer and the right hand of the agent.
Architects and realtors might not always get along. They might take underhand (and overhand) jabs at their respective place in the development process. They might think they’re better and more important and the real reason the perfect client finds themselves the perfect home. But at the end of the day, both parties go to bed at night whispering to themselves an undeniable fact:
You complete me.