Marie-Claire Saunders

Home staging anyone?

Marie-Claire Saunders
Home staging anyone?

Is now the best time to move up the housing ladder? This has been a common theme in the papers recently as interest rates are at a record low. If this fact is making you want to buy somewhere or perhaps move to a new place, you might want to know more about the latest import from across the pond. 

Home staging is a practice which has been popular in the States since the late 1990s and has been filtering its way over here ever since. It is defined as the act of preparing a property for sale with the aim of making it appeal to the maximum number of people so that it sells more quickly and for more money. 

One American woman would bake bread and make coffee every time she had a viewing as she thought buyers would like those smells. Another couple whose house had been languishing on the market paid their children to keep their bedrooms clean and tidy and the house sold within a month. According to the National Association of Realtors in the US, styling up your property can slash a home's time on the market by between 25% and 50% and fetch a premium of 5%-20%.

A few small additions can make a big difference to the overall look and feel:

For those wanting more impact, professional stagers, such as Rokstone, a boutique estate agency in central London, offer makeovers costing between £1,000-£150,000. They use Hermes throws, Bulgari soaps, plush towels, Missoni cushions, Thomas Goode plates, coffee table books and glossy magazines; "we don't sell property, we sell lifestyle," says the firm's managing director. She then went on to say that they also borrow art from galleries because "if buyers walk in and spot a Picasso, they think everything in the house must be tiptop".

Other professional stagers try to create a whole narrative to the house they're re-doing. This can include baby shoes at the end of a child's bedroom to pull on the heart strings of parents. It could be a beautiful dressing table with crystal perfume bottles and fine jewellery or a man cave with cuban cigars. One stager even went so far as to lay a Tiffany box on the bed with pearls thrown over the bedsheets and clothes, wanting it to look as though the couple had been passionately embracing only moments before!

Putting aside thoughts about the ethical nature of this kind of story telling, for top-end house sales, these kind of tricks make a big difference to how quickly the home is sold.

For more modest house house sales, however, what kind of ideas can we borrow from the professionals to make our home look the best it can?

 Lighter and brighter furniture can make a big difference, as can removing curtains and exposing windows

Lighter and brighter furniture can make a big difference, as can removing curtains and exposing windows

 Take out personal objects, such as the piano, and arrange furniture so that buyers are able to see how they could use the space if they lived there.

Take out personal objects, such as the piano, and arrange furniture so that buyers are able to see how they could use the space if they lived there.

 Remove blinds and drapes to enhance light and space. Arranging a table and chairs, simplifying the wall colour and updating bedlinen can accentuate the sense of space.

Remove blinds and drapes to enhance light and space. Arranging a table and chairs, simplifying the wall colour and updating bedlinen can accentuate the sense of space.

 Bright accessories and light furniture make this room feel fresh and open.

Bright accessories and light furniture make this room feel fresh and open.

 Changing light fittings, covering chairs and exposing the floor give this dining room more light and a contemporary look.

Changing light fittings, covering chairs and exposing the floor give this dining room more light and a contemporary look.

Other handy tips for 'dressing' the interior of your house for a successful sale include:

 - Price: First and foremost, get the asking price right. Don't be tempted with a high price as this could just mean months and months on the market. Look to see what other similar houses in your area are selling for and adjust your price accordingly.

 - Storage: Buyers always want more storage, so make sure you have visible space to store items. Take unnecessary things out of closets and neatly organise what's left. Buyers will then see that there is space to spare.

 - Light: Maximise the light coming into your home. Take down heavy drapes, clear away clutter from the windows and trim plants and bushes in the garden that block out light coming into the house. Consider also changing lightbulbs and fittings to brighter ones in order to eliminate dark spaces.

 - Kitchen: This is the most important room in the house and can make or break a sale. Make sure it is tidy with clear surfaces. You may also need to spruce up the cabinets with a lick of paint or update cupboard handles. It might be worth also buying one shiny new appliance and have it on display. If there is one expensive item on show, buyers will think the rest of it is also similarly expensive.

 - Mini makeover: There's no point spending a lot of money on a house if you're going to sell it, but simple changes can make a big difference. If there is one room painted in a bright colour, consider re-painting it neutral. Make sure your house looks clean and tidy and touch up the paint on walls that are looking tired. Other things to re-do could be new door handles, cleaning the curtains, buying some fresh new cushions.

 - Pets: Not everyone is a pet lover, so if buyers smell the dog or see a cat litter they might think the house is not clean. It could be worth giving the pets to the neighbour or a relative if you're having an open day.

 -  First impressions: These are the only impressions and really count. Walk up your driveway and into your home as though you were looking at it for the first time. Notice plants in the front which could be tidied up or coats and shoes which could be put away in the entrance hall. Make your home warm and inviting. Never underestimate the power of fresh flowers and a few stylish magazines. This can take your home from bland to beautiful.

If you're selling your house at the moment or contemplating a move, good luck!