I wish I had a pound for every time someone asks what I do and says “Wow. What an amazing job! I’d love to do that”. And they’re right. Being a home stager is creative, varied, full of surprises and can be a lot of fun. I get to see inside people’s homes (who doesn’t love that?) and shop for beautiful furniture and accessories. Being a home stager also has its challenges. You have to be a jack of many trades and excellent at juggling fast moving balls. To give you an idea of what being a home stager is all about – here’s the transcript of a recent interview on that very subject:
B: As a home stager – how would you describe what you do?
JS: In essence, I prepare properties that are either already on the market and haven’t attracted a good offer, or before they go on the market, to maximise the sale or rental value. I stage owner occupied properties using the vendors’ items to show the property at its very best and I use my own furniture and accessories to dress empty properties with the aim of transforming them into homes that viewers would love to live in.
B: Surely if buyers have all the details and can view a property, that’s enough to make an informed decision on whether or not to buy and how much to offer. So why should a vendor spend money on home staging?
JS: There’s one key reason why it’s worth investing in home staging (ideally before putting a property on the market). Money or, in investor terms, return on investment. Staged properties sell for a higher price (on average 10% higher) and quicker sale (on average twice as quick) than non staged properties. So if an unstaged property has had an offer of, say, £500K, once staged it is likely to sell for £550K.
B: That’s a pretty compelling reason. Why does home staging make such a difference?
JS: There are four main factors. Firstly, and what many people don’t realise is, the decision whether or not to buy a property and how much we are prepared to pay is based on how the property makes us feel. Actually, the psychology behind home buying is very simple. The more we can and want to see ourselves living in a property, the more we are willing to pay for it. It starts very early on in the marketing process. The more aspirational the photos look on line, the more potential buyers will want to view it, the higher the number of viewings, the more the interest and the higher the eventual sale price.
Secondly, it is very hard for viewers to imagine a property’s true potential unless they see it in the flesh (so to speak). We all think we can imagine what an empty property would look like furnished or what a cluttered room would look like without the clutter but, actually, we can’t. Research has shown that 97% can’t imagine what we don’t see with our own eyes. So the best way of getting top dollar for our sale is by presenting it to show the property’s true potential.
Thirdly, empty rooms look smaller than furnished ones. Of course, I’m not talking about rooms crammed to the rafters but with carefully selected and positioned furniture and accessories. Typically viewers question whether a double bed will fit or if their furniture will fit into open plan living spaces. Staging not only shows viewers that the furniture will fit but gives practical ideas on how open plan spaces can be used.
And lastly, everyone is looking for easy, low maintenance living. Fixing, decluttering and cleaning are all part of the staging process. Anyone selling a property with leaking taps, broken light bulbs, overgrown gardens and sticking doors should realise that buyers will assume this as the tip of the DIY iceberg and lower their offer (if they offer at all).
B: What’s the difference between a home stager and an interior designer?
JS: That’s a question a lot of people ask. The skills are the same but whilst the role of an interior designer is to create spaces that reflect the owner’s taste and personality, a home stager does the opposite. We depersonalise homes and create beautiful spaces that will appeal to the widest possible audience.
B: I’d never heard of Home Staging before you mentioned your business to me. Is it a new concept in the UK?
JS: Yes, it’s relatively new here but as more and more agents and home owners are understanding the value of staging, the harder it is for empty or unstaged properties to get a good sale. We seem to be moving in the direction of America and Australia where home owners have been staging their properties as part of a strategic marketing process for years. They wouldn’t dream of putting an empty or unstaged property on the market. In fact a lot of overseas landlords who contact me via Houzz or my website asking me to stage a UK ex-rental property say they’re amazed when staging hasn’t been recommended by their agent.
B: Other than the overseas landlords finding you via Houzz or your website, who are your clients and how do they find you?
JS: My clients fall into four main categories: developers, landlords, owner-occupiers and probate lawyers. Most are referred by estate agents but many find me via my website, social media platforms such as Linkedin, Instagram and Houzz, networking events or by word of mouth.
B: What’s an average work day for you?
JS: My days are extremely varied. In any one day I can be attending trade fairs exploring new trends in home furnishings and sourcing new suppliers, visiting new properties to provide a staging quote, staging a property with my fabulous team, packing up and emptying a property that has sold or let, chatting with new and existing clients, agents and colleagues in person, by phone and on-line or shopping for particular key pieces of furniture or accessories for a new staging project.
B: Sounds exhausting!
JS: It can be so I make sure that every day starts with a few minutes of yoga – albeit usually interjected with reminders from my kids that they’re alive and (hopefully) well wherever they are. And I keep reminding myself to breath.
B: What has been your most challenging project to date?
