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Viewing a show home

Discover how to see through clever design and dressing to the real property underneath, plus whether buying the show home itself is a good idea.

In this article
What is a show home? Viewing show homes: what research should I do first? What should I look for when I visit a show home?
Show homes: tricks to watch out for Should I buy a show home?

What is a show home?

A show home is an example property on a new-build development, designed to showcase what the properties that haven't yet been built will look like.

Show homes will often double up as marketing suites, from where other homes on the development will be sold.

There's a lot of psychology involved in show homes, with developers using clever design tricks to present properties in the best possible light - literally.

In this guide, we explain what to pay attention to and what to ignore when viewing a new-build show home, so you can work out with a clear head whether it's really right for you.

Viewing show homes: what research should I do first?

If you're considering buying a property off-plan, the show home can play a key role in helping you visualise what you'll be purchasing.

Developers know this, and they'll use every trick up their sleeves to lure you in. 

With careful research and a level-headed mindset, however, it's possible to see past the high-end fittings and clever lighting, and work out whether it really is your ideal home.

The show home only gives you a snapshot of what's being planned, so the first thing to do is thoroughly research the development as a whole.

You'll need to think about the location, access and local amenities, and look into the developer's track record. Research whether the developer has built any other homes nearby, and if so whether they were built on time and to a good standard.

If possible, invite a friend or family member to visit the development with you. Somebody who isn't involved in the process might notice things you overlook, and getting a second opinion is never a bad thing.

  • Find out more: new-build homes - learn about the pros and cons of buying a brand-new home

What should I look for when I visit a show home?

Viewing a show home can be exciting: they are always decorated and kitted out with high-end furnishings and appliances and it's hard not to picture yourself living in a home that looks exactly the same. 

Try to look past the surface-level details, though, as you won't usually be buying a property that will be decorated or kitted out in the same way (unless you want to pay an awful lot extra).

Make sure you grill the salesperson on exactly what would and wouldn't be included with the home you'd be buying, and how much the optional extras cost.

It's most important to focus on the building itself: is it well-built, is the layout logical, and would your stuff fit? Can you imagine living there happily?

Also take the time to walk around the building site and try to visualise how it will look once completed. If it's still in the very early stages, check whether the site looks well-run and tidy - this will give an indication of how professionally the project is being managed.

  • Find out more: our house-viewing checklist is mainly aimed at people buying older properties but includes some handy things to check in a new-build, too.

Show homes: tricks to watch out for

When viewing a show home, keeping an eye out for optical illusions might not be top of your list - but it should be. Bear the following in mind:

  • Remember that show homes are dressed by expert interior designers who are trained in optimising space - in other words, the home might look much bigger than it actually is. 
  • Living rooms often have small furniture, bedrooms might only contain a bed and bedside table, and glass furniture, mirrors and specialist lighting might be used to create an illusion of natural light.
  • Some features in a show home might not be included in the standard specification. Boiling water taps, designer worktops and high-end lighting could all add a hefty chunk onto the buying price.
  • Show homes often have the best plot on the development, so there's a chance that the spacious landscaped garden you're shown on your viewing could actually be a turfed postage stamp on the home you end up buying.

Find out more: buying off-plan - all you need to know about buying a home before it's built

Should I buy a show home?

Developers will always sell the show home once they've finished using it for marketing purposes.

The idea of buying a show home divides opinion, but for the right price (and with the right extras thrown in), it could be a smart move. Here are the pros and cons:

Advantages of buying a show home

  • You can fully inspect the finished home before buying it
  • The development will be close to completion, so you won't have to live on a building site for too long
  • Show homes usually have upgraded fixtures and fittings that aren't included with standard homes
  • You could benefit from the best plot, complete with a landscaped garden
  • You might be able to get the furniture thrown in as part of the deal

Disadvantages of buying a show home

  • You could be overpaying for premium fixtures and fittings if they're not included, and you won't be able to personalise these
  • A show home is likely to have experienced plenty of wear and tear by the time it's sold, so will require a comprehensive snagging survey
  • Items in show homes sometimes get taken away and used in other homes on the development - so what you see on your viewing may not be what you get when you move in
  • You won't be able to benefit from on-site aftercare
  • Appliances will be used rather than new, and their warranties might have expired
  • The show home is often located next to the marketing suite car park, which developers will sometimes build a house on at the end of the project, so you could face disruption after moving in.

Find out more: buying a new-build home