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The Property Styling Company..

It’s the weekend and I’ve been up since the crack of dawn packing my car with all sorts of gorgeous accessories, collecting fresh flowers, buying fruit and making sure every item on my long list is present and correct. Working on a Saturday or Sunday is something of an occupational hazard for me as that’s when most of my clients tend to be ‘at home’.

I love everything to do with Interiors and Design but my passion is really for ‘Property’; marketing, styling, selling and (when it’s called for) finding!

I’ve specialised in Property Marketing, you may know it as Home-Staging (but with a strategic twist) for years now and the thrill of achieving a great result for my clients is still unbeatable. Whether they’ve a property just going onto the market, a home they’ve been unable to sell for a while or a house they moved into but never really settled in, the starting principle is the same, a good poke around and a proper ‘fact-find’.

Today’s styling project is the culmination of a good few weeks of hard graft. 

The house is a substantial 5 bed (Victorian) period property in Bath.  It has been their happy, family home for approximately 25 years. Although their children have long since moved into homes of their own, it’s a big wrench for the owners to consider leaving the house behind. Ideally, they’d like to downsize, put a bit of money in the bank, move further out into the country, perhaps embark on a small renovation project and enjoy an early, well-earned retirement.

Our first meeting at their property was for me to appraise the house by analysing the property through the eyes of a buyer, find out their objectives, talk through strategies for attracting their target market and give them a winning edge over similar properties for sale. A great deal of our time was spent discussing Estate Agents; those considered suitable to sell the property and the price range my clients felt would be acceptable to them.

I took copious notes for the follow-up report and numerous photos as a reference for styling and staging. As it had been their home for a long time, they had, like all of us, built up a collection of ‘family treasures’ and found themselves custodians of larger objects like ski’s, framed posters, boxes of clothes, books and bits of furniture the kids still wanted but had “no room to store” in their own houses! They were also concerned about the decoration in some of the rooms, did they need to paint, re-carpet, dress the windows, fit a new bathroom or de-clutter?

As with many period properties the house had a few quirks and foibles but was essentially a well cared for, comfortable, elegant home. I’d spotted one or two (essential) minor upgrades on my initial look around but the majority of work was ‘clutter clearing’ (not that this was in any way a messy home) and redefining three (mostly unoccupied) bedrooms. Happy to indicate a small budget for upgrades and staging items, the couple were keen that any furniture and accessory purchases could be used again in their next home or agreed as part of a rental package (hired from me) if they so chose.

Having received my Home Sale report, they’d spent the intervening period working through my recommendations; sorting, storing, decorating and cleaning the house from top to bottom. Estate Agent valuations were booked and all that was left to do was the final room styling in preparation for the marketing photographs.

Where possible I like to work with a professional photographer, one experienced in commercial photography rather than family portraiture and preferably a patient photographer. I often spot something after the shot has been taken that I don’t like, need to change or “would be better over there”!

On site I meet up with Bruce Bolton, (www.lanternphotography.co.uk) he’s keen, early and I’ve yet to begin.  Luckily, he and the owner discover a passion for racing cars which allows me enough time to unpack and get started. We’ve allowed only 2-3 hours.

Much of the main furniture re-arrangement was completed in advance; we needed a new double bed for one of the rooms and some curtain poles put up elsewhere. Now also in-situ, I’d previously sourced bed linen, lamps and light-fittings too.

Concentrating on the Living room and Dining room first, I arrange flowers, hang pictures, re-position key pieces of furniture and decide which lights to leave on. Bruce is anxious to get ‘snapping’ so I move onto the kitchen. This room is the most contemporary part of the house, all gleaming surfaces and shiny glass. Already a very stylish space, other than deciding which accessories will further enhance the ‘lifestyle look’ there isn’t a lot else to do in here.

The patio and garden have previously been tweaked by the owners so photographs are taken of this area next. The sun keeps disappearing behind a cloud, not ideal but at least it isn’t raining – we want light, bright, shots, seasonal of course but sunshine makes a huge difference to the appeal of any property image.

Thankfully styling the rest of the house goes smoothly. The cushions I’d purchased for the Master Bedroom are such a perfect match to the owner’s originals anyone would think it had been planned in advance 😉 I’m very pleased with the overall look and feel of this room.

