27 show home tricks and how to spot them

See past the surface with these common show home tactics

<p>Alexander Imagery / Shutterstock</p>

Alexander Imagery / Shutterstock

Every show home is perfectly set up to make you fall in love with a property, and every buyer knows that they are seeing an idealised version of what they can expect if they invest in an off-plan house.

But even the savviest viewer won't know some of these tricks of the trade that are designed to sway your opinion and secure your investment. Read on and prepare to have your eyes opened...

Selling the fairytale

<p>PinkyWinky / Shutterstock</p>

PinkyWinky / Shutterstock

When developers plan a show home, they’re creating a lifestyle and a story that goes with it. Their aim is to encourage you to buy into the idea of the life you could have here, not just the bricks and mortar. It’s important to remember that you can’t actually buy a lifestyle and nor should you want to.

Your home will develop a life of its own thanks to you and the things you do there, so avoid getting emotionally attached to a fantasy when looking around.

Pitch-perfect props

<p>Pixel Shot/Shutterstock</p>

Pixel Shot/Shutterstock

Some show homes create little sets so you can imagine yourself living an idealised version of your life in this perfect home. From coffee table books on the living room table to bowls of lemons or a half-sliced loaf of fresh bread in the kitchen, these items have been carefully considered and placed for maximum effect.

Try and see past them to the space they're in. Is the kitchen layout going to work for your family? Is there enough space? Does the garden get enough light/shade? This is more important than finishing touches.

Subtle symmetry

<p>Mark Waugh / Alamy Stock Photo</p>

Mark Waugh / Alamy Stock Photo

Small rooms will feel larger if there’s a sense of visual order, so you’ll often see bedrooms laid out symmetrically to fool your brain into thinking the room is more spacious than it actually is.

Regularly spaced symmetrical objects also give us humans a sense of calm – it’s no coincidence that what we consider to be the most beautiful faces are often perfectly even.

Is it hot in here?

<p>SpeedKingz / Shutterstock</p>

SpeedKingz / Shutterstock

On stepping into a show home, you may be first struck by how cosy and warm it is, all part of the plan for you to feel welcome. But as you take the tour it may become unbearably hot – and for good reason.

Prospective sellers turn the heating up to maximum to discourage viewers from taking too long to look at the house. Presumably, they don’t want to buyers to examine the rooms too closely…

There’s something missing

<p>Breadmaker / Shutterstock</p>

Breadmaker / Shutterstock

Walking around the perfectly set-out living room you’ll likely imagine yourself relaxing with loved ones, but is there something missing?

You may not have noticed, but show homes are deliberately designed without TV screens, which could ruin the fantasy and dominate a room. Make sure to allocate space for your tech when you're weighing up options.

Smoke and mirrors

<p>Africa Studio / Shutterstock</p>

Africa Studio / Shutterstock

They say that magic is all done with mirrors, and we agree. Designers use large mirrors, specifically chosen paint colours, chrome fittings and other light-reflecting tricks to make homes seem lighter, brighter and bigger than they really are. Study the floor plan and take a measuring tape to get a true sense of room size.

Don't fall for the finish

<p>Serghei Starus / Shutterstock</p>

Serghei Starus / Shutterstock

Show homes are finished with the finest products, which don’t come as standard. Think of the highest quality light-reflecting paints, stylish radiators (if visible at all), gold light switches, designer lampshades and expensive quartz tabletops.

Developers can afford to do this for one home but you should always ask for a total sum to deliver a like-for-like property and then do your research, you may find it cheaper to finish a basic model home yourself.

Turn off the bright lights

<p>PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek / Shutterstock</p>

PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek / Shutterstock

Speaking of lighting, it can do wonders, and show home builders know exactly how to use it to their advantage. Expect bigger-than-usual windows and don’t be surprised to find the lights on in all rooms, along alcoves and in every corner.

If you’re visiting during the day, ask for the electric lights to be switched off to get a better idea of the natural brightness of the house.

Door-free living?

<p>BM_27 / Shutterstock</p>

BM_27 / Shutterstock

Look around and you’ll notice that many internal doors are missing. Again, this is to give the impression of space and open-planning with smooth, hingeless doorways opening up the house and connecting the rooms. But how practical would that be for your family?

