'To stage or not to stage', that is the question.
We're back to sellers' market and plenty of buyers now have serious purchasing power in these boom times. To maximise opportunities for both sellers and buyers, more and more Irish homeowners are embracing this all-American phenomenon of staging a property for sale. Also, we live in the Internet age and it is estimated that nine out of ten buyers begin their search for properties online. This means that the first impression counts twice. Buyers will not arrange to view a property that looks terrible online. So to get viewings the property must attract attention, on- and offline.
It's true that home staging is still in its infancy in Ireland and it's reserved to the high end of the market, million-plus homes that is. But mid-price properties can also be transformed into luxurious abodes on a budget. And here's why.
A recent survey by The Home Staging Association UK & Ireland has found that 94% of estate agents and 100% per cent of developers/homeowners report that home staging increased the number of viewings for a property. 100% of all respondents think that home staging makes it easier for a viewer to visualise the property as their future home. 75% of estate agents stated viewers spend more time at a staged home, as opposed to an unstaged property. Moreover, 83% of property developers stated home staging increased the offer value by 1-10%, with 33% reporting an above 10% rise in offer value.
What is the purpose of home staging, ie styling a property for sale?
Styling an empty – or occupied – property in the most appealing way is to essentially design the best version of that particular home, one that can ignite a buyer's imagination. A mix of marketing and interior design, if you will.
Why would I go through the trouble of staging your house?
Some buyers like to find a blank canvas, one that they can build on in their imagination, but most buyers will expect to find something that inspires them to visualise themselves living in the space. What home staging does essentially is reveal the true potential of a house.
Is this similar to designing a showhouse?
In some ways, yes, but showhouses tend to be generic-looking and very expensive. When you stage your own home for sale, or have it staged by a professional, you are best placed to create a design that takes into consideration the property's character, size, location and potential buyers. What home staging does is find the house's USP (Unique Selling Point) and create a bespoke look, something that makes your home one-of-a-kind, and therefore more appealing to buyers.
So what does home staging entail really?
Home staging is mostly about creating character and atmosphere. It's not just kitting out rooms with interesting end tables, elegant headboards and scented candles. It's about the small details that make a house a home and give the property its je ne sais quoi.
How many times have you walked into a property for sale or rent and thought about re-arranging the furniture, changing the cushions and getting rid of the horrid curtains?
The level of detail in home staging is all about psychological cues. The more the buyer is impressed by what they see, the more they can see the potential of the place. A considered design makes use of all the parts and accessories of a home in order to make the property more inviting as a whole. It's, for example, placing inspirational magazines next to an occasional chair by a sash window so the buyer can picture him/herself in that reading corner on a quiet Sunday afternoon.
So how do you do it yourself?
Some people leave home staging to professionals because it takes the emotions out of the way. A professional will come into your house, analyse the advantages and faults of the property objectively, and will work with you to present your home in the best light and show its full potential. If you don't want to cry every time you host a viewing, leave it to the professionals.
However, if you are comfortable doing it yourself, here are a few ideas on how to go about it.
Your home style, size and location will dictate the category of buyer that will be interested in viewing it. Styling a period property for sale and styling an ultra-modern apartment for rent are two different things.
- Firstly, do your market research, as they call it. Ask yourself who is the buyer prototype who wants your property. What is their income? What might be their lifestyle? What can you highlight in the property that appeals to your ideal buyer?
- Secondly, a home staging budget depends – you guessed it! – on your home style, size and location. How much you spend on your staging should be in direct proportion to the asking price; discuss this with the estate agent, too. An historic property will be adorned with period-appropriate accessories, suitable artwork and high-end furniture, for instance.
- Thirdly, refrain from imposing your own personality and lifestyle on the design. When you are selling your house, you are selling a house. This is no longer your home and the buyers need to feel able to picture themselves, not you, living there.
What decorating tips might work then?
Again, in keeping with the same mantra – style, size and location – try to put together a look that tells a story. A seaside house might have seascapes as artwork, blues/greys/greens are background colours, and funky accessories that give it a beach lifestyle feel.
Decorating with lots of cheap IKEA-like and similar furniture only gives the impression that you didn't put much effort into it. Also, most rentals are decked-out in IKEA... Depending on your budget, try to work with the existing furniture, rent or buy suitable furniture and furnishings that show the potential of the house. Who knows?, the buyer might want to buy the lot if you made the right choices.
Sometimes, only a serious de-cluttering and a few decor touches suffice. You can never go wrong with a clean and tidy house, all personal effects stowed away, and nice home accessories and textiles, plus fresh flowers and greenery. The caveat here is that one should not blow the budget on styling if damp needs sorting or electrics must be fixed.
Here is a list of not so obvious but most effective things that are sure to increase the potential of your sale property or your Airbnb/long-term rental...
- Give the front door a fresh lick of paint and the front garden a proper spruce-up. First impressions, remember?
- Remove excess furniture to create more space and an airy feel.
- When cleaning, pay particular attention to floors/carpets, kitchens and bathrooms; these bear the most obvious signs of wear.
- Clear away signs of your lifestyle and personality – buyers need to see themselves, not you, in this space
- Look at your house objectively and enhance its best parts.