Imagine if you could make the properties that you are currently trying to sell or let look larger, brighter, cleaner, warmer, more homely, and, above all else, persuade applicants to buy or rent them.
General DIY, depersonalise and de-clutter, a fresh lick of paint, clean the windows, hoover the carpet, plump those cushions, ensure beds are neatly made, a homeowner can do a lot to improve their property’s internal appearance to entice prospective purchasers. But home staging is beyond decorating and cleaning. It is about creating illusions.
”In more modern properties, funky geometric patterns are on trend, for larger, family properties, the look is usually more contemporary classic.” Tim Harling Roomservice by CORT
Thankfully, you do not need to be Harry Houdini, or any other illusionist, to make that happen. Skilfully placed mirrors, strategic lighting, delicious smells, these are all tricks that the professionals use to create positive feelings and make homes more appealing, as part of wider home staging; a service whereby vendors and landlords can buy, or more commonly rent furnishings, to dress their property to sell.
“A viewer will often make a decision on whether to buy a property within the first few minutes, with most buyers making that decision with their heart and not their head, illustrating that first impressions do count,” said Daniel Cohen, Sales Negotiator at Links estate agents.
He added: “Home staging, or ‘dressing’, is an excellent marketing tool designed to appeal to various potential purchasers. Having a property that is professionally dressed certainly makes our job of selling much easier!”
The planning stage
In a bid to entice prospective buyers or tenants, interior designers, or home stagers, try to create an aspirational lifestyle; somewhere that people can picture themselves living in. This requires careful thought and strategic planning.
“We have to think about the brand and product, and come up with an idea that’s going to make people buy into their product,” said Stella Savage of Accouter Design. “Interior designers are similar to marketing agencies. Marketing agencies think about selling a brand and we’ve got to do the same.”
Savage says that a good designer should maximise the client’s return on investment by decorating a room as “affordably as possible”, whilst still creating something that inspires people with “innovative clever design”.
Seeing is believing
“A good designer should maximise the client’s return on investment by decorating a room as affordably as possible to inspire buyers.” Stella Savage Accouter
It is not always possible for buyers to imagine themselves and their furniture in a new property and sometimes only physical or concrete evidence is convincing.
Research conducted last year by Floorplanner found that some 70 per cent of UK property hunters cannot imagine what their new home will look like even after seeing it in person, while 73 per cent find it hard to visualise themselves, their furniture or their belongings in a property for sale or to rent.
This can have serious implications for a pending sale, the firm said, as the same research also found that 75 per cent of people are less likely to purchase or rent a property if they cannot imagine living in it.
“Buying a property can be a very emotional experience, particularly for owner-occupiers, so creating a homely look that helps people to imagine living there can make a huge difference,” said Ed Grant, head of rental furnishings at David Phillips Furniture. “Home staging can show buyers how to make a space work.”
David Phillips Furniture recently staged two apartments in an old converted monastery in North London where some the rooms were built into the original arched roofs so the walls sloped and there were some prospective buyers.
Grant continued, “The apartments were stunning but buyers couldn’t imagine how the furniture would fit. Showing them a solution makes them think ‘actually, this could work’.”
Grant points out that home staging can also mask a property’s shortcomings.
“Properties that suffer from a shortage of natural light such as lower ground floor apartments can be brightened by mirrors, glass tables and light colours,” he added.
“It’s all about stand-out pieces like an uber-modern armchair and luxury materials, like solid wood or high gloss cabinetry.” Ben Hall Loft Interiors
Make money and save time
The way a property is presented can make a huge difference; not just to its appearance, but also to the length of time it takes to sell the property and at what price.
“Certainly, in our experience of situations where the vendor has struggled to sell a property, home staging has enabled them to sell it on average within 25 days of installation and at 98 per cent of the asking price,” said Grant.
David Phillips recently staged a large family apartment in St Johns Wood, North West London, which had been on the market for over three months. After dressing the property, the vendor received several offers and achieved over the asking price of £2.095 million.
“An owner does not have to wait for that sort of scenario to happen before they decide to dress their property,” he insisted. “Even in a strong market when properties are selling fast, home staging can boost interest and you could end up with offers well in excess of the asking price.”
Interestingly, Loft Interiors recently ran an experiment with online letting agent upad.co.uk, where the same property was advertised twice – in one listing it was staged with LOFT Interiors furniture, and in the other it was empty.
The study revealed that 25 per cent more people clicked through to the look at the dressed property’s page and 75 per cent more people enquired about the dressed property. The tenant who rented the property found it from the ‘staged’ listing.
Most properties can benefit from being staged, including new build homes that require an injection of character.
