A builder’s model for managing buyers’ expectations

Advanced modeling and virtual reality helps builders show clients exactly what they’re getting
(Photo: Trilogy Partners)

Builders usually only get one chance at getting a build right, but Michael Rath, owner and director of design services at Trilogy Partners in Frisco, asked himself, “what if we could build a custom home twice?” Advanced modeling gives them the chance to do that.

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Rath has been increasing technology adoption in his firm since the Great Recession.

“Back in 2010, I started looking at the way we were working, and I was convinced that we needed to embrace technology wholeheartedly,” Rath said.

He started teaching himself 3D drawing, and today, Trilogy Partners provides its clients with highly detailed models of their homes using photographs of the actual materials the home will be built with.

“We’re building that first house with the real materials, not things that are representative. You don’t have to squint your eyes and say, ‘Imagine that would be gray tile.’ It will be the gray tile” that the client selected, Rath explained.

In the “first build,” the model, clients can see exactly what their home will look like. Trilogy uses virtual reality to let clients explore the home and identify anything they want changed before work starts. Managing buyers’ expectations is one of the biggest challenges that builders face, Rath said.

“We can have them walk through the house, so by the time we’re building the house, they already know exactly what they’re going to get,” he said.

Having a virtual model is also helpful for subs, Rath said. “We use the 3D model to teach them their scope of work,” he said. “It’s absolutely incredible how that speeds up the process. We’ve got guys who can spend an hour in our office and learn more about how to frame that house than they would spending a week studying the drawings.”

Trilogy uses SketchUp to build a constructable 3D model for their homes. The software is “fast and light,” Rath said, so “it’s really easy to do a lot of this stuff, without the constraints of the other BIM programs.” SketchUp integrates with BuilderTrend to help manage the construction process, Rath said.

Trilogy’s design process has had a measurable effect on the selling process. Trilogy created a virtual model and video for a spec builder that represented what the completed home would look like, allowing the builder to market the home before it was completed.

“Four months after the video presentation went live, the house went under contract at full price, no contingencies, cash, for $5.5 million. This is very much the exception, not the rule,” Rath said.

He continued, “It is very rare, in a market such as this one, to pre-sell an expensive, high concept, complex custom home in this price range. … The realtor is absolutely convinced the video and the virtual model was key to the early sale.”

Related: Construction software to streamline sales processes: Product Spotlight

Danielle Andrus

Danielle Andrus is the managing editor of Colorado Builder. She can be reached at [email protected].

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