6 reasons why you should consider CGIs for your next property project

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Today we’re going to look at some of the many ways computer generated images (CGIs) can add value to your next property deal, and in a lot of cases actually give you a multiple ££ return on your investment. 

We have made use of them across multiple projects to save time and lots of confusion at every stage of the project lifecycle, and have been able to save thousands of pounds during projects as a result of the small investment required to prepare them for each site. 

You’ll see that at least some of these benefits will apply to most projects you work on, and it doesn’t take as much effort as you might think to have them prepared.

Let’s jump right in:

  1. What are computer generated images?
  2. What are the different types of CGIs that are relevant to the property industry? 
  3. 6 Ways CGIs can add value to your next project:
    1. Generate project support with stakeholders
    2. Enhance the impact of planning applications
    3. Provide a visual reference for construction
    4. Minimise costly changes once builders are on site
    5. Help decide on and finalise interior design schemes
    6. As marketing materials for projects pre-completion
  4. What is the process to get CGIs created for your next project? 

What are computer generated images?

Computer generated imagery (CGI) is everywhere. We see it in our favourite films and video games, it seems to make up most marketing images these days, and it’s becoming increasingly common in the property world as we’re about to find out. 

The category of CGI can cover a huge different array of image types and styles, from 2D stills in print media to 3D video on the big screen. We encounter it on a daily basis whether we’re watching Finding Nemo with the kids or looking at the results of a CT scan.

The definition from Wikipedia states that “Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI) is the application of computer graphics to create or contribute to images in art, printed media, video games, films, television programs, shorts, commercials, videos, and simulators.” The interesting thing here is that it doesn’t need to stand alone. Some of the best uses of CGI can enhance existing reality rather than create something from scratch.

It is, in a nutshell, the use of a computer for the creation of any image. Simple, right?

What are the different types of CGIs that are relevant to the property industry? 

With an understanding that CGI is basically any visual created with a computer, we can start to look at the options that are available to us as property investors.

Starting off with the most common, we’ll see floor plans on a daily basis from estate agents and architects, allowing us to get a sense of a space without even walking through the door.

Something else we’ll encounter regularly are product visualisations. On our latest project we’re able to make decisions on things like spiral staircases and roof lights from CGI examples of the products we’re picking.

CGI showing the detail of a project roof window before we placed the order

In recent years, 2D floorplans have started to get replaced with 3D versions. Both static and animated 3D tours are now commonplace on high end developments, but with Covid-19 changing the way we look at daily interactions, it’s likely that virtual viewings reliant on CGI will become popular at all levels of the market.

2D and 3D renders are also becoming a huge part of an investor’s arsenal, giving us a chance to visualise projects (in part or in whole) before we commit to any major decisions.

And finally, photorealistic computer generated images (our favourite type of CGI) can literally fool the viewer into thinking they’re looking at a finished product when it might only be a twinkle in your eye (we’ve got some great examples to share later in the post).

3D floor plans can help planning departments, developers and builders get a better much better understanding of a project than a simple 2d plan

6 Ways CGIs can add value to your next project:

We’ve knocked our heads together and thought about how a small investment in quality CGI has helped us with our own projects, and how it could also help you in the future.

Here are the 6 best reasons we came up with that have added tangible value to various projects over the years.

Generate project support with stakeholders

The first project phase that CGIs can add real value to is the planning process, when we’re trying to present our case for the change to a building (either physical change, change of use, or both) in the most compelling way possible.

On larger or more complex projects, things like detailed elevations may be a requirement from the council planning department in order to thoroughly assess your proposal, but even on simpler projects complications can crop up before planners are engaged.

Applications like a change of use from residential to an HMO, or a physical change that strays from the traditional construction methods or materials in the local area can cause a lot of concern with neighbours, and with councillors looking to support those local residents.

Exterior renders of the street scene are a great example of how CGI can help with this, showing concerned stakeholders how your proposed project will sit alongside existing buildings and enhance the character of the area rather than detract from it.

An example of an exterior render from EmpireRender.com

Getting buy-in and support early on from these groups can save you a lot of undue stress when it comes to the planning process.

Enhance the impact of planning applications

Following on closely from early engagement with the local community, a planning application will come closely after.

The scale of your project will dictate how much information is required by your council’s planning department to make a decision, but by providing a higher level of detail with your application than the minimum that is requested, we can demonstrate that our ideas are actually well thought out and will have a positive impact on an area.

We’ve seen CGI not just alleviate concerns from councillors and neighbours, but actually help positive decisions be granted where a more basic drawing pack would leave a lot of unanswered questions. Unanswered questions usually means at least a number of conditions that need to be discharged with a follow up application, but in a lot of cases can lead to a negative decision.

Whether it’s ensuring a project is approved in the quickest timeframe, achieving a ‘clean’ decision notice without conditions, or actually getting approval on a riskier scheme, the time saved and value added are worth far more than the up front investment in renders, plans and images.

Provide a visual reference for construction

Once we get on site with our builders we want to minimise delays as much as possible.

Confusion or a lack of clarity is one of the biggest delays that can arise on site when builders struggle to interpret the developer or architect’s vision, plans don’t match up with reality, or assumptions are made which prove to be wrong and need to be rectified before further progress can be made.

Whatever the potential cause of confusion, the best way to prevent it is by communicating as clearly as possible with your builders.

And with a picture able to speak 1,000 words, it’s a no-brainer to rely on visuals wherever possible to convey exactly what you want to achieve to the people who are there to create it for you.