The only space that proves a bit tricky is the bathroom…. It’s quite small and trying to find an angle that isn’t all ‘bath’ or mainly a shot of the window is difficult.  I managed to source towels in pretty soft shades to go with the colour scheme and found some perfectly coloured accessories but unless we take a photo directly of them (which to show off the styling is fine) this room could look a bit bland.

In the end all rooms are photographed and we even manage to capture the front of the house with the sun shining! The result is exactly what I had hoped to achieve and thankfully my clients are thrilled.

Before I leave, my owners get a mini coaching session on how to conduct a perfect viewing.  Showing a 3 storey property can be confusing – do you start at the top of the house, in the middle or out in the garden?  I want to ensure they can successfully show the house to viewers (and the Estate Agents) without having to double back anywhere; ensure where they start creates the most impact and that they finish on a high to give them the greatest chance of achieving a faster and more profitable sale.

Back home, the worst part of the job…unpacking! I have to decide if I’m keeping any of the unused purchases for another project, re-wrap the delicate items, store all the bags and boxes and finally sit down to analyse the day.

Post Script:  All 4 estate agents that came to value were really impressed by the presentation of the property and dead keen to get the instruction.  By being proactive and having the house ready before they called in the agents, my clients could make informed decisions about the timing of the sale, negotiate fees and capitalize on marketing ideas.  

They sold quickly, for a great price and are now happily involved in turning their new house into their home!

Thanks to Bruce at www.lanternphotography.co.uk for use of his images.

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Assuming you are a motivated seller, actually want to sell your property fast and not just ‘test the market’… perhaps now is the time to take a long hard look at the ‘detail.’

A staggering 93%* of property buyers search the internet first, before they even contact an estate agent.

Which means that your home has to stand out from the crowd, from day one.

It appears only a few homeowners thoroughly check their online property details, preferring to leave ‘that side of thing to the agents’.  Most never think of looking at their property to see whether their ‘advert’ could be improved.

Once you’ve noticed your home showing up on Rightmove or Zoopla what do you do, sit back and wait for a sale?

When presented with a client’s ‘problem’ property, one of the first things I do is study the online information to see what it does or, in many cases doesn’t reveal.

Imagine you’re searching for a new home to buy, what would you like to see?  In my case the kitchen, living space and the master bedroom are top of my list.

So just how effective is your property marketing?

Take 5 minutes out of your busy day, sit down with a cup of tea and really look objectively at the way your house has been presented… to the world!

Did you even notice it amongst the 1000’s of similar properties for sale on the property portals?


Hiding something?

More importantly, would you want to view it?

Full frontal!

Any property can benefit from a good declutter and bit of tweaking here and there (I should know!) but if your online and printed information is less than perfect, your smart, clutter free hallway may remain forever unseen!

*Statistics from HMT Report, Property Academy (October 2010) )

Funny old thing PR … you can spend ages banging on doors, sending off articles, thinking up ideas and getting nowhere.  Of course, if it’s your own business, you are bound to be biased – ‘why wouldn’t they want to write about my styling work, feature my home-staging projects, call on my property expertise?’ – every company wants an injection of free publicity… don’t they?!

So, to get an email or call out of the blue from a “National” publication is always a thrill.  It’s a kind of validation that you are an ‘expert in your field’, do know what you are talking about and have the knowledge to contribute to the article.  Also, secretly, everyone hopes that a mention will open the floodgates and propell you (and your business) to the forefront of everyones minds … for a day or so at least!

Nothing is ever guaranteed, not even the journalist is ever sure it when or if it will make the papers and rarely, as you’re just the one providing the information, do you get to know which bits of your interview will actually get published. 

But twice, in the last couple of months, I have had a call or, as the case this week, an email from a ‘National’ 🙂

I’m flattered to have been asked to contribute to a number of websites, blogs and newspaper articles.  Usually, these have come through getting to know the business owner or journalist via friends and networking connections.  Then, when a topic has come up for discussion or, they need a piece on property marketing, they already know what I do or how I can help and a quote ‘from me’ has been included.

This time though the email was from a stranger, working for the Daily Mail!