A show home is the perfect ingredient to show potential buyers what a developer and its development has to offer. It presents interested parties with an opportunity to explore the ‘dressed to impress’ property, while a sales consultant is on hand to answer any questions customers may have.
“A mostly neutral colour palette with co-ordinating complementary accents often works well, creating a fluid space.” Helen Hick Larkfleet
“A successfully decorated show home should demonstrate to visitors the potential a property has to facilitate both practical and stylish living,” said Helen Hick of Lincolnshire based housebuilder Larkfleet Homes. “You cannot appeal to everyone’s personal tastes, but a good understanding of your key market can help the interior design ‘speak’ to show home visitors.”
Larkfleet’s properties, like many new build homes, are often sold off-plan, demonstrating the effectiveness that a show home can have in persuading homebuyers that a new home is for them. But what makes the perfect show home?
Hick advised, “A mostly neutral colour palette with co-ordinating complimentary accents often works well to create a fluid space and aids the presentation of an open-plan property.
“Practical storage solutions demonstrate the versatility of a home to a variety of different buyers and polished fixtures and fittings add that ‘finishing touch’ of quality to any show home.”
Stand out from the crowd
Julia Reynolds of Crest Nicholson, an expert home stager, advises homeowners and developers to be bold by creating stand-out designs. “We often take inspiration from the latest catwalk trends,” she said. “It is crucial that show homes look ready for occupancy so that people can visualise living there. Cupboards and drawers have to be open, while pressed clothes should hang in the wardrobes and towels should be folded in the laundry room.”
The sweet smell of home
When it comes to aromas, forget coffee and fresh bread – scented candles could provide the perfect smell to sell a house.
Julia says, “Scents play a significant role in making a viewing an experience too, and we make a point of filling each room of our show homes with enchanting aromas. Gone are the days of brewing coffee and appointing fresh flowers – these are hackneyed ploys that buyers have become wise to.
“Instead, we arrange for each room to smell as good as it looks, by using candles. Music also plays in the background to create an inviting ambience. These devices all combine to create the optimum first impression and
make people say ‘wow’.”
What’s in season?
When it comes to choosing furniture, fashion trends are forever evolving. So what is currently in vogue?
Creating a boutique hotel look is the ‘Holy Grail’ for home staging specialists when it comes to styling a home and selling an aspirational lifestyle, according to Ben Hall, a Director at Loft Interiors.
He said, “It’s all about stand-out pieces like an uber-modern armchair and luxe materials, like solid wood or high gloss cabinetry.” Hall points out that there has been a real resurgence in upscale Scandinavian style furnishings.
“Think simple, wooden pieces, felt upholstery and unassuming neutrals, complemented by accents of warm colour,” he added. “Creating a cohesive look throughout a house or apartment is also a real trend: so the cool grey semi-gloss cabinetry in the kitchen may be pulled through to fitted wardrobes in the bedrooms, for example.”
“Creating a homely look that helps people to imagine living there can make a huge difference, showing buyers how to make a space work.” Ed Grant David Phillips Furniture
But as far as Tim Harling, Residential Field Sales Manager at Roomservice by CORT, is concerned, the existing look is centred on “fresh, spring tones”.
At this time of year, the trend is to use accent colours such as bright greens, yellows and blues for the accessories such as cushions and so on, as having a seasonal feel works well,” he said. “In more modern properties, funky geometric patterns are on trend, whereas for larger, family properties, the look is usually more contemporary classic.”
When dressing a property, Harling believes that the most important rooms to focus on are the reception room and the master bedroom. “To give some ‘wow factor’ in these spaces it is nice to use statement pieces, a luxurious button-back padded bedframe in the master bedroom or a sumptuous corner sofa in the living area,” he remarked.
It is generally more cost effective and hassle free to rent furniture on a short-term basis rather than purchase furniture for a property which then either needs storing, selling or moving afterwards. But whatever option the client opts for should reflect their own needs, while the price will reflect the quality of the furniture adopted and the hire period.
Cost is weighed up against the level of service, with no maximum price set. But for a more basic service, a homeowner can typically expect to pay from about £500 for a two-bedroom property dressed for about two months.
First impressions count
While dressing a home is, to a certain degree, suitable for any property, it is used more commonly for homes at the upper-end of the market, as they are likely to be sold or let at a higher price point.
The way a property is presented can make a huge difference, if it makes a great impression from the outside, home hunters will want to see what’s inside, and you do not want to disappoint them.
- Accouter Design www.accoutergroup.com
- David Phillips www.davidphillips.com
- Links www.linkshomes.co.uk
- Loft Interiors www.loft-interiors.co.uk
- Crest Nicholson www.crestnicholson.com
- Roomservice by CORT www.roomservicebycort.com
- Larkfleet Homes www.larkfleethomes.co.uk