It could be as simple as providing detailed plans, or you can take it to the next level with 3D renders to bring those plans to life. We’ve even been using photorealistic mock-ups of our finished projects to show finishing contractors like kitchen fitters and lighting designers exactly what we want to achieve where words alone could leave too much open to interpretation.

Minimise costly changes once builders are on site

Aside from delays, one of the other significant risks to your project is a budget creeping as you continue to make changes to the plans on the fly.

Victoria and I are probably more guilty of this than most, changing layouts at the last minute, or deciding during site visits that ‘actually the bed would look better on that wall’, resulting in costly changes to wiring and plumbing.

A large part of the reason for these last minute changes is that we see drawings as a guide rather than set in stone, and believe that until we’re physically in the space it’s impossible to know where the best position for the bathroom will be, or where we want the light switches.

This all changed when we invested in photorealistic interior renders for our projects. Not only did we have to make decisions about every little detail and think through exactly how our customer would live in the home we were creating before the project even started, it also allowed us to see those decisions in such detail that we actually believed it was real.

The open plan living space on a recent project, brought to life before we even started on site

This process takes away all of the doubt about where the best place for the staircase is, or if the bathroom really is big enough for a shower and a bath, and we can make any final changes digitally where it’s much cheaper to do so than in the physical world.

Help decide on and finalise interior design schemes

Once the decisions are finalised for your contractors, it’s not long before you also need to be thinking about the interior design scheme and finishes to ensure the investment we make into the fabric of the building is reflected in those all important details at the end of the project.

In fact a lot of the interior design decisions that have the biggest impact on your end product need to be made whilst the construction details are being finalised – e.g. making sure the switch for the bedside light is at just the right distance from the bed to reach comfortably, or that the recessed shelving in your lounge is the right height for the artwork you want to display.

But even the decisions that can be made a little later, like colour schemes and kitchen layouts, can be made with much more confidence if you can see a virtual version before splashing the cash.

A virtual staging service uses digital furniture, wall finishes, and even finishing touches such as plants and artwork, so the room can look finished before any structural work has even started, and different options can be considered in-situ rather than trying to decide based solely on mood boards. 

As marketing materials for projects pre-completion

The final benefit we’ve seen from investing in CGI is in their use as marketing materials for our projects both before and after the development is complete.

Because options like 3D video and 720-degree virtual reality can look life-like, prospective customers, whether they’re tenants, buyers or short stay guests, can view properties digitally which can drastically bring forward a marketing launch.

No longer does off-plan marketing depend on our customer’s imagination when looking at 2D floor plans and some basic material samples – they can now get a true sense of the space and design of your project long before it’s complete, from CGI that many people can’t now tell apart from the real thing.

An interior render allows prospective future tenants to visualise the space we’re creating long before the work is complete

Even when the project is complete and we have the option to use real photography, if the lighting or photographer isn’t up to scratch, it can ruin your marketing material. This can be totally overcome when using CGI to display your finished product in the best possible light. 

In a lot of cases when marketing our projects, the cost of staging furniture can be prohibitive as well, so again CGI can come to the rescue with another valuable use case for virtual staging, transforming pictures of your finished (but sparse) project into a virtual show home with addition of CGI furniture and accessories.

Transforming an empty room into a virtual show home with CGI staging

The relatively small investment to prepare a CGI model is far outweighed by the savings. With the amount of detail that goes into the images, potential buyers can see exactly how the property will look as a finished product. Because of this detail and the flexibility of the CGI services, properties can be sold at a higher value and be marketed to a wider client base. 

If the use of CGI on your next project creates more competition amongst buyers or helps you secure a tenant before you’ve finished the work, then that value will no doubt justify the investment in your images.

What’s the process to get CGIs created for your next project?

We’ve been using CGIs on projects for a couple of years now, and working with Empire Render has always been a great experience. They have designed both commercial and residential space for us, and the value from their work has always repaid the investment many times over.

Last year they helped to create CGI’s on a commercial space we were renovating. Potential tenants were struggling to see past the existing use (a dated nail salon) and, once we started the work, the rubble and dust. As soon as we uploaded the CGI’s to our advert we were inundated with enquiries from people who wanted to view the space.

Following the success of that project, we asked if they could help once again on our most recent purchase ‘IPI Brewery’ and boy did they deliver!

To start with we concentrated on the commercial space again, as we saw the benefit from our previous project and knew the images would help us begin marketing early and help prospective businesses visualise what the space could become.

We then asked for them to help with one of the residential apartments. It’s a dark and small space, and I was struggling to visualise how it would work, so I sent Empire Render a couple of Pinterest images of my vision and low and behold they sent me back this masterpiece. 

It allows me to see exactly how the space flows and what it will feel like, and also how the different design elements work together – extremely helpful when working with an unusual space.

The team at Empire Render have been a pleasure to work with, and have become an integral part of our design team.

We’ve partnered with them to offer you an exclusive discount on your future CGI projects, across their whole range of services – 3D images for interior and exterior renderings, aerial rendering, 3D floor plans, virtual staging, 720-degree virtual reality (allowing you to present every detail of your development to prospective customers), and 3D videos that can walk you through the property (a very popular way to conduct viewings especially during the Covid-19 pandemic). 

Prices start from only £180 per image, and will quickly become one of your standard tools in marketing future projects.

Quote INSIDEPROPERTY2020 to receive 10% off all prices.

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Inside Property Investing

Inside Property Investing

Inside Property Investing is the UK's most popular property investing podcast, interviewing inspiring and successful property investors and helping you achieve your own property goals.