The email led to a phone interview and further emails, as information was exchanged and questions asked.  I waffled on about case histories and how amazing property styling could be, what a difference it could make to the value of a property, how people buy homes with emotion not logic, the importance of correct online marketing and how selling empty (of furniture) properties is a complete no no…………..

I am sure the guy requesting the information was bored rigid but he was very polite and, enthusiastically thanked me for my efforts and assured me that if he used any of my quotes/information The Property Styling Company would get a mention. Result!

Well today, Friday October 7th 2011 ‘we’ did get a mention in the Property Mail section of the paper.   I got a name check, the website got published and a telephone number included (thankfully no photo!) … I can now use the quote “As seen in the Daily Mail”

My mother was convinced that with all the time I’d spent talking to him and exchanging emails I’d “practically written the whole article for him” .. and if you see below, yes Mum I practically did 😉

And if you can’t read what it says above … >> a transcript follows below

HOME STAGING

Helen Silver, of The Property Styling Company (07789 488446, propertystylingcompany.co.uk) believes sellers can add at least 10 per cent to the value of their property by employing a professional stylist.

She decluttered and restyled a four-bedroom home in Swindon valued at £275,000 — now it’s on sale for £320,000.

How about giving your Estate Agent a helping hand?

Perhaps, they need help to sell your home faster!

Perhaps, you think, they should have sold your home by now, been inundated with offers for you to choose from …. Or, at the very least, shown around a viewer!

I agree, if you’ve a property to sell, if your home is on the market and let’s face it, most of us enlist the help of an Estate Agent when selling; they need to do their job.  They must market your home, advertise it, promote it, show your property, attract a buyer, get you a good price, sell your home, liaise with solicitors, stay on top of the transaction, calm any nerves, and (this is very important) keep you informed!

So, what if you’re struggling to sell, what if you aren’t getting any viewings, is it all down to your agent or could some of the responsibility lie with you too?!

Assuming your home’s currently on the market and you are having problems attracting a buyer – take action now.  If you have to or want to sell quickly and for the best market price, you need to be geared up to promote your home too.

Stop quibbling about dropping the price (in fact… don’t rush to drop the price) focus on the marketing message you (and your home) are sending out. Use these simple ideas that to help you sell your home faster;

Read your property details.  Thoroughly read them, in print and online. Are they describing your property accurately? Is there a floor plan, clear room sizes, has anything been missed off or described incorrectly? Does the thumbnail photo of your home online stand out amongst the crowd?

Study the photos.  Have your agents captured the best rooms, the best aspect? Do the photos highlight your home; are they too dark, too light? You know your home better than your agent; if you don’t feel the photos are representative don’t be afraid to say so.

Keep it seasonal.  If your property has been on the market a while and winter has turned into summer, make sure your photos reflect that.  Refresh and renew as necessary.

Is the price realistic?  Did you go with the agent who gave you the highest (but not necessarily the most sensible) valuation? Or, perhaps you were adamant your home went on the market for ££££’s more than your neighbours because you have a conservatory, and next door hasn’t.  Most property will sell if it’s correctly priced.

How is your property presented?  Would you view your own home? Does the outside make you want to come in or drive by; are the rooms cluttered, have you washed up, is the toilet seat down?!  Many small improvements will cost little but add (high) value.

Ask for feedback.  If you are getting viewings, insist on regular feedback and act on it if you can.  Ask your agent for Rightmove statistics, to see how many have looked at your home.  This is a good indicator of how appealing your property is, how well it stands out/gets noticed online.

Accept criticism.  If for example viewers are saying the 3rd bedroom looks small, can you do anything about it; is this the room that’s currently housing 10 years worth of treasures?!

Banish the animals.  Not forever but please remove the food bowls, litter tray, dog bed, cages, smells and the animals for the duration of the viewing.

Let the agent do the viewingswithout you at home!  Leave before the viewers arrive and stay out until they have left.  Don’t turn up with kids and dog in tow crowding into the hallway to catch a glimpse of your possible new purchasers – what the viewers might have decided was a lovely spacious home, will suddenly have become small, cramped and not for them in that very instant!