A free-flowing space may look good when you're at the show home, but privacy might be important for your way of living. Make sure you consider how you'd separate areas in the house and factor in the cost to your budget.

Clever flooring

<p>BM_27 / Shutterstock</p>

BM_27 / Shutterstock

You might not notice initially, but look down and more likely than not, the same carpet or flooring has been used throughout the house, regardless of the practicality. Usually light-coloured, this is another trick to make the home look bigger.

Agents may ask you to remove your shoes for the viewing: this subconsciously makes you feel more at home and allows you to feel the thickness of the carpet, which of course, does not come as standard.

Child-sized furniture

<p>Ground Picture / Shutterstock</p>

Ground Picture / Shutterstock

Speaking of size, take a good look at the furniture too. Show homes often use children’s furniture or custom-made half-size beds, sofas and other pieces to create the impression of more space.

Measure your larger items of furniture and take the figures with you when you view. Will your corner sofa fit comfortably into the living room? If not, it's another factor to consider.

Essential items missing

<p>Peshkova / Shutterstock</p>

Peshkova / Shutterstock

Did you spot that there’s no fridge in the kitchen? No cupboards in the bedroom? That’s another tactic. Show homes cleverly give the impression that you could live in them immediately, when in fact many things that families need, like those all-important white goods, are missing.

And when you add them in, suddenly the place doesn’t feel quite so roomy...

Dressed for success

<p>Artazum / Shutterstock</p>

Artazum / Shutterstock

The furniture that is present will be exquisitely dressed. Take note of gold-trimmed cutlery laid out in the dining room, crystal glasses, designer mirrors, elegant standing lamps and beautifully framed artwork on the wall.

This all adds to the story but is not really an accurate reflection of how your home will look. Take notice (and photos) of things you like in the house and add these to your budget – there's no reason why you can't be inspired by the professionals.

Super-plush soft furnishings

<p>murattellioglu / Shutterstock</p>

murattellioglu / Shutterstock

You will also notice high thread count sheets on the beds, quality throws and cushions, often in rich tones and textures of crushed velvet and boucle, that give a feeling of opulence and luxury. These build the impression of this home as a place of comfort and easy living.

Try and focus instead on things like how many windows there are, if there's space for your furniture and how you might lay it out with the things you have. You can add your own luxury touches later.

Designer influence

<p>BongkarnGraphic / Shutterstock</p>

BongkarnGraphic / Shutterstock

In fact, every detail you see will have been scrutinised by an expert. Art will have been carefully selected to fit into the story the show home is telling, and they will be attractively grouped to create a stylish focal point.

Every accessory right down to the teaspoon will have been considered for its ability to sell the lifestyle that comes with the home. Remember that your own furnishings will be in the space, but there's no harm in taking inspiration from the stylists.

Quirky statement pieces

<p>vipman / Shutterstock</p>

vipman / Shutterstock

Homely touches are also employed to make the home feel lived in. Perhaps an antique Grandfather clock will sit in the hall or a reclaimed mirror will sit above an antique table, all to make you believe that this is the perfect family home.

Try to see these as inspiration for your own decorating skills as they won't be there if you move in. Although this may also be a good thing if the show home decor isn't to your taste.

But definitely no clutter

<p>Yuri-U / Shutterstock</p>

Yuri-U / Shutterstock

It seems a little contradictory, but though there is art on the walls, the odd antique or designer piece and perhaps some minimal bathroom accessories, clutter is banned from the show home. TV remotes don’t exist in this show world, phone chargers don’t stick out of the walls and even bookcases are non-existent.

This obviously gives the impression of space and serenity but it’s not realistic, so don’t get sucked in.

High ceilings

<p>Zastolskiy Victor / Shutterstock</p>

Zastolskiy Victor / Shutterstock

It’s not just in the finish and decoration that show homes can differ from what you actually buy. Structural differences occur too.

Look out for particularly high ceilings and ask if these are standard throughout the properties, as the space above your head can make a huge difference to the feel of the place.

