There once was a time when bricks and mortar alone inspired home buyers. Today, no more.
Now, potential purchasers of new houses and apartments off the plan want to know exactly how their interiors will both look and feel before they commit.
''Customers want to see how their new home will 'flow' and how it will help them achieve their dream lifestyle,'' says the regional manager NSW of developers Stockland, Stephen Barlow. ''They want to be able to see open-plan kitchens connected to lounge and entertainment areas, complete with indoor-outdoor areas with alfresco dining and barbecue areas. Display homes are a tangible and tactile way of inspiring our customers and helping them to realise exactly what they can achieve.''
The rise and rise of the display-home concept has been one of the most marked trends of the property industry of the past decade. More than 30 display villages are in Sydney at present, with many more under construction, and about the same number of display apartments mocking up how new unit interiors will look.
According to HomeWorld, the world's largest display village, with 120 home designs from 35 Sydney builders on four sites, in Kellyville in Sydney's north-west, Gledswood Hills in the south-west, in the Hunter and at Port Macquarie, 82 per cent of new-home buyers visit a display village to find a builder or source ideas.
Apartment developers are also investing more money in creating sophisticated display units in their projects. A two-bedroom unit under construction by the Winten Property Group in its new 22-storey Belvedere building in North Sydney is to have a fit-out by Coco Republic and a styling budget of more than $75,000.
''People enjoy the experience of walking through a space that has real furniture, appliances and homewares,'' says the development manager of Winten, Will Rothwell. ''It provides a tangible experience of the apartment's design, features and dimensions.''
Some estimate that the existence of a display home can potentially double sales. Phil Haigh, the director of sales at McDonald Jones Homes, which has four houses in the just-opened display village at Stockland's Brooks Reach development at Dapto, Wollongong.
''With the introduction of new contemporary product into NSW, the number of visitors to display villages has grown considerably over the last five years,'' he says. ''Without a doubt, they contribute significantly to sales - possibly 100 per cent.''
The display homes there are designed to suit the surrounding demographic, says Tim Redway, NSW sales and marketing manager of Clarendon Homes. ''So it's relatively easy for customers to repeat or emulate their look, theme and style.''
In Waterloo, in Sydney's inner south, developer Becton is restyling its display suite at its Divercity development early this year. ''Whenever we change our display, we get strong feedback from purchasers as to how they feel about the look of the new imagery, lighting and furniture,'' says Becton chief executive Matthew Chun, who highlights the importance of keeping up with current trends.
Those new trends include creating a colour palette to avoid a cold showroom feel, says Lorena Gaxiola, an international interior designer. ''People definitely connect emotionally with colour,'' she says.
Also, people want storage and separate areas for kids, and a good layout and flow. ''The brief is for clean, contemporary lines but with a level of comfort and familiarity,'' says Anne Johnson, a property stylist with Coco Republic.
The 300-hectare site the Hermitage on Camden Valley Way in Gledswood Hills has blocks from 382 sq m to 700 sq m, priced from $225,000 to $299,000, with house and land packages starting from $470,146.
Seeing is believing
When they were looking at homes online for inspiration for what to build at the new Hermitage community in Gledswood Hills, in south-west Sydney, Nicole Waite and her partner, Kelly Fuller, both liked the look of a particular style by developer Sekisui House.
''But then we went to look at the display home, saw it in person and both fell in love with it,'' Waite says. ''I'm a visual person … and I needed to actually walk through it and feel it for myself. That closed the deal for me.''
Waite and Fuller bought land for $280,000 at the Hermitage, then paid about $300,000 for the Sekisui House design they saw on display at Kellyville. That design, Candra, starts at $164,000.
Now finalising the construction costs, they plan to start building soon and hope to move out of their rented apartment in Chipping Norton and be in their new home by Christmas.
''I think it's so important to have a display home that you can physically experience for yourself,'' Waite says. ''You instinctively know when you walk in whether it suits you and will work for your lifestyle. It gives you so much more peace of mind.''
Or try these:
Brooks Reach, Dapto, Wollongong
Land plots start at 320 sq m from $156,750, with house and land packages starting from $335,055 for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom, one-garage home. The Killara display home (pictured) from Clarendon Homes is available at Brooks Reach and has four bedrooms and four separate living zones, as well as the option of a covered alfresco area, with the house price starting at $154,900. Phone 4260 8956, Website.
Belvedere, North Sydney
Construction has reached level eight of the 22-storey, 195-unit building and the new display suite will open in March. Still remaining are 23 two-bedroom units (74 sq m to 133 sq m), from $785,000 and four three-bed (124 sq m to 152 sq m), from $1.9 million. Completion is expected in November. "Styling is now much more approachable, much more classic and streamlined," says Will Rothwell, of developer Winten. 138walker.com.au. Phone 1800 164 310.