3D renders for home builders: How to sell off-plan designs better

by | Jan 6, 2022

The main reason to sell off the plan is it’s a way to manage risk and check that there’s demand while commitment is still low.

A good set of 3D renders will inevitably lead to more off-the-plan sales, which besides peace of mind and proof of concept, can lower the cost to finance development because the bank will be more comfortable lending once they know that a percentage of units are already sold.

Selling off the plan can also get you paid sooner. Ideally, you sell all stock before construction starts, then once the property development is finished immediately seek approval so your solicitor can arrange settlements with the buyers to get you paid straight away.

This article will explain why there’s no better place to spend money when selling off the plan than on a quality set of 3D renders, and give you an in-depth understanding of what 3D renders are, before touching on how to go about getting a set for your own property marketing.

What is 3D rendering?

Don’t let the name fool you, a 3D render is actually a 2D image.

The reason it’s called a 3D render is that it’s created by taking a digital “photo” of a 3D model to generate that 2D image.

A camera is placed in virtual 3D space pointing a model of a home, building, apartment, we hit the “go” button, and render calculations are run.

The word photo is a little deceiving too because you don’t snap away and a quarter of a second later the image is ready and waiting.

Rendering is a process. The image is built one pixel at a time, and it’s extremely computationally expensive. Even a powerful computer, or a farm of computers, can take hours or days to assemble a render depending on the level of realism required and the technique used to generate the render.

How can 3D renders help sell off-plan designs

It’s impossible to take photos of a home or apartment that doesn’t exist yet. By creating a model that‘s identical to the home, and using it to create a 3D model, prospects and leads can see the property months or years before its completion.

3D renders are the backbone of your marketing. They’ll be the focal point of your brochures, your website and your social channels. They are what grabs attention, because no one is going to click on a floor plan.

And it’s 3D renders can be modified to sell the dream. Our artists can put a sports car or a family SUV in the garage. We can design a luscious garden of 3D plants and fill the living room with Nordic-inspired furniture. It’s important to show the buyer what they are getting and play on their emotions because emotion is ultimately what decides if a property gets sold.

Convincing a buyer to put down a deposit and eventually commit to purchasing a home they’ve never seen before is a big ask. They won’t commit unless they are 100% confident that the property is going to live up to expectations once it’s complete. You need to tell a story and get the buyer to fall in love with the property. They need to imagine living in the home, visualize cooking in the kitchen and hosting a BBQ on the back deck.

Looking at 3D renders a buyer can get a feel for a property. They can see how the layout fits together, and what rooms look like complete with furniture. You can sell them on the lifestyle and build hype, in a way that’s not possible with just words, a promise and a floor plan.

Sell the lifestyle and neighbourhood

Buyers care about the neighborhood and its facilities. 3D renderings can paint a vivid picture of the home and its surroundings. If you’re selling a home in a new subdivision or a planned community our designers can render the nearby park, and add in digital kids happily playing on the digital swings.

We can add labels to point out that there’s a university, bus stop, school or a Westfield less than a kilometer away.

What files and do you need to provide for a 3D render?

Ideally, there’s already a 3D model in CAD or a BIM file on your architect’s computer. We can import this model into the rendering software we use and from there, our designers can start adding lighting and make other aesthetic changes, based on your requirements. Before starting the render. It would help us if you could provide a brief that covers the type of colours and finishings you’d like in your renders.

If you don’t have a 3D model, we can create one for you using floor plans and other architectural documents. We can even work off early-stage concept sketches, jpegs or PDFs. We often help clients who need 3D renders for planning and collecting feedback or initial investment, and we can work with 2D CAD files DWG or similar.

How long does it take to create 3D render?

It depends on the type of render you’d like, what documents you can provide and if you’d like any stylistic changes made to the design.

Different render methods and the pros and cons of each

There’s more than one way to create a 3D render. Let’s look at the different options:


Rasterization does a good job, but it’s not able to create the same level of detail as raytracing. It was the first method of rendering and it’s what 99.99% of computer games are using to this day. Instead of calculating the paths of individual rays of light, rasterization looks at the thousands of polygons that make up the 3D scene. Polygons have points. If you look at them from different angles these points will be in different places or not visible at all. The rasterizer takes these points and calculates where to put them on the render. This process doesn’t involve rays so it’s significantly faster to compute, the trade-off is that the quality isn’t as good.


Raytracing works by calculating the path every ray of light takes as it travels in a straight line from the camera to a surface in the 3D model and then off at an angle to a light source. Raytracing is a computationally expensive rendering process that yields fantastic renders. The renders produced by raytracing can be extremely life-like and you really need to look closely to tell that you aren’t looking at a real photo.

Path tracing is the most computationally intensive render method mentioned. Path tracing still uses rays, but unlike raytracing, when the ray hits an object it doesn’t bounce immediately back to the light source. Instead, it bounces off at an angle and collides with object after object as many times as necessary until it reaches a light source. This is extremely close to how light behaves in the real world. 1 pixel can have thousands of rays sent through it. This method can calculate soft shadows, bleeding colours and how light affects the object around it. The results from path tracing are incredible, but so are the number of calculations required for even a basic render.

