To stage or not to stage?

Every vendor wants to maximise the value of their property and sell for the best price. To do that, and hopefully to even exceed price expectations, it’s best to have numerous buyers fall in love with your home and develop an emotional attachment.

By engaging a stylist/decorator with expert knowledge and experience in real estate, there is a greater focus on presenting a lifestyle. The buyer is not just purchasing a house, they are purchasing a lifestyle – lifestyle and home go hand in hand –  and the purpose of a stylist is to give a property “the look” that complements the home.

Vendors unfamiliar with effective property styling often comment, “Our place can sell itself”, and insist on leaving it empty. This is a major error – a property without furniture will always look smaller than a styled one, even if the space has a superior level of design or architecture. Styling can provide the perspective that buyers need to eradicate the guesswork. For example, potential buyers shouldn’t have to guess what size bed will fit in the second bedroom.

An experienced property stylist will have a good understanding of the real estate market and the targeted demographic for the property. Correct furniture selection is an integral part of the process. While you might love your oversized, comfy, brown couch, a more suitable choice could be a slimline design in a soft, neutral colour tone that will allow potential buyers to view the space to better advantage. Accessories and furnishings should add a sense of texture and detail to complement the character of the property.

Attractive features of a small property, or a house with a complicated layout, can be enhanced by clever styling techniques and presented to their best advantage and a dynamic style team will know how to detract from the less desirable aspects of a house, such as an outdated kitchen or lack of natural light. Expert stylists also know how to easily transform a junk room into an extra bedroom. An extra bedroom can add thousands of dollars to the price of a property or even clinch the sale.


Q: I am looking at listing my house for sale. Can you give me some ideas on how we can get it ready for sale? I’m particularly interested in whether it’s worth staging the property. Raewyn L.

A: Good question Raewyn. We cover this comprehensively in our book “Sold” so I am sending you a copy, but in the meantime, here’s the short answer.

Firstly, we would highly recommend that you have your property staged (or ‘dressed’) if you’ve moved out and it’s vacant. This really is a no-brainer and you will get a return on your staging ‘investment’. If you are still living there and worried about your furniture being up to scratch there are companies that specialise in staging properties using existing furniture complemented by their own additional items (throws, rugs art etc). If you are happy with your furniture and your agent tells you it all looks fine then here are a few cost-free things you should do, at little or no cost: Nothing will scare off a potential buyer faster than a dirty home. Though some agents will recommend that you hire a cleaning service for a top-to-bottom deep clean, you can save money by taking care of this on your own, provided you’re willing to put in the time and elbow grease: You have to pack to move anyway, so you can get a jump start on it by gathering any and all personal decorative effects. This includes framed family photos on your walls or shelves, picture albums and all your personal knickknacks. Buyers like to envision themselves living in your house, and that’s much easier without things that remind them of you. Living a normal life requires a fair amount of stuff, but you’ll need to keep all signs of being a regular person hidden while your house is on the market. Once you’ve finished packing away your personal items, use your spare time to pack anything you don’t need on a daily basis. Clear shelves of books, pack away rarely used games and DVDs, and remove out-of-season clothing to make closets look more spacious.

If you live with young kids, have them choose their favourite toys to keep on hand, but only allow ones that can easily be stowed away under the bed or in a toy chest out of sight when your agent calls with a 15-minute warning for a surprise viewing. For adults, clear a bathroom and kitchen drawer that you can sweep counter clutter into in a pinch. If you’re willing to spend the time and put in the effort to stage your home, you can make your house appealing to prospective buyers without spending any money at all.

Q: What does it cost and is it worthwhile? We cover this in some detail in our book SOLD so have sent Carol a copy with our compliments. Below is what we discussed with Carol:

A: There are a number of levels of staging (or dressing) your home. As mentioned last week you can just do a great job of cleaning and decluttering, or you can go the whole hog and have a staging company come and dress your home with all new furniture. The main purpose of course is to present your home in the best possible light and thereby achieve a premium price, but another reason for staging is that many potential buyers find it hard to imagine the property as theirs, when it is devoid of any furniture. There is evidence from Australia suggesting that staged properties achieve a premium of up to 15% over un-staged properties.

There are a number of companies who will do de-cluttering of your home and then add bits and pieces to dress it while using your own furniture. The cost to do this can vary enormously depending on how much has to be done, but we would suggest you budget for at least $1,000 for this kind of service.

However the majority of staging companies ask for the house to be completely empty and they then dress the house with furniture that they feel will showcase the house best. This can cost from as little as $2,000 for a small three-bedroom house, to in excess of $10,000 for a large home. As we mentioned last week we believe this is essential for vacant unfurnished homes. Just having a double bed in a room can comfort people that a double bedroom is in fact a double bedroom.

We have a bit of a back-log of rather diverse questions at the moment, so keep an eye out: In future editions we will be talking about how the new tax laws affect you if you want to sell a house you have owned for less than two years, whether you should accept a pre-auction offer on your property, and what are the latest changes to the ever-evolving Unitary Plan.

Q: I’m putting my house on the market and I asked my agent what I needed to do to get it ready. All he suggested was getting it ‘staged’. Isn’t there more I could do without spending too much money? Marion S.

A: Yes there are certainly plenty of things you can do to make your home more attractive to buyers when they view. People used to percolate coffee or bake bread to make their open homes smell nice, but most buyers see past that kind of tactic. One of the most simple, and cost-effective things you can do, especially in winter, is to replace all your bulbs with bright (up to 100watt) bulbs – it really does brighten your home up for those dingy winter open homes. And of course, if you are going to do anything make sure your home has ‘curb appeal’ and a nice tidy welcoming entrance – you only get one chance to make a first impression! I’m sending you a copy of our book “Sold, How to Sell Your Home for the Best Price” – plenty of ideas in there.