There’s no doubt that Covid-19 has had a huge impact on the UK’s property market, after hundreds of thousands of house sales were put on hold during the nationwide lockdown.
Now that the nation is reappearing on the other side of the crisis, estate agents are frantically playing catch-up to help the market get back to where it was pre-Covid-19.
With more people forced to spend their time in isolation, scrutiny has shifted from the office workspace to the home environment.
This transition has had a ripple effect on the property market as residents, unhappy with their current living situation and with an abundance of newly-found time, have begun to search for a more comfortable place to call home – with viewings on the property portals like Rightmove and Zoopla rising by 500% since Covid-19 hit.
This growing interest in properties and a backlog of incomplete sales mean that – now lockdown is starting to lift - the property market is set to be busier than ever before.
With estate agents keen to regain capital lost during the lockdown period, speeding up property transactions has never been more urgent.
It’s all about appearance
While it is widely accepted that home staging can increase the speed at which a property sells, the benefits of this service are rarely given the recognition they deserve.
When preparing properties for market by optimising home furnishings and interior design, we can elevate their appearance by showing them in the best possible light to potential buyers.
This optimisation can save weeks – or even months – during a sales process by reaching buyers quickly and encouraging them to offer the best possible price.
Home staging is essential when speeding up the sale of a property. It’s important to create an environment that can really resonate with buyers and help them to envision the property as their home.
Buyers don’t want to be greeted by an empty, dormant space when attending a viewing or looking at pictures online – rather they want to see how the space can be lived in and utilised by occupants should they wish to make the purchase.
During 2018/19, the occupied properties that we worked with sold on average four times faster after staging, showing just how effective the service can be.
One of our 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, we 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 March 6 2020 – 17 days before the UK officially went into lockdown and the property market came to a standstill. Nevertheless, our transformation helped the agent to secure a sale during this difficult period and the seller accepted an offer in the middle of May, before completing on June 19 2020 once restrictions had been lifted.
We have successfully improved the sale of many properties over the years, and we think that home staging is something that should be utilised by estate agents to push properties over the line and secure sales quickly.
We now also offer a virtual service for vulnerable sellers, furnishing them digitally before posting the high-quality photographs on property portals. This service allows those who are still adhering to strict social distancing guidelines to come to market with the benefit of professional staging, without having to leave their homes.
Given the current climate, home staging has never been more important. With the viewing process so limited and likely to remain this way for some time – buyers want to see a true representation of the property online through high-quality pictures, virtual staging, and tours.
The properties that we have virtually staged during this lockdown period have seen a 34% increase in online views during their first two weeks of listing, proving just how big a difference home staging can make.
Make a ‘Bold Move’
Conveyancing transaction time is notorious for slowing down the sales process.
More often than not, solicitors aren’t instructed to act until after a buyer is found for the property. However, a large amount of the paperwork and background checks required can be done while the property is still on the market – helping to speed up the process once a buyer has been found.
A great example of this is being demonstrated by Amanda Payne, director and head of residential property at Fishers Solicitors.
Amanda has been rolling out an initiative - Bold Move – encouraging estate agents to tell sellers to instruct a solicitor to deal with the sale of the property at the same time they acquire an agent, ultimately aiming to speed up the selling process and revitalise the property market.
Amanda said: “Bold Move can cut the total transaction time by several weeks and with 76% of transactions become abortive on or after week 12, it can reduce the risk of sales falling through by speeding up the buying process.”
“Mistakes or missing paperwork are often known for slowing down a sale, so with Bold Move we can negate all of these delays before a buyer has even been found. This allows us to ensure that when a purchase is made, everything is in place to push the property to completion as quickly as possible.”
This pre-sale work can include supporting paperwork for the seller’s Property Information Form (TA6), legal title checks, pro forma standard preliminary enquiries answered, boundary title plan confirmed and management company packs if applicable.
This service also guarantees that the complete contract pack will be issued to the buyers’ solicitor within 24 hours of receipt of the agent’s memo of sale.
This is something that we have advised our clients to do for a while and as the service is offered at no extra cost to our usual conveyancing fees, it is often welcomed as being both cost and time effective.
Our clients who have previously used the Bold Move service found that a minimum of 16 working days is taken off the time it usually takes to sell a property.
Individually, both home staging and pre-planned conveyancing services work effectively to speed up property sales. However together, estate agents can save months of valuable time by properly preparing properties for sale.
Selling a home is often considered to be one of the most stressful activities a person can do – but there’s no reason why this should be the case.
By giving properties the best possible chance on the market, estate agents can get ahead of the game, curtail the risk of sales falling through and reduce the time it takes for these sales to come to fruition.
The current climate is calling out for estate agents to be proactive. By combining our home staging service and Fisher Solicitors’ Bold Move initiative, agents are armed with everything they need to make the house selling process as streamlined and hassle-free as possible.
*Elaine Penhaul is owner of Lemon and Lime Interiors, a professional property home staging company.