By properly planning their entrance onto the market and taking all of the necessary steps to make the property appeal to as many buyers as possible, vendors can ensure the transaction is as profitable as possible by increasing the selling price and decreasing the property’s time on the market.
The impact of the internet
Not only did Covid-19 bring the market to a standstill, but it also had a huge impact on how properties are viewed by buyers. Social media and online property portals have drastically changed the face of the housing market – a trend that only became more prominent during the pandemic.
Rightmove alone attracts 150 million home movers each month, with property giants such as Zoopla and OnTheMarket not far behind. This means that properties are now available to view at the click of a button, from anywhere and at any time.
With buyers now having access to an abundance of properties at their fingertips, it’s more important than ever before that vendors make sure their property stands out and attracts buyers from the minute it hits the market.
Say hello to home staging
Many people struggle to separate home staging from interior design, but the two have completely different purposes.
Interior design is a creative outlet, whereas home staging is a property marketing tool – it disregards the tastes of the property owner and predicates the design of the room based on what will attract the widest target audience.
A lot of vendors will dismiss home staging as too costly or time-consuming but the return on investment is undeniable, so it’s important that estate agents properly evidence the benefits of this service so they can secure the best price for the seller.
On average, the occupied properties I’ve worked on sold four times faster after staging – often for or above the asking price – so it’s in everyone’s best interests to stage before selling.
By understanding the basic principles to home staging, estate agents can guide their vendors through the process and increase the probability of securing a quick sale for the best possible price.
Understanding your demographic
Before the vendor starts the staging process, they must work out who they want to sell to and what their home is offering.
By assessing their target audience – whether this be first time buyers, young professionals, families or retirees – vendors can look at what changes are needed to entice this demographic.
It’s also a good idea to do some market research to work out what the competition is like in the local area. This will help both the agent and the seller to understand how to present the property in order to be the seller's best option, heightening the chances of securing a sale.
If the seller in struggling to recognise what needs improving, agents can suggest that they take photographs of the house and look at them through the buyer’s eyes. This will help the vendor to view their home from an outsider’s perspective so they can better assess the changes that need to be made to increase the chances of attracting a sale.
Declutter and decorate
Decluttering is one of the most important steps when staging a home. Buyers are often expected to see past clutter, but this can drastically slow down the selling process and decrease the property’s value.
By presenting the house as uncared for, potential buyers will quickly assume that it is not well-maintained, which will be reflected in any offers received.
Not only will the seller need to address any unsavoury items in the home, but they will also need to think about any unsavoury smells that could put off potential buyers during viewings. Cigarette smoke, damp or pet odours can all have a huge impact on the success of the sale.
Once the home is cleared of clutter, the vendor and agent can consider whether or not the home needs redecorating.
If the property hasn’t been redecorated in the last five years, chances are that it could do with a fresh layer of paint. A common misconception is that decorating is a waste of time because the vendor will re-do the paintwork to their taste once they move in.
However, by repainting the walls in tonal, neutral colours, the seller can easily freshen up the look of the property and save the buyer the painstaking job of repainting when they move in, adding value to the home and making it a more attractive option.
Steer the seller away from creating dramatic feature walls or using bright colours as these are often dependent on personal taste and can put potential buyers off.
If they do want to add a splash of colour, encourage them to purchase accessories in a matching accent colour to create cohesion throughout the home.
Promoting the property’s potential
It’s important that, when selling a property, every room has a purpose and is presented as such. To attract higher offers, vendors should turn spare rooms into small bedrooms, dressing rooms, gyms or office spaces, so that buyers can envisage how they can use the space should they choose to live there.
This is especially important amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Buyers are now looking for houses that offer extra amenities to reduce the need to venture outdoors, so this is something that should be considered before the staging process.
The seller needs to consider the lifestyle they want to promote through the marketing of the property to help attract the right buyers. For example, if the home is suited to young couples, position the sofa and chairs around a stylish coffee table with wine glasses on so that buyers can visualise how they can enjoy the space.
Alternatively, if they are selling a family home, emphasise how one of the smaller rooms can be utilised as a playroom by displaying children’s toys to draw attention away from the fact that it is not as big as the other bedrooms.
These small changes will help the purchaser to buy into the lifestyle the property promotes, rather than approaching the purchase with only practical rationale.
Lights, camera, action
Once the house is properly presented, it’s important that the marketing materials reflect this. Bad lighting, blurred photos or terrible angles can completely devalue the listing and lead to buyers passing up on what could be their dream home.
High-quality photographs need to be taken on a clear, sunny day and should be carefully angled so that viewers can feel the full extent of the space.
Another thing to consider in the current climate is a video or virtual tour of the property. Not only can this help to show the property in all its glory, but it can also act as an important piece of marketing collateral if buyers are unable to attend a viewing due to lockdown or other logistical reasons.
Making the most of your sale
One of my more recent projects highlights the importance of home staging in the selling process. After sitting on the market for over a year with little interest, my team and I used our home staging expertise to furnish the four-bedroom property for just 1% of the asking price.
The property was then re-released onto the market on 6 March 2020 – 17 days before the UK officially went into lockdown and the property market came to a standstill.
Nevertheless, this transformation helped the seller to secure a sale during this difficult period and they accepted an offer in the middle of May, before completing on 19 June 2020 once restrictions had been lifted.
By making sellers aware of the value of home staging, agents can steer vendors towards an investment that will allow them to bring the property to market in a position that will attract the maximum amount of offers, in the shortest amount of time.
*Elaine Penhaul is the owner of Lemon and Lime Interiors. Her book ‘Sell High, Sell Fast: How to sell your home for the best possible price, in the quickest possible time’ is available to purchase now via Amazon here.