Property styling, also known as property or home staging, is a growing industry that both investors and owner occupiers are using to get better sales results.
Converts to the process say they make five times their investment back at sale time, but skeptics see property staging as a wasted expense and something a seller can do alone. So why do sellers style their homes and can you DIY?
What is home staging/ styling?
A property stylist is a professional who stages your home to attract buyers and get a better price. This involves everything from decluttering to hiring furniture and is done before the photographs are taken and then maintained by the seller until the sale. Most stylists prefer to work with vacant homes, but it is possible to have the home styled while you are living in it.
The process is popular in America and, after an increase in property-themed reality TV shows, it’s growing in popularity in Australia too. Many people think that home staging is just throwing a blanket over your couch and fail to see it as an important part of the selling process, but according to LJ Hooker, their agents believe styling can increase your sale price by up to 12.5 per cent. Styling can also result in a quicker sale and more interest in the property.
Why does property styling work?
A buyer’s first impression is formed very quickly and can make or break a sale. Triggering an emotional response in your buyer is key to a successful sale — you want them to fall in love with the property and a great first impression will help.
While the location, size and layout of the property should get buyers in the door, it can be hard for them to focus on these features if they’re looking at bad styling. Styling your property makes it easier for the buyer to imagine themselves in the space. Creating aspirational living is something property stylists do a lot, making the buyer think their lives will be better in the new home. Staging can also showcase the functionality of a space and will help buyers look past awkward or unusable spaces.
Staging will result in better photographs which in turn will create more buzz and can raise your sale price. Especially in today’s market, with more and more buyers using online tools to help them find a property, photography is very important.
The costs and benefits of home staging
A professional property stylist can add thousands to your sale price, but it comes at a cost. Professional styling costs between $300 for a basic consultation and around $5,000 for the entire experience, including hire furniture.
Professional home staging is a growing market and sellers can certainly shop around to find the best deal, although this may be reflected in the quality of the service. The benefits of using a stylist should be reflected in the sale price — they will look at your property with the aim to make you money and advise you clearly on what is worth doing and what won’t result in a higher sale price. For the time poor, a professional stylist is a great way to take the guess work out of staging and you only have to set aside the time to meet with them — they will take care of all the planning and research. If your budget doesn’t stretch to a professional stylist, there are some DIY home staging tasks you can do yourself which will improve the look and feel of your property.
How to style your property to get a better price
- Remove clutter – Take the chance to remove personal touches and controversial artwork or books. Hire a skip and do a huge clear out, or hire some storage space if you haven’t got another property to move in to. A good rule is to remove at least 30 per cent of the items in your home, and don’t hide clutter in cupboards because buyers will often check these.
- Quick fixes – Buyers anticipate small fixes, like broken door handles, will cost more than they actually will and this can encourage them to put in a low offer. A quick $10 fix can affect your price tag by several thousand dollars if a buyer thinks work needs to be done to get the property to their standards. Check lights and taps are working correctly and keep an eye on hinges and doors which might jam or squeak. A lot of small fixes can make a buyer worry there’s bigger issues in the property.
- Keep it clean – This may seem obvious but it goes further than cleaning windows and counter tops. Excessive pet items, stained furniture, dirty dishes — all of these things can suggest a home isn’t as clean as it appears.
- Think small – Don’t blow your budget replacing every item of furniture you have. Styling is often about small touches which change the feel of a room. Purchases you can take to your next home, or use in another house if you’re an investor, are not going to break the bank and will make a room feel fresher. Soft furnishings, art prints and plants are great options and can be used to spruce up the existing furniture in your home.
- Stay neutral – Avoid “themed” rooms, and remove any obvious themes you have in place. This is about attracting a broader audience – a seaside theme might appeal to you but it isn’t going to appeal to everyone and if a buyer isn’t able to live with it they will reduce their offer. If you are redecorating stay as neutral as possible and avoid bold colours or statement pieces of furniture.
- Spend sensibly – Check with your agent before undergoing expensive changes like replacing a kitchen or repainting. If you’re not going to increase your sale price or attract more buyers, it isn’t worth it.
- Consider a consultation – If you’re a home staging novice, a one-off consultation can point you in the right direction. Depending on the company you use, costs will vary as will what’s included, but you could save money in the long term as the consultation will give you an idea of where to focus your time and money.
How much more money can you make by styling your home?
There is no exact science to how much money you will make from home staging, it depends on the property, but property styling supports everything we are told by experts about optimising the sale price of your property.
Whether you want to go the professional styling route or not is dependent on your budget and how much room there is in the market for a higher sale price. If your property is already in the top percentage of the area you might not have much room to go higher and some DIY styling might be all it takes to generate interest and get you the best price.
Simple home staging tips
- Think small – If you’re staging the property yourself to save money, don’t invest in big pieces of furniture or make huge cosmetic changes. Stick to simple fixes like removing clutter, cleaning and soft furnishings.
- Separate yourself – Don’t style the house in your taste, work out your target audience and style for them.
- Do your research – There are some great books and blogs on property styling which will give you a good basis. If you’re going to be selling a lot of properties you can take an online course which may be a better financial choice in the long term.
- Avoid clichés – An artfully draped blanket and freshly baked bread might be the way they do it in the movies but you want your home to appeal to buyers, not seem unattainable.
- Don’t expect a miracle – If you’re already at the top end of the budget for your area, a property stylist isn’t going to work magic. If you’re being unrealistic about price, staging your home won’t help you.
- Listen to the expert – A stylist can’t help you if you don’t do what they say. There’s a reason they do this for a living and if you’re paying them you may as well get the best result for your money.
- Do your due diligence – Similar to hiring any professional, do your research. Don’t give your money to someone without being sure they’re going to give you the standard you expect.