Can home-staging help sell your house?

Johannesburg - Home-staging is a property marketing tactic that uses styling, minor renovations, rental furniture and accessories to improve the presentation of homes that are for sale.

Home-staging shows elevated Martha Stewart to fame in the 1990s after she purchased a run-down farmhouse in Connecticut in the US and renovated it with style.

UK property expert and TV presenter Sarah Beeny has also shown us how a refreshing look can result in interested buyers.

Home-staging hasn’t yet caught on in South Africa as much as it has in the US and the UK, but there’s certainly a place for it in the sector.

Estate agents in South Africa charge a commission fee of between 4.5% and 7% to facilitate the sale of your house, so sellers are often loath to hire more people to help them get the price they want for their property.

Bianca Arnsmeyer, sales manager of Berman Brothers Property, says: “This practice is more common for upmarket properties in the US, especially in areas where there is a surplus of available stock and the seller wants to ensure that their property stands out.

"Hiring a professional interior decorator in South Africa just for the purpose of making your home more attractive to a potential buyer is an expensive exercise, and this cost is probably only justified for properties that are on the market for R15 million or more.”

However, Lucy le Roux, the director of home-staging company Illuminate, says estate agents often don’t provide decorating advice, which could result in a seller losing out or not getting their asking price.

“Adding a third element of home staging complicates the deal for estate agents, who thimnk that they work on value – but they work on volume.

"They want to sell the house as fast as possible without complicating things and losing their sole mandate.

"They don’t tell people that they have to change things around to improve their home’s look because this will add to the complexity of the deal.

"It’s hard to convince people to redecorate and still pay the agent’s commission. It’s been a niche scenario so far,” she says.

THE BENEFITS OF HOME-STAGING

That’s not to say that the practice of home-staging doesn’t work – Le Roux has made a living doing this since 2014.

She says her home makeovers have often resulted in a sale soon after she has worked her magic.

“They have done studies in the US that show that staged properties will move 50% faster than unstaged homes,” she says.

Le Roux adds that staging has a psychological effect on potential buyers.

If they walk in and see a tired old home, they may think that they can land a bargain because of the renovating and decorating that they feel will need to be done.

However, staging encourages them to make an offer that is closer to the asking price.

“Staging creates an urgency around the property when people realise that the seller isn’t on the back foot.

"The seller won’t get low offers because they are putting their best foot forward and showing off their property,” says Le Roux.

She maintains that home-staging could provide the seller with a 10% return.

She says that people often make offers that are between 9% and 10% below the asking price, but, if a home has been staged and is looking great, potential buyers won’t feel they have the ability to make a lower offer because the property wouldn’t need to have any work done to it.

BE YOUR OWN HOME-STAGER

Hiring a home-stager can cost a lot of money.

A quick glance on Le Roux’s website shows that she charges R5 000 for property consulting – which includes a one-hour Skype call, pricing, area overview, listing of repairs, upgrades and décor advice – and R25 000 to hire her furniture for four weeks.

She also charges customers R3 950 to transport the furniture.  

If you can’t afford to hire a professional, there are some things you can do to improve the look of your home to make it more attractive to buyers:  

1. Get rid of the ‘junk’

“I think people go wrong in the sense that they stop seeing what their house looks like. You are so used to seeing your kid’s art everywhere, the random table you inherited and cat food on the fridge.

You don’t look at it with fresh eyes,” says Le Roux.

2. Get rid of the clutter “People just accumulate stuff – they don’t ask why they still have those items.

The average homeowner could get rid of 50% of what they have in a house,” Le Roux adds.  

3. Clean up, maintain and repair

Arnsmeyer says: “Start with a deep and thorough clean of the home and garden.

Touch up any paint problems, fix cracked tiles and make sure there are no scuff marks or stains on floors, walls and ceilings.

When showcasing your house, pay attention to details.”  

4. Modernise and ‘add love’

Le Roux says: “Make a few changes that will make you and others fall in love with your home, whether it’s adding trendy accessories or installing contemporary light fixtures.”

5. Let the light in

“Light, bright and airy houses sell faster,” Le Roux concludes.

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