There is something soulless about an empty home – one that’s poorly photographed and pitted against more aesthetically pleasing examples. Even the most well positioned and proportioned properties can be left languishing if they don’t capture the imagination. After all, not every buyer or tenant will be able to envisage a homely environment in their mind’s eye.
We don’t need to tell you that the market is tumultuous and even in the calmest of waters, no agent will want a forlorn property on its books. You’ll also know that deciding to view or offer on a property is an emotional affair with plenty of snap judgements – often led by the heart and not the head – and decisions frequently influenced by visuals alone.
First impressions do count
It may be one of the oldest clichés but it has some truth. A study, conducted by OnePoll for Matterport found that, on average, homebuyers spend 20 hours looking at 16 homes online before scheduling a visit. Combine this with the speed at which buyers make a decision to offer on a property during a viewing (anywhere between five and 30 minutes, according to research), and that immediate impression – whether online or in person – really matters. With this in mind, is it time to seriously consider the benefits of home staging?
The lifestyle pitch
Today’s property marketing is heavily infused by a lifestyle change. Tim Harling at Roomservice by CORT says rooms need to reflect a new way of living for those who are re-evaluating: “People want to see something that matches the lifestyle they would like to have. An empty property does not convey a lifestyle but a dressed one does. And if you can make that emotional connection, then the mover will place a higher value on it.”
People want to see something that matches the lifestyle they would like to have. An empty property does not convey a lifestyle – but a dressed one does. Tim Harling, Roomservice by CORT.
The home office has moved right up the ‘must have’ rankings but movers often need an explicit depiction to process the benefit – a room described as a home office yet devoid of a desk, chair and filing cabinet can often miss the mark. “If the property has any ‘extra’ rooms like a home office, then we’d have the proper furniture in place so people can identify the purpose of the room,” adds Tim.
Let’s go outside
Why stop with the interior? With property searches informing us that outside space is high on the priority list – from green gardens and grand grounds to bijou balconies and compact courtyards – staging the outside could be a real deal clincher. It is possible to rent garden furniture and accessories for companies including Rio Lounge and Rosetone, so there’s nothing stopping agents from creating temporary alfresco areas and outdoor living rooms to tempt tenants and buyers – useful if you’re faced with untapped potential or an awkward property.
Sell and let faster – and for more money
In the Home Staging Association’s Home Staging Report 2019, 94 per cent of agents agreed that staging increases the number of viewings, with 86 per cent saying that a staged home will sell up to three times faster than a non-staged example. In addition, the report found 94 per cent of the agents and 100 per cent of developers confirmed that home staging increased the number of viewings for a property.
It’s a notion that Tim agrees with: “Our experience shows, time and time again, that professionally staging a property helps it sell faster and the same goes for lettings. We have also found that it takes half the length of time to sell or let a property if it is furnished versus empty, and in the case of rentals, staging can reduce void periods.”
There’s also evidence to suggest a furnished property will command a higher rent. Marielle Papadopoullos, Lettings Manager in Knight Frank’s Marylebone office and long-term client of Roomservice, comments, “Furnished properties generally do achieve a rental premium as they are incredibly convenient for tenants to move straight into, especially those who are moving from overseas. We find that staged lets can go under offer more quickly than unfurnished, as seeing photographs of the dressed property enables people to get a better sense of the space and visualise how they would live there.”
COMING UP WITH THE WHITE GOODS
There is a grey area when it comes to white goods in rental properties. It’s not entirely clear if they constitute a furnished or even part-furnished package but tenants increasingly expect kitchen appliances to be provided when they move in.
AO Business is the B2B division of online electricals retailer AO.com. It has working relationships with many letting agents and property managers, who get in touch on behalf of landlords who are on their fully managed service. From its named delivery slots, which make the job of scheduling with tenants and landlords much easier for the property manager, to removing and recycling old appliances, the AO Business service aligns itself well with the lettings cycle.
As well as meeting the increasingly high expectations of tenants, Anthony Sant at AO Business says white goods also plays a big part in helping buy-to-lets achieve minimum energy standards.
“As key features in the home, white goods and other electricals play a large role in the overall EPC rating of a property and AO Business have a wide selection of energy efficient models to choose from,” says Anthony. Every appliance is clearly marked with an energy performance rating on the AO Business website so letting agents can make an educated choice about which appliance is suitable for a rental property. And if in any doubt, their account manager is always on hand to advise.”
Landlords and property managers acting on their behalf have a duty to ensure minimum electrical safety standards are met, and that means all appliances left for tenants must have passed the relevant safety checks. New regulations came into force in June 2020 requiring all landlords of new tenancies starting from 1 July 2020 to have electrical installations inspected and tested by a qualified person, at least every five years. The new regulations will also apply to existing tenancies from 1 April 2021 Landlords are also advised to provide a copy of their electrical safety report to tenants.
For agents who think shipping in a shed load of furniture is a huge effort, virtual staging is an option – a service that has really taken off in our COVID-19 times. Companies including HD Marketing and Sort, Style & Stage can digitally add furniture and soft furnishings to any empty room. “Our digital dressing service is proving popular as it’s quick and cost effective,” says HD Marketing’s Hannah Darby.
“The uptake is incredibly high among house builders, developers and letting agents who have found the furniture supply chain slow or who have run into property access issues. We can take a brief from agents in terms of colour, theme and style, which is ideal for those who want to target a certain demographic.”
The uptake of digital dressing is incredibly high among house builders, developers and letting agents who have found the furniture supply chain slow or have property access issues. Hannah Darby, HD Marketing.
REPAIR, REPLACE, REPEAT
There can’t be a property manager on the planet that hasn’t lost hours of desk time to clunking washing machines and freezers that won’t stay frozen. If this is you, there is a specialist service designed to cut this out – Product Care ‘Repair or Replace’. The service sorts out the time-consuming task of white goods maintenance on behalf of property managers. “We are asked to attend washing machines, washer dryers, ovens and hobs the most – often out of warranty,” says Product Care’s Matt Maddock. “By this stage of their life, it’s likely the appliance has been heavily used by multiple tenants, which leads to a high volume of breakdowns.” Repair or Replace can reduce appliance admin time by up to 75 per cent, with a goal of trying to achieve a successful resolution during the first visit. In addition, and depending on the letting agent’s terms of business with their landlords, the agent may choose to add a works ‘management rate’ to the final bill, which can help the letting agent generate a revenue stream.
There’s also telephone support for the tenant, an on-site repair service if economical or a replacement appliance, if required. “To make a property manager’s life simpler, we have a number of API integrations in place with partners, including Fixflo, Propco and Teclet, making our easy-to-use software even more straightforward. This pulls information from each other’s platforms and reduces the time taken to raise a works order and instruct repairs,” concludes Matt.