Be ready – for viewings.  If your agent calls to arrange a viewing do you keep putting them off; have you got people staying, are you holding a dinner party, wanting a lie in, cant be bothered to tidy up? There are times when rearranging a viewing makes sense (if your home really does look like a bomb’s hit it or the cat’s left you a present in the living room) but, if its something you tend to do regularly, potential buyers will simply move on to the next house. Stay prepared, make the beds, take out the trash, clean the bathroom!

Make friends with your agent. I don’t mean you have to invite them to dinner or call them all the time.  However, you chose them, interviewed them (or you should have), trusted them to sell your biggest asset.  Keep in touch, keep things friendly, ask their advice, and push for feedback positive or negative.  Challenge their sales methods, viewing techniques, marketing details etc (sorry EA’s!) if you feel they’re not right.  Let them know they have a motivated seller on their books.

Don’t be afraid to change.  So, if you have done all of the above and you’re still not happy or don’t feel you are getting the right sort of marketing advice for your home, then yes, much of the problem could lie with your current agent.

Perhaps it is time to change …. Or at the very least, lend them a hand 🙂

The first time the new owners of your home are likely to come across your property, is on the internet; via Rightmove, Primelocation, Tepilo or, your Estate Agent’s website.

The second time might be an advert in the Estate Agent’s window or in the local property paper.

The third time? Well probably, when they receive the glossy brochure showing your home for sale in all its splendid glory.

But are your online and printed details good enough to get you a viewing?

Hopefully, this will be one of the things you have been considering since my last blog!

As I’ve said before, selling a house is like selling any product it needs good marketing.  And your property details; photographs, description, floorplan, glossy brochure, should promote your property for sale in much the same way as a luxury hotel might advertise its weekend breaks.  The information needs to be clear, concise, interesting, appealing to its target market, highlight the most attractive features and selling points, whilst evoking a sense of lifestyle.  Ultimately, the advert needs to be impressive, good enough to get them a booking … or in your case, to secure a viewing!

So study your details on-line. 

Are your pictures good enough to stop potential buyers eliminating your property during one sitting at the computer?  How many do you whizz through when searching for a home online – 50? 100?  What makes you stop and click-through the details? price?, image, description?  Think about it.  Searching for a home online gets boring after a while and what stops you will stop your buyers too. 

What could be done to make your property stand out from the crowd? If you have extensive competition in your price range go through the list – is every thumbnail property a picture of the front of the house?  How about asking your agent to change the image to an interior shot or, one of the back garden?

Are your photographs well-lit or does your property look gloomy? Do your rooms look cluttered, tired, messy.  Is your bed made and the toilet seat down?! If you’ve been on the market a while are your photos still in season or do they show snow on the ground in the middle of summer?  Freshen up the photos if necessary.  A good agent should be on top of this but it helps to be a proactive seller…. if you really want to sell.

Go through your property description details.  Hopefully you will have done this from the start but if you notice an inaccuracy don’t leave it, change it!  If yours is a unique property and has a different heating system or particularly unusual feature – perhaps an explanation from you or additional (typewritten) notes could be available at the time of the viewing… (if you’re unable to get them printed on the brochure).

Floorplans are they big enough or too big for your brochure? And do you have room sizes on them?  Frankly they aren’t much good if you haven’t got sizes as they don’t allow an easy comparison to other (similar) properties.  Floorplans show how a property works, allows the buyer to see if a property will work for their family or situation and act as a memory trigger when they have been to view.

If you’re not getting any viewings, don’t (just) blame your agent… be proactive, re-assess your details, re-shoot the photographs and bag yourself a buyer!

I came across an article yesterday as featured in The Local, a Fort-Greene edition of the New York Times.  The Americans are so much better than us Brits at understanding just how Home Staging, Property Styling, Property Marketing – call it what you will, gets results when you have a property to sell.

A good many years ago now, my parents upped sticks and moved to the US with me and my sister  (quite another story).  However, in buying and selling property over there we came across ‘Property Stylists’ who worked alongside Real Estate Agents, they even worked from the same office to offer a complete marketing package.  Apart from an exceptional few, we’ve still not quite achieved the same over here.

None the less ‘we’ perservere and battle on with the idea of awareness and bringing a complete package of property marketing combined with staging and styling to the masses!

