Julie Friedman, 40, and her fiancé, Jonathan Spector, 48, were on a mission last fall to find a home that would comfortably fit the two of them plus their combined five kids.
They were well aware that any house might need some tweaking to fit the bunch, so they brought along Howard Kandel, who is a design builder — a contractor who both designs and remodels homes.
Thanks to new technology, little needs to be left to the imagination when it comes to home building, renovations and purchases these days. Remodeling companies are using 3-D home-design software to present computer images of what a renovated home could end up looking like.
“At the end of the day, very few people have the imagination to be able to look at a set of plans and have any idea of what that’s actually going to look like,” Kandel says. “We can throw in furniture and wall coverings, paint colors and different materials and literally build it to 90 to 95 percent of what it’s really gonna look like.”
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Friedman, who is a landscape designer, had always wanted a rambler with a U-shaped patio.
“I wanted to feel like you would walk out of the back of your house and be surrounded by the garden, surrounded by the house,” she says. “And somehow we just found it.”
Her dream home was on the market in Rockville, Md. But there was one problem: It was short two much-needed bedrooms. Cue Kandel Construction.
Using a 3-D home-design software package called Chief Architect, Kandel showed Friedman and Spector a lifelike rendering of what that house would become if they converted an unwanted formal family room into two extra rooms for the kids.
“It really felt like what your home was going to look like,” Friedman says. “Some of the girls’ rooms were going to be these bright fun colors instead of just a plain white room, so he was able to change the color of the walls and change the color of the furniture.”
Companies often work with real-estate professionals to help buyers visualize their dream homes.
“We’ll reach out to Realtors and say, ‘If you have somebody who’s seriously looking at this house, but they don’t have the vision to understand that they want to do this, this or this, let us help,’ “ says George Hodges-Fulton, principal/owner of the construction firm Bowa.
Along with images of the remodeled house, these companies provide shoppers with estimated costs so they can determine if a house is still affordable if it needs renovations. “Most of the time, that gives confidence to the consumers so that they’re able to purchase the home and move forward,” Hodges-Fulton says.
The cost of having a design builder produce the 3-D renderings, determine the full scope of the renovations and figure out a preliminary budget can range from $500 to $5,000 depending on the size of the project, Kandel says. His firm will hold that money as a retainer and use it toward the overall budget if you hire them to also do the construction.
Conversely, Bowa sees this work as a marketing expense and does not charge for the service. It’s a wise investment, Hodges-Fulton says. Many times, after house hunters gain the confidence to buy a home because of Bowa’s input, they will hire Bowa to do the rest of the job.
For nonprofessionals who want to attempt to virtually rebuild or decorate their homes, Chief Architect offers software starting at $59. Of course, there are apps for that, too. Check out Home Design 3D for iPad and iPhone, or BuildApp for Android.