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Styling it up to nail the sale

By Andrew Bellino

What can help vendors achieve a faster sale, minimise price reductions and push up values? It’s called property styling, or ‘home staging’ and it’s becoming an increasingly popular selling technique.

In a sellers’ market some experts are describing as ‘lacklustre’, a competitive edge is required to achieve an optimum price, and renovation isn’t the only answer, according to Brisbane-based Ray White sales agent Karen Baumgart.

Styling a space to appeal to a target demographic is another answer and apparently it works, so vendors are increasingly starting to employ this technique when it comes time to sell.

Pushing up the price

The emerging trend to glam up a house to emulate the pages of a stylish home magazine is a way to further complement Baumgart’s own tips given to vendor clients and ultimately push up the price and buyer interest, she believes.

“It really does make a difference,” she says. “Price wise it can add $15,000 to $20,000 to an average sale price in comparison to a similar property on the market that’s unfurnished.” It’s particularly so with inner-city properties, Baumgart adds.

She says it can also minimise the price reductions in the marketplace.

“It’s all emotion-based for owner-occupier buyers; it’s what they see and feel in the first 30 seconds,” she says. “What the home staging companies are doing is what the owners should do but don’t.”

Make it clean and crisp

Baumgart always advises sellers to “just neutralise and depersonalise everything – get rid of the old trophies, remove everything off the fridge, hide the electricity bills and any personal contact numbers, take down all the photos of the grandchildren because that makes people feel awkward and just pack it all away because everyone wants to think they’re buying something new”.

Decluttering the house is important, she adds.

Home staging is about taking Baumgart’s techniques of ‘depersonalising’ and ‘decluttering’ to the next stage by adding display furniture and furnishings to evoke a certain emotion.

Other tips Baumgart offers sellers include inexpensive cosmetic changes that give a little ‘wow’ factor such as: changing the kitchen cabinet knobs or handles; adding a new mailbox; installing new blinds or curtains; replacing the kitchen appliances if they’re really outdated or on their last legs; oiling a deck; mulching the gardens; cutting back hedges or plants to give the yard a more spacious appearance; placing plants in pots around the outside of the house; or ditching the feature wall and either dressing it up with a fashion piece or adding wall storage or a bookshelf instead.

Charyn Youngson, Adelaide-based co-author of Sold for Top Dollar – Low Cost Housing Improvements to Maximise Your Sale, agrees that a holistic approach is important when preparing the property for the market.

“Home staging should be tied in with low-cost upgrade techniques to boost the sale price,” she says.

If there’s no furniture and furnishings, minor things like cracks or peeling wallpaper become glaringly noticeable, explains Youngson.  “Any obvious maintenance issues can have a big effect on the buyer so it’s important to fix those up.”

People are buying a lifestyle, not just a house, she adds. “If there’s nothing to gauge against if their king size bed will fit in a room then it makes it harder for them to imagine living there.”

Youngson believes the top three most impressionable areas on a buyer are the street view, the kitchen and the bathroom.

A different viewpoint

Deb Lindner of Brisbane-based Mink Home Staging believes savvy agents will give their clients some great tips but often it can be difficult for them to tell the entire truth without feeling like they’re offending anyone.

She says it often takes an independent professional to step in and educate the vendor to realise that home staging is a marketing tool to boost the end sales price, “so it’s not the agent giving the negative feedback”.

“What you’re doing is you’re turning it into a product,” Lindner says. “So if you give buyers what they like then you’ll achieve a higher price.”

She observes that some more in-demand agents usually on higher-end properties won’t even sell a property unless it’s staged. “The top agents will say ‘this is what you have to do’ because they know it gets them a better sales result and their reputation is at stake.”

Lindner believes that home staging is particularly effective in a situation when many new dwellings of comparable quality, size and location are oversupplied to the market.

It can help attract tenants too

Appealing to the target demographic is important when home staging not just for a sale but also in a lease situation to attract a better quality tenant, explains The Australian Guide to Home Staging Melbourne-based author Katrina Maes.

“For example, if there’s a hospital nearby you can style it to appeal to doctors or nurses; if it’s near a university then target it to students… we don’t use overly feminine colours like pinks. Instead we dress it how you would see it in magazines like Home Beautiful.”

In a rental market frenzy, Propell National Valuers national director Kel Spencer believes that home staging a rental property can mean higher rents are achieved due to the desirability of the way that place is styled, but it doesn’t necessarily mean this will boost the overall property value or future rental income of that property.

While it can boost the sales price and speed up the sale due to its emotive appeal to buyers, Spencer says that generally home staging won’t boost the property value on valuation day.

“We think that excellent presentation will add appeal and bring a quicker sale, but in a valuation exercise we can see past that,” he says.

Article courtesy of

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