It isn’t rocket science and, although property sellers in New York tend to think mainly in terms of apartments, the article is still relevant to all who have a house to sell in a difficult market. You can read the full article by Geri Charles here but these are the highlighted tips:

With the importance of staging in mind, here are three tips on staging your home to sell it:

1) It’s not about you, it’s about the buyer.

What you may consider tasteful may not be to the buyer’s taste. The fact of the matter is, interior décor is subjective. The living room painted chocolate brown with one big red stripe in the middle may be a proud do-it-yourself moment for you, but it may give the buyer flashbacks to a slasher scene with Freddie Krueger. Your best bet is to keep it simple with neutral plain colors.

2) It’s all about a room’s “star” feature.

Maximize your home’s best features by accentuating them. Draw more attention to a fireplace, for example, by mounting a wrought iron sculpture right above it. You can also minimize the room’s least appealing feature, like a window directly facing into a neighbor’s bathroom, by using a stained glass window decal to block the view.

3) Less is more.

Get rid of all clutter. I repeat, get rid of ALL clutter. Although you may be proud of your 30-year record collection, or photographs taken at last year’s 10-year family reunion, those items take up space. The less you have on display, the more the potential buyers can envision themselves living there.

If you need advice on styling, selling or buying property and would like to discuss working with me … my main website can be found at www.propertystylingcompany.co.uk. Contact can be made through this wordpress site, by email or by calling 07789 488446.

Suppose you’ve spent the last 6 months or even 2 years searching for your new home.  Suppose you employed the services of a Property Stylist and Property Finder to not only get your current home sold quickly but also to find your dream property.  And, suppose everything turned out well; your old home sold for maximum market value and your new home ticked all the boxes on your wish list.

Finally, after weeks of eager anticipation and clutter clearing, you move in.

It’s a joyous occasion right? The property is exactly what you wanted.  There’s enough room for the kids, grown-ups, visiting relatives, book club group, you have your own study, orangery, hot tub ….. fill in the blank!  So why doesn’t it feel like home?

Image from August Edition of Livingetc

Unless you are one of the lucky few, for whom money isn’t too much of an object, moving into a new home will inevitably bring compromise.  When you viewed the property, (particularly if it was being marketed by switched on vendors who’d buffed and styled their house to appeal to the masses 😉 ) you envisioned yourselves living the dream.  It had bags of potential for you and yours. The rooms looked gorgeous, the master bedroom was huge, the living room was perfect for entertaining, the kitchen – well ok, that could do with a refit (looked lovely with all their ornaments, oils and shiny pans) but the bathrooms were sleek, white and oh so clean…

Picture from housetohome network

The stark truth is that when you move into a new house, your furniture won’t look the same as the previous owners did or have the same ‘wow-factor’ as the carefully styled Show-Home you viewed.  If, like the majority of us, you plonk your stuff in the same spot as the last occupants, use the rooms in the same way as you were shown by the sellers or simply, after all the costs of moving home, don’t have enough cash to embark on remodelling, then the reality is it probably won’t feel like home for a long time… if ever!

SO WHAT’S THE SECRET?

The number one tip is – Don’t panic!

Consider the reasons why you believed it would make your perfect home.  Does it have the space you always longed for, an en-suite bathroom or perhaps off road parking?

Make an objective list of things you’d really like to improve.  Start with your biggest bug bear and then revisit the budget!

Avoid doing things twice.  Don’t spend money replacing missing kitchen cupboard doors if you are planning to rip out the entire kitchen in a few months.  Hold fire on replacing the ugly patterned carpet. Take time to work out what flooring/finishes will suit your lifestyle.

Consult a professional.  Having an outsider give an objective view of how you can maximise your property’s potential will save you time and money!  Most Interior Designers will work on projects for a fixed fee, some can offer a virtual service on a room by room basis.  Whether you need advice on finding the right wall colour, help with sourcing furniture or plan to carry out a full refurbishment, find an Interior Designer you like to help define your dream home ideas.

Change the use of your rooms.  Could your dining room be used as a family/teenage room?  Could the spare room become your office?  Do you need a downstairs shower for sporty kids ?

Move the furniture.  Just because the previous owners had their sofa facing the window doesn’t mean you have to!  Play around with the space you’ve inherited and find out where your favourite chair looks the best.