What are the 360 panoramic renders & tours? 

A 360 panoramic render is an image that you can click and drag and move around to see all your surroundings. These images are created by stitching photos together so as you rotate you’re moving from photo to photo.

You might be thinking it’s similar to Google Street View and you’d be right, but there are some key differences. Street View uses 360-degree photos, remember a few sentences ago when we said that 360 photos are created by stitching photos together? As you rotate you’re jumping between photos. The problem with this is that the edges of the photos are distorted. The software does a good job of patching them together but there are still only so many photos taken at each point in space.

3D renders are created from digital models so there are no photos and as you rotate you are just looking at different parts of the models. As you move, the render happens again in real-time to show all dimensions correctly from whatever angle the shapes are now being observed from.

A 360-degree tour lets you move around while also being able to rotate and look around. Several different techniques and experiences fall under the umbrella of 360-degree tour. They can be guided and created from 360 video cameras, so you go where the camera takes you. Or they can be created from 3D models which normally means you can choose what direction you want to move in and the quality is better.

What should you look for in a good quality 3D render?

The real world is imperfectly perfect. Your entire life your brain has seen fingerprints left behind on glass windows, cracks in the ceiling, and crooked picture frames. Because you’re selling a home, your first instinct might be to try to present perfection. Avoid that instinct. It will just lead to unrealistic renders.

Avoid Obvious Patterns

Sure the tiles in your bathroom might follow a pattern, but if you look closely you’ll see an infinite variation in the texture of each tile. What you want to avoid is repeating the exact same tiles. If that same dark spot is on every fifth tile across an entire room the render won’t look believable. You might not even be able to put your finger on why.

Maintain Consistent Sizing

The human eye is good at picking up on odd sizing. If a bedside table is weirdly small, or even if the powerpoints on the walls are a little too big or too small, the whole render will feel off and unrealistic. Everything needs to be at a real-world scale. Get up a reference image and compare if you’re unsure.

Include Depth of Field

No matter if you’re using a phone camera or a thousand dollar DSLR camera, close objects will be clear and easy to see while those further away are a little blurry and fade into the background. But depth of field won’t happen automatically with a 3D render. It’s up to the artist to add it. It is one of those things that you need to make a conscious effort to check for because when it’s missing it’s not immediately obvious what’s wrong with the render, it just looks wrong.

Use High-Quality Textures

It doesn’t matter how well the lighting is set up and how accurate the dimensions of the model are, if the wood floor looks like a recently vacuumed carpet you’re never going to get good results. Look to see if the walls and floors are blurry. Can you see the grain in the wood or the bumps in the concrete?

How important is perspective & lighting?

Very important. Without believable lighting, textures don’t look real. Glass is the obvious one but really every surface will look cartoonish and unbelievable if the lighting isn’t right. Lighting and perspective are closely related because the perspective will ultimately decide where the lighting is placed. There are so many considerations. Inside a room, lighting will come in through the window or from ceiling lights. Is that lighting going to shine straight into the room or come in from an angle to cast longer shadows? It’s common to render the exterior of the home at twilight or dusk to pull this off takes a lighting expert. A quality 3D render will have spill light that’s like a softer light that’s wider than the main light beam from the artificial sun.

What is a 3D floor plan?

A 3D floor plan is a birds-eye view virtual model of a floor plan. They exist because they give a better idea of how the layout will fit together and are instantly understandable by someone with no previous experience reading 2D floor plans. At a glance, you can see where doors and windows and plumbing and kitchen fittings will go. It’s also common practice to furnish a 3D floor plan which is something that’s not done with a 2D floor plan.

3D floor plans can be used by real estate agents to explain the flow of a home to a prospective buyer and they are a worthwhile marketing tool. No one is clicking on a 2D floor plan, because most people won’t take the time to work out if the home it’s describing is of interest to them.

How else can 3D renders be used?

3D renders are a great way to collect feedback in the early stages of a project. Anytime you need visibility on something that doesn’t exist yet, 3D renders are a great solution. They can also be used to create photorealistic product renderings to which you can add effects, custom lighting or tease a future version of your product without creating a physical prototype.

You might want to render your product with a background that would be difficult or expensive to recreate with a camera or add animations to it.

Let’s wrap this up

3D Renders are really 2D photos created from a 3D model. They are used to show off a building/house/apartment before it’s finished to help sell property off the plan.

By including models of cars, flowers, and furniture, 3D models set the scene and trigger an emotional response, that you’re not going to get from a floor plan.

In addition to real estate and property development, 3D renderings are also used in architecture, engineering and construction to update stakeholders on the status of projects or as a faster and cheaper digital prototype.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this article and you now have a decent grasp of what 3D renders are and how they can help sell property off the plan. If you’d like to learn more about what 3D renders can do for you then give our team a call on 1800 418 598 or email us. We’re here and ready to brainstorm ideas.

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