You Can Now Build a Multi-Million Dollar Home via Your iPadBy
There are apps for real estate sales, apps for paint color, apps for arranging furniture, and apps for making the best use of natural light. But until now, there was no app for that most fundamental process of homesteading: creating a new one from scratch. In the coming weeks Al Hamra Real Estate Development will unveil its all-inclusive Home Builder app.
All you need is an iPad and five million UAE Dirham ($1.36 million), to start. Swipe and spend has never been so elite.
Designed by A++ Architecture Design and Communication, Home Builder starts with property acquisition and ends with finishes and furnishings. Well, to be precise, it ends with a form sent to a sales person to calculate a price to purchase. This means less time and fewer people and permits in your way, plus a more gratifying (literal) hands-on experience in the process.
During an e-mail interview earlier this month, Paolo Colombo, a partner at A++, relayed his excitement at receiving the brief for the app. The challenge, he said, was to create something both visually stimulating and user friendly. “There were so many ways to approach a project like this and so many possibilities to consider.”
One kitchen, or two? Three-car garage, or four? Five bathrooms or 13? These are the kinds of questions you might ask yourself when shopping. Especially online.
Who Uses It
Currently the app’s usage is limited to 150 luxury homes in construction on Falcon Island, a natural (!) island in the lagoon at Al Hamra Village. The developer’s flagship is located about 30 miles from Dubai International Airport in Ras Al Khaimah, the northernmost of the United Arab Emirates.
Al Hamra Village includes 3,500 homes; seven hotels (including a Waldorf Astoria and Banyan Tree); a golf course, a mall (naturally), and about a mile of Persian Gulf beachfront. It sounds like a vacation resort and is often marketed as such, but most homeowners use it as a primary residence, with Falcon Island being its most sought-after location within.
The solar-powered, sustainable site (they’re seeking LEED Platinum certification), is planned to be complete at the end of 2016. The first offering of 25 homes already sold swiftly. The following 15 are up next, with 11 already in contract. Home Builder will be made available to prospective owners and investors (limit: two each) and given its success, the developer is considering similar apps for other properties. To appeal to international buyers the app is exclusively in English.
Designing Made Easy
"There is nothing quite like designing your own home,” said Barry Ebrahimy, Head of Commercial, Al Hamra Real Estate Development during a recent conversation. “But overseeing construction can be stressful and time consuming.” Homebuilder, he said, was “conceived as a way of appealing to those looking for a bespoke property.”
You design, given parameters that are architecturally sound (A++ is also the lead architect for the site). They make it happen. There’s as much customization as you wish to pay for after the fact.
Bloomberg Pursuits was given a sneak peek.
How it Works
Users begin by tapping the falcon crest logo, which is a familiar emblem in the UAE. The falcon represents the history of hunting in the desert, and the continuing appreciation by the Emirati of falconry skills, now employed only for sport.
The landing page immediately offers the first choice: style of home. It’s so straightforward it actually takes a moment to get oriented. Don’t overthink. Tap a home image.
The lots on Falcon Island are populated, allowing the choice of one of the 12 styles from basic (Villa A1; 4,185-square feet, five-bedroom) to decidedly not (Villa E3; 17,248-square feet eight-bedroom, second dining room, second kitchen, second foyer, driver room, spa). They are all two story, and your selection will lead you to corresponding available locations.
Once you’ve selected your style, you arrive at “Configure” which moves you from overhead map to 3D rendering of the home. You can view from any side, overhead, and from what appears to be the height of a swimmer out in the lagoon. You can zoom, but you can’t see in the windows.
Each villa has a choice of two exteriors, specific to lot. Roofing and colors are not customizable. “Options” include landscaping (a variety of Ras Al Khaimah climate-appropriate desert flora), pool (to have or not; up to four shapes), and extra room (to add or not; the former can also create a second floor patio). It’s quite satisfying to drop, say, a pool into your cart, while regarding the wispy clouds overhead and the soothing blue Persian Gulf in the background.
Inside it’s necessary to hold the iPad up, tilting to navigate, and make amendments. It’s a near-virtual viewing experience and a really cool one at that. Turn left, you swivel around the room; lay the iPad flat on your desk, you’ll only see the floor. It engages you in a way mere blueprints can't and had us thinking about next-level home tours via upcoming tech like Oculus Rift. (You heard it here, first.)
You can make changes there, too, but unfortunately only in pre-set plug-and-play packages (more molding or less, parquet floors or not). For total customization you need to meet with architects and designers, including Luxury Living Group, a new Al Hamra partner who can fill your home with furniture from the likes of Fendi Casa and Kenzo Maison. Just click on the “Signature” option.
Sticking with the ultimate “DIY” approach, meanwhile, involves some faith in developer vision—and imagination. This app is not as high efficiency as the community itself aims to be.
In the current version there is no view to the kitchen (either of them) or the maid’s room (ditto) or, really, any room other than a single bedroom and a living room. And though you can view a static floor plan you cannot travel from room to room.
So if you’re expecting an avatar who can count the steps from bedside table to bathroom sink, or tear down one wall with a tap and paper another, don’t—it's in the nitty gritty where the fun of few-click million dollar home shopping stutters. Exciting, yes, but it’s not Call of Duty: Interior Design Edition.
At the end of your experience you can check your cart and view “My Shopping List” to see where you stand (did you add that package with the sound system?) before your “Submit to Quotation”. No risk of regret from S.U.I. (shopping under the influence) here, because the final step involves providing your contact information and hearing from a consultant with price details, including materials cost and technologies selected. And, of course, booking formalities.
In our dream of dream home builders, a more successful 2.0 version would include less plug-and-play packages and more customization. But if you’re looking to park that bonus in an exclusive dream home in the northern emirates right now, it’s just a tap tap away.