Building Information Modeling (BIM) software is in use and growing in the commercial and multifamily industries, but the single-family building industry has been slower to adopt it. This is largely because unlike commercial and multifamily projects, single-family home builders often are constructing myriad homes with a wide range of customization options.

Revit, the current leading BIM software, does not offer options management, but proprietary and third-party add-ons can be installed with the program. These tools allow builders and developers to change out building features and associated data on the fly, and provide an opportunity for home buyers to see their home before it’s built, or take a virtual tour.

Clark Ellis, founder and CEO of Continuum Advisory Group, and Hans Bentzon of ForeFront A+E are currently working to help builders integrate BIM and options management into their business practices. Ellis believes that BIM and virtual reality tours could one day eliminate the need for model homes. Doing so, he believes, could release 80% of the capital used to build model homes.

“It’s a challenge, but I’m a big believer that this is coming,” says Ellis. “Everything is moving toward experiential learning and experiential entertainment. … The hardware is getting there, and the software is getting there, so it’s only a matter of time.”

For those who don’t want to do away with model homes entirely, Bentzon notes that builders with access to virtual reality tours would still be able to reduce the number of model homes they build in a given community. “For the big boys, this is a game-changer,” he says. “They’re cutting 30, 45 days off their schedule.”