Treat yourself to a deep clean!  Even if the house looks clean, have the place professionally cleaned from top to bottom, including the carpets – especially if you don’t like them but have to live with them for a while! Cleansing a space always makes it feel better.

Set up a dream home bank account.  Home improvements always cost more than you think and invariably people get carried away.  Saving for property changes and creating a separate account means that you can see exactly what you have to spend and can plan accordingly.

Finally, claim ownership with a fresh coat of paint!  This is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to make your new house, feel like your new home!

Peter Fallico’s bedroom as shown in StyleatHome.com

If you need advice on styling, selling or buying property and would like to discuss working with me … my main website can be found at www.propertystylingcompany.co.uk. Contact can be made through this wordpress site, by email or by calling 07789 488446.


Spring Clean!

So you’ve decided to put the house on the market – (or you may even be considering letting) you’ve thought about which Agents you’ll get to value and you are itching to get the For Sale sign up.  BUT WAIT… Want to know what the number one turn-off is that could scupper a decent valuation and a quick sale?…..

GRIME!

You know what I mean – you’ve seen it yourself when you’ve been viewing properties.  And probably rushed out with lots of excuses as soon as you could…

  • Grease in the kitchen, up the tiles, over the cooker.
  • Sticky carpets that cling to your shoe and look as though they’re 30 years old and….. smell accordingly.
  • Dirty bathroom tiles with other peoples ‘skin and hair’ clinging to them, ugh… dare you lift the toilet seat?
  • Overflowing cat litter trays!
  • Sticky handprints on the wall.
  • Flithy windows you can’t see in (or out) of.
  • Dark, dusty corners and cobwebs hanging from the light fitting.

You want people to relax when they are viewing your property, imagine themselves living in it – not feel desperate to leave in case they catch something or rush home to jump in the shower!  Unless your house IS a show home (and there are some people out there), would it receive a gold star of approval when viewed through the critical eyes of a viewer? – think about it.  Would you really want your agent to have to apologise for the ‘state’ of your home everytime they conducted a viewing?

As time becomes a scarce resource for many, it’s easy to let dust and grime build up. When was the last time you wiped down your skirting boards or cleaned around your light switches? (Please don’t come and look at mine!)

That’s why having a thorough clean BEFORE your Estate Agent and your first viewers arrive is SO important.  You might already have a cleaner, but they’re just ‘keeping on top’ of the dusting and vacuuming.

What you really need is a whole weekend devoted to Spring Cleaning tackling the cobwebs, removing grease from inside and outside of those cupboards and freshening up the bathroom.

Wiping down the paintwork can be as effective as redecorating but without the mess!

Better still, why not employ a team to deep clean your property whilst you’re at work and come back to what looks like a new home?

You’ll be impressed and so will your potential buyers!

If you need advice on styling, selling or buying property and would like to discuss working with me … my main website can be found at www.propertystylingcompany.co.uk. Contact can be made through this wordpress site, by email or by calling 07789 488446.

What is Property Styling?

Home Staging, Property Styling, Property Staging, House Fluffing, Property Presentation…

These are all popular descriptions used for explaining the practise of preparing a property (and its contents) for a faster sale or let, with the sole purpose of achieving the highest price and appealing to the widest possible audience.

However, professional Property Styling is much more than just ‘painting it all white and clearing out the clutter!’

Styling a property for sale ensures that the presentation of the property is the best it can be.   This might simply mean rearranging what you already have or, it could involve bringing in new furniture, accessories and artwork.  Professional Stylists work with the ‘flow’ of a property which normally entails things of an aesthetic nature; overall appearance, clutter, design, colour, as opposed to major structural improvements.

The goal of Property Styling is to improve the property’s appearance in the eyes of a potential buyer.  Typically a buyer has made up their mind whether to buy, within 10 seconds of walking through the door, forming an opinion as they pulled up outside – that doesn’t leave much time for error!

To achieve the desired outcome, a property should be presented at its best right from the start.  Each viewing should lead to a probable offer. If it doesn’t, it’s a wasted viewing and another likely buyer lost.

If your property looks fantastic, buyers can immediately imagine living there and are more prone to making an offer – Most buyers can’t figure out how their furniture might look in an empty property or see past unattractive and disorganized spaces; people buy with emotion but shop with logic!

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