Business & Economy
Already popular since the late 1970s in the US, the concept of staging a property is fast reaching the shores of Europe. In French, British and Spanish cities there are specialist agencies, decorators and designers that work with vendors to ensure that their properties are 'dressed' to be seen in their best light. In fact in some cities, the practice is so well established that those providing such advice and services also arrange to lease to their clients set pieces of decoration, furnishings and fabrics to help to transform the property. Tools which can collectively transform a property into a welcoming and appealing space and that can greatly reduce the flaws of a property by deliberately moving attention to more attractive features.
But for those still skeptical that this is yet another fad, then just consider the research claimed by real estate companies in the US: which suggests that despite a buyers market a property that has been 'home-staged' will sell half as quick as one that is not, and that it will also help to deliver between 10-15% more value to an offer than a property that is empty or not properly staged.
On Spain's Costa Tropical this practice is only just beginning to be taken on board; as foreign vendors try to shift capital from their second homes to their primary residence then owners are fast looking at these new ways of selling and property presentation. This service can cost from a few hundred Euros to several thousand, depending on the size and style required for the property.
It is often overlooked, that psychological studies have shown that an empty property remains on the market twice as long as one that has been furnished, since it helps the buyer to see exactly what can be done with the space. Second it has been shown that the classic buyer will decide the appeal of a property within the first 8 seconds of stepping inside; and to this it is important not to forget the 'curb appeal' of the property too. A buyer will take as much first impression information from the external outlook of the house before entering – and once inside both the agents chat and the vendors enhancements can greatly assist to promote a sale.
Creating a property that looks appealing can be complicated if only because you will need to make time and be creative; and not all of us have this ability if we are selling our second home or too busy with our jobs. Despite thinking that you and your personal taste and style are best, there is a huge variation from a house that looks pleasant to live in and one that is satisfying to move in to. Your visitors may see your property as seemingly 'homely' and 'lived-in', but this alone may not encourage them to live in it themselves. Your buyer needs to be able to see them and their family living in the property, and you alone may not be able to produce the best and most appropriate impression.
Nevertheless before you reach and call in the experts; here are a few simple tips and clues to help you start the road to 'home staging' and sell your property sooner rather than later...
De-clutter and depersonalise – look at your property as an impersonal object; and get rid of the dust collectors, the piles of books and magazines, and use the time to begin to pack away those things you will take, or to take things you no longer need to the charity shop. Remembering that less is more! The best way of making a property impersonal is to remove family photos, religious ornaments, posters, certificates, awards and other similar souvenirs; and to replace with non-descript images or pictures in simple frames.
Landscaping rooms – here the emphasis is on space and creating openness and comfort; one of the main principles of home staging. Make rooms as spacious as possible, move furniture around in that space, and if necessary begin to store any excess pieces away. There is nothing worse than moving through a property where a door knocks a piece of ill-placed furniture when entering a room, or you and your buyer are forced to squeeze between tightly furnished passage ways, toy filled bedrooms, and so forth. Begin storing the non-essential items away ready for your move; and remember to complete the landscape by opening blinds and curtains to fill natural light into the rooms during the day, or illuminate with subtle lamps and candles in the evenings. Not forgetting to remove any tired rugs, stray tea clothes and bath towels!
Fresh appeal – does not just mean clean and tidy. All too often vendors of any nationality too soon forget or simply ignore a few basic presentation principles when they are selling a property. When selling a car you never think not to clean and wax it, paint the rust spots over and even varnish the tyres; so why when selling a house do owners too often neglect to tidy, to clean - if only to make the house more presentable for the agency photographer. A property is either an expensive necessity or a momentary luxury purchase and yet this particular commodity is all too often neglected in the way it is presented. So, please vendors, simply remind yourself how all those houses you looked at when you were buying seemed untidy, cluttered, dirty, and just go around your home now and count the cobwebs, the smeared tiles and walls. Check, correct and then present your property for sale at its very best.
Masking – or dressing is the subtle art of hiding or shifting attention from an object or space in order to make it appear more attractive, spacious, and pleasant. A few inexpensive treatments include up-lighters to the ceiling to give the illusion of greater height, or bed covers and throws to add a little "boutique hotel chic" style, neutral coloured cushions scattered around sofas and beds, clear clutter (and ashtrays) from tables, use wide ribbons or invest in decorative curtain tie-backs, a few drops of perfumed bleach in sinks and drains prior to a visit, and even freshly brewed coffee, a television switched on (to show reception and mask external noise) and removing animal feed trays – all can contribute to mask a vendors presence and make your house hunter welcome.
Treatments – not only refers to the walls and floors but includes soft furnishings and use of fabrics. Most consultants I have spoken with agree that wall treatments and floorings are most appealing when offered in neutral colors and use understated patterns. Paint colours work best in a neutral form to encourage the illusion of space and also reinforce openness. However this may not always be the case, predominantly with the luxury home market, where using bold colour statements and daring finishes are often deemed far more attractive. Therefore before you decide to decorate your property to sell it, take time to consider your market.
Accessorising – is not only cushions and pictures, frames and decorative objects it is also about the use of glass, mirrors and water too. One of the most popular methods used by consultants is the choice and use of mirrors – in fact the bigger the better. To make the most of the effect too then place it close to a corner, or even better position mirrors opposite each other; and again this will enhance the room and make it far more spacious. Other considerations include fresh cut flowers dressed in simple but large clear water filled crystal vases, dining tables prepared and dressed for guests (even if they are not due) can make your visitor feel at home – as well as giving an impression of size and comfort.
Exterior facing – is the method used to promote 'curb appeal' and to make your visitor really want to see inside the property. Improving a home's exterior appeal needs to be considered together with any interior improvements; and can cost you just a few Euros. Dressing the outside with potted plants typical of the region, geraniums, and basket hangers can really help to make an appealing "cared for " treatment; not to mention that they will shift the eye away from any paint blisters, cracked window frames or other unsightly blemishes.
Know your buyer – in the sense that you have already an idea to whom you are intending to sell your property to; another foreign re-locator, a local, someone of your own nationality, a family, retired, etc. Believe it or not this alone will strongly influence how you present yourself and your property to any visiting buyer; and consequently you may find a home staging consultants advice most helpful.
Home staging consultants can assist with an independent appraisal, offer un-biased help and advice to make your property more appealing to potential buyers, especially in areas where there is much similar choices on offer. They can help to ensure that your property is, and remains, as presentable as is possible when the buyers come to view. Home Staging consultant will ideally be locally based, have established links with local suppliers, have a knowledge of the market, and also be aware of what people are looking for; where you the vendor might not.
A good consultant will offer an initial objective opinion regarding the state and style of your property. This is especially useful if you have lived in your property for some length of time, it is too easy to become attached to a property; and therefore be critical. The consultant will not be so attached but will have one simple aim; to make YOUR property that much easier to sell. Nevertheless, using a consultancy will not guarantee a sale, but it can be an opportunity that gives you the best possible chance in today's market.
Martin Bright may be contacted at Spain Costa Tropical
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