Multipurpose rooms

<p>Laci_10 / Shutterstock</p>

Laci_10 / Shutterstock

In order to allow visitors to imagine their future life in the property, show homes often create the idea of multipurpose rooms. This open-plan idea is appealing – in theory – as you can imagine your daily life flowing through the house. But think realistically about how the rooms will be used.

If you have children, work from home or need room for hobbies, for example, then you might need to separate the space. Have an idea of how you intend to use the space rather than be led by the decor.

Professionally cleaned

<p>2M media / Shutterstock</p>

2M media / Shutterstock

On top of every room you'll see being styled, they are also in top-notch conditioning. Those gleaming worktops and state-of-the-art sinks may look impressive at first glance but will they be difficult to maintain? Remember, they have never been used and have been professionally cleaned.

Think about how the materials might weather the rough-and-tumble of daily life – wood warps, tiles chip and if you've ever tried to get a glass worktop streak-free, you'll know what we mean.

Don't fall in love with the landscaping

<p>Artazum / Shutterstock</p>

Artazum / Shutterstock

The styling doesn't stop once you're outside. If you step out into your dream garden, complete with neatly manicured lawn and perfect hedges, be a little wary. The show garden will have been professionally landscaped to designer standards, and when it comes to the lawn, you'll be tasked with manicuring it.

As well as the upkeep, consider how much outdoor space you're getting and which way the garden faces to work out how much sunshine you can expect to enjoy.

Don't fence me in

<p>James McDowall / Shutterstock</p>

James McDowall / Shutterstock

Not sure where the garden ends and next door begins? That’s another trick in the book. By not fencing off the grounds, the seller can give the impression of an endless garden, which is far more impressive than a regular row of carefully fenced boundaries that you can expect when you move in.

Be clear about the size of the garden you’re expecting and check who’s responsible for boundary fences and partitions too.

Get the blueprints

<p>BalanceFormCreative / Shutterstock</p>

BalanceFormCreative / Shutterstock

Regardless of the show home tactics, you can easily avoid getting caught out on what you're actually buying. We have some advice to help you.

To make sure you know exactly what to expect, ask for the blueprints of the home you’re potentially buying, as well as floor plans and accurate measurements. If you can, take these with you and don’t be afraid to whip out the tape measure.

A non-show home

<p>sirtravelalot / Shutterstock</p>

sirtravelalot / Shutterstock

If you've fallen in love with almost everything you've seen but know you're at risk of falling for the tricks of the trade, there’s no harm in asking to see either an empty property or even a lived-in home in the same development. This will give you an idea of how the property would actually stand up to normal life.

Failing this, a build that’s nearing completion may give you a better impression of size and proportions.

Top of the plots

<p>Drone Motion Stock / Shutterstock</p>

Drone Motion Stock / Shutterstock

Remember that the show home will have been built in the prime location, so ask to see aerial shots of the area and make sure you know the pros and cons of different sections.

Look at how close you are to roads and thoroughfares, what the view will be like (especially if you’ve fallen in love with the show home’s particular outlook), and which way the garden faces.

A snagging list

<p>Pormezz / Shutterstock</p>

Pormezz / Shutterstock

Despite new homes being inspected multiple times and subject to regulation and housebuilder checks, things can still go wrong. Defects found after a home is completed are called 'snags' and they can range from chipped tiles, cracks in a wall or poor finishing on pipes and outlets. According to House Scan, it's estimated that just 2% of new builds don’t have any snags.

Most housebuilding companies give you a time frame to report snags to be rectified but always check the fine print. You may want to pay for something called a 'snagging survey' so that nothing is missed. As for who pays to fix the snags, you may be able to negotiate on the details of your 'purchase contract' so the builder pays for defects, but that is not always the case.

Insuring your home

<p>Ground Picture / Shutterstock</p>

Ground Picture / Shutterstock

While some new build homes come with up to a 10-year warranty, this typically only covers issues caused by the builder. For any other damage that may befall your home, you will need to explore home insurance options.

In the UK, if you are buying a new home with a mortgage, you must have this in place before you can exchange contracts, but check the rulessna for where you live so you can protect your home the correct way.