The art of staging a home for sale

The goal is to appeal to as many buyers as possible with bright, clean interiors and in the process achieve the highest price

 

So you’ve decided to place your home on the market. What is the best course of action to help change that For Sale sign to Sold? After price and location, the buyer’s perception of a home is next, and that impression is formed within minutes of walking through your property.

Staging a home for sale can be the key to selling successfully. The goal is to appeal to as many buyers as possible and in the process achieve the highest price.

First, remember you are selling a house not a home, potential buyers need to see a blank canvas where their personal items will fit in, so that means taking yours out.

“People are selling a product and we help them to best package that product,” says Muriel Simpson of House and Garden Presentation Services (HGPS), a professional staging company.

Simpson’s company offers an initial consultancy service from €260, right up to complete staging service to include redecoration and furniture rental for outdated and unfurnished properties. If you cannot afford a professional stager, ask a friend with a good eye to be utterly honest, and take all suggestions and criticisms on the chin.

How much you spend on your staging should be in direct proportion to the asking price so discuss this with your agent. “About €2,000 should cover a simple staging for a small property,” says Rowena Quinn of Hunters Estate agents, “and a small investment does produce results.”

Quinn cites a house at 25 Ailesbury Road, which had been on the market for three years through various agents, with an asking price of €3 million.

“It had no kerb appeal whatsoever, and wouldn’t sell. We engaged interior architect Caroline Irvine to stage the house and used Howbert and Mays of Monkstown to give the gardens an overhaul.” The result – the house sold for €3.1 million within four weeks.

 

Curb appeal

Buyers look for evidence that a house has been well maintained and this starts from the moment they see the property. “You get one chance to make an impression and preparation is key,” says Rosie Mulvany of Sherry FitzGerald.

Make sure your property stands out from the neighbours and beat the competition with condition. “That means having your garden and exterior in mint condition,” says Mulvany.

Paint the house if needed, prune hedging so it has a neat appearance, mow the lawn, power wash and weed the driveway. Add some greenery and bedding plants if your garden lacks colour. Have all windows glistening and paint if necessary.

A new house name or number and postbox costs little but will help to add that kerb appeal. Since most gardens are at their peak in summer months – when the property market is almost at a standstill, take photographs of your garden when in bloom so they can be used in brochures to show potential buyers your gardens at their best.

Deep clean

This goes without saying but most homes will have some wear and tear which can stand out to buyers. If you do not have the time, engage a professional cleaning company – it is worth the investment. It is not advisable to change a bathroom suite but re-grouting costs very little and will lift a bathroom instantly. Have carpets cleaned, though some agents might recommend replacing heavily stained carpets with an inexpensive neutral colour if the property is commanding a high price. All mirrors and chrome works should glisten throughout.

Your pooch may well be part of your family but is not part of the buyer’s so rid the house of evidence and smells, and as for cats – some buyers balk at the sight of a litter tray, so banish it and all smells – no amount of fresh coffee brewing and bread in the oven will mask pet odours.

Declutter

“People need to see clean lines so de-clutter without removing the heart of your home,” says Rosie Mulvany of Sherry FitzGerald. It is a perfect opportunity to rid your house of unused stuff you have amassed over the years. Anything personal such as photographs, trinkets, political and religious paraphernalia should be stored away. People snoop, so have cloakrooms and closets a third empty – it gives the impression of lots of storage in your house. All presses and cupboards should be neat and tidy as it creates a sense of order throughout.

Fix, mend, repair

Over time bits and pieces break; dents in walls, leaky taps, lightbulbs blown, the list is endless. Be ruthless – go through every room and make a list of what is broken, they are usually simple and inexpensive to fix and will stop prospective buyers focusing on faults.

Lighting ambience

Quinn travels with crisp linen, orchids and fire logs in the boot of her car. “You need to create a warm, clean and inviting atmosphere whether it is a one bed apartment or a palatial home and it can be the little things that matter,” says Quinn.

Besides fixing and replacing bulbs, lighting helps to create an ambience. Dark spaces should be lit with lots of soft tone lighting and adding a mirror can bring more light to a dim room.

Candles, in neutral colours, also help to create ambience in an otherwise dark room such as a bathroom. Have a fire lit regardless of the time of day your house is on view, and if your fireplace does not work, place a lit candle in the hearth.

Forget cut flowers, orchids are perfect as they will bloom for the duration of viewings.

The flow and movement throughout your home is important, so remove any furniture that blocks this flow. Less is more when it comes to furniture, but a room with no furniture actually appears smaller than when furnished. Remove a leaf or two from large dining tables to give the impression of a larger floor space.

Clean lines also give a sense of order. All bed-linen should be perfectly ironed, use white if possible as it’s contemporary and fresh. Make sure all curtains are properly hung and paintings are straight. Open all blinds and curtains to maximise light.

Executor sales and old houses

“Executor and older sales are the most challenging,” says Mulvany. “If the décor is dated, a simple lick of paint can transform a room. Old patterned carpets can be dizzying to look at and should be replaced with a simple neutral to lift the room.”

Simpson agrees, “crazy carpets make a room feel unloved, and as for old shag pile carpets – you don’t know what’s living in them”. “The challenge for us is how to neutralise an old property inexpensively, but these are the most fulfilling when finished,” she adds.

For a recent executor sale Simpsons company charged €10,000 to completely repaint the house, lay new carpets, replace old fashioned flooring, re-grout bathrooms and install high-end rental furniture for a duration of three months. “The house was transformed from being outdated to a pristine and polished property,” according to Simpson.

“For period houses, staging the character and personality of the property and combining it with current trends is what is important,” says architect Caroline Irvine who gave 25 Ailesbury Road its new lease of life.

Buying a house is an emotional purchase and staging a house helps potential buyers create a connection. If they like what they see they will see the positives in each room, however if from the driveway their expectations are low they will focus on the faults.

Remembering that what was once your home is now a product for sale will help you de-personalise your property. New owners need to feel a house can become their home, after that it’s really all about dressing to impress.

House and Garden Presentation Services hgps.ie. Caroline Irvine carolineirvine.com.

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