JS: That’s a hard one. Most projects have some challenges but I guess the most challenging was helping the owner of four storey house in East London declutter and prepare it for sale. The owner was delightful and happy to accept all my recommendations but she was a mega hoarder and had kept, amongst other things, every letter she had ever received and every newspaper she had bought since moving into the house thirty years earlier. She had even brought letters and newspapers with her from a previous property.
The challenge wasn’t so much just clearing and preparing the house for sale. It was more about doing it is such a way that respected her need to be surrounded by things familiar to her whilst presenting a home that potential buyers could see themselves living in. It took a while and I involved the owner in every stage of the process but in the end the house was pretty unrecognisable. Having been on the market for about a year before that with no offers, the house sold very quickly and the owner was delighted.
B: Sounds like there’s an element of psychology also involved
JS: Yes – helping owners stage the home they live, and possibly have lived in for many years, isn’t just about decluttering, adding a few special touches and furniture placement. People sell their homes for all sorts of reasons, some happy ones, some traumatic and some very regretful. It’s very important to be sensitive to how the owner may be feeling and what I and my team can do to help the whole process feel as smooth and pain-free as possible. It’s also important to be aware that people’s homes are sacred to them and any inference that they have to make changes for their home to be acceptable to someone else can feel very insulting. Helping vendors on the emotional path to selling their home can sometime be the most important (and rewarding) part of my work.
B: I’ve seen a number of home staging specialists on-line with quite different staging styles. How would you define your style?
JS: My style is contemporary (without being too modern) and very aspirational. My aim is to create spaces that are warm and inviting and appeal to the widest possible audience. I’m quite minimalist with my furniture. I think it’s important for viewers to get a sense of space but I do use a lot of accessories like rugs and cushions with warm colours and textures. And I use real, architectural plants. There’s something about real plants and the freshness of the green leaves that bring vibrancy to a property. I know some stagers dress just key rooms like the living room and master bedroom, but I always stage every bit of a property including kitchen, bathrooms and outside spaces. I think a staged property offers the viewer a glimpse of an aspirational lifestyle and it seems to work so much better if that same lifestyle is reflected in every room.
B: What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?
JS: Many aspects of my job are rewarding. I love working with my fabulous team. Everyone of them is an angel and I appreciate them every day. I love the connection I have with my clients and the agents I work closely with. I really enjoy sourcing new furniture and accessories and exploring new design trends. My style is bespoke for each property so I love the creativity of choosing the right pieces for each project and seeing the empty property transform into a beautiful home. And, of course, I get huge satisfaction from seeing the property sell or let for a great price.
B: What advice would you give to people wanting to stage their own home?
JS: I would advise them to try to see their home through the eyes of a potential buyer, as if they were the buyer. It helps to take a look on line and note which images they find most appealing. What appeals to them is probably what will also appeal their buyer. Here are a few simple tips to start staging their own home for sale.
First of all it’s important to visualise themselves where they want to be once their home is sold. That will make the whole process of preparing their home for sale far less cumbersome and, for some, traumatising.
Start preparing for the big move before putting your home on the market. This will get you a long way down the road of being ready when the time comes and help your property sell quicker.
3. Take photos
Take photos of each room (including the front and back gardens) and look at them as if this was a property they were looking to buy. It’s important to see the property as a potential buyer will see it and seeing it though a lens can help.
4. Fix, declutter and clean
Everyone wants the same thing when buying a new home, somewhere with plenty of space, storage and light. Somewhere that’s clean, easy to maintain and feels warm and inviting. Somewhere they can see themselves living. So make sure there’s no clutter on floors and surfaces, tie back curtains and pull up blinds to make sure there’s as much natural light as possible entering the property, change broken light bulbs and carry out minor repairs, make sure every surface is sparking clean (including windows).
5. Start sorting
If there is a lot of stuff to sort, divide the items into three piles: do take, don’t take, don’t know. Get rid immediately of the ‘don’t take’ pile and start boxing up the ‘do take’ items that aren’t needed during until after the move. You don’t want to leave your home feeling empty but we are definitely aiming for clutter free rooms.
6. First impressions count
Remember to make sure the front of the home and hallway look and feel clear and clean. That all important first impression is the one that leaves the viewer wanting more!
If you need help preparing your property for sale, get in touch with a professional home stager. They can provide expert advice and simple DIY tips on how to achieve the best and quickest sale for your property. Ask your agent or take a look on Houzz.co.uk for recommended property staging specialist experienced in preparing properties for sale in your area.
Janine Shalev is a professional property and home stager at JS Property Staging. She transforms empty properties into spaces that prospective buyers or tenants would love to call home.
We would love to help you get a great sale for your property.
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