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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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Effective property marketing will make a big difference to how quickly you can sell your property .. whatever the current market’s like. 

After all, you are trying to ‘sell’ and achieve the maximum market price… you probably take care to present goods/products for sale on sites like Ebay in the best possible light; so why wouldn’t you make sure your home is marketed correctly?

Trawling the property portals for more examples of  ‘How Not to stage ‘ I’m afraid I came across so many underdressed, overdressed, ‘couldn’t careless whether we sell or not’ styles of presentation that I probably have enough property pictures to fill several large books!

In most instances, the home owners ‘could do better’ if they really wanted to cash in on their largest asset but I also came across some excruciatingly bad marketing by a number of estate agents!

Many of them chose to shout about the property putting the whole of the opening description in CAPITAL LETTERS, very off putting to a reader.  A few described houses as “deceptively spacious, must be seen” – only to use a picture of the front of the house or view of the garden (not a single image of the inside) for their advertisement. Others chose to use the space for their vendors property images as a chance to promote themselves .. one showing an image of the front of the house followed by 3 images pertaining to their business; an awards image, logo, contact details etc before showing any further images of the property for sale?!

A subject for another blog perhaps .. so before this turns into a rant;

Here are another 5 classic examples of what not to do if you want to sell your home fast.

1. Don’t neglect your outside space; whatever the size, make the most of it.

2. Never use plastic covers on anything or if you do, take them off for photos and viewings.  I can’t locate the image of two lovely red sofas and a chair I saw covered in thick plastic but if you’re reading this you know who you are…get rid of them!

3. Always leave room for your buyers to circulate.  Edit some of the furniture to allow buyers space to move around.

4. Clear the clutter but don’t strip out all the personality; think warm and welcoming not too austere.


5. Avoid confusion; defining the ‘dumping ground’ adds value!  Make sure the buyer can easily see the room as a bedroom, conservatory, living room etc.

So there you have it ..5 more examples of how not to stage your property for sale.  If you’d like to know more about what you should or shouldn’t do.. please do contact me or keep checking back here for more help and advice in the next coming weeks 🙂

Two weeks ago I drove to Devon to see some clients.  I’d been to their house before, not because they were thinking of selling but to advise on the sale preparation for another property they own.

During my previous visit they had shown me around the house.  We briefly discussed what an easy sell it would be if they ever chose to put it on the market but I hadn’t really looked at it with my ‘viewing’ or ‘buying’ head on.   Now however, it was on the market and after 7 viewings they hadn’t even had a sniff of an offer!

This house was meant to be their forever home, a property they had only recently finished refurbishing and fitting out to a very high spec.

A light, bright, modern living space, designed to make the most of  fabulous, far reaching views over the Devonshire countryside.  Fold-back doors, glass balustrades, and a swish bathroom, definitely gave it the ‘wow-factor’.  And, its eco-friendly touches; including a rain water harvesting system made it a very cheap and efficient house to run too.  So much so, that when most of us needed to turn the thermostat right up in the depths of the snow and ice last winter, they didn’t even put their heating on!

Although this property ticked all the boxes for my clients as far as contemporary ‘town’ living was concerned, they were also lucky enough to own another wonderful, more traditional property, in a fairly rural and equally beautiful part of Devon.  After much soul searching, ‘country life’ appealed to them more for a while at least, and they’d decided to sell.

Although we had talked about the property over the phone and I had looked at the particulars online, I hadn’t given the sale of the house much thought.  The Estate Agent was ‘confident that the house would sell quickly’.  The owners had moved out but left the house mostly furnished and, armed with some tactics I had shown them on another property, they weren’t overly concerned about its saleability.

A few weeks on though and with the start of the summer holiday season, the Estate Agent had started murmuring about reducing the price for a quick sale!

Hang on a minute, this was an ‘easy to sell’, stylish, well presented property… What was the problem?

The agent’s viewing feedback had been positive, there were a couple of small issues, nothing major but equally no one was desperate to buy it either.

I thought back through our initial conversation when the house first hit the market, about the advice the agent had given and the reasons my clients thought the house was sticking.  I looked again at the property photos and details and.. ‘ta-da’ … had a ‘lightbulb moment’!

It was arranged for the Estate Agent to be there when I arrived.  I was keen to meet him; to extract any feedback information that perhaps he had neglected to pass on and also to see what he thought of my suggestions.

We discussed at length the appeal of the house, how much promotion it had been given in the press, the marketing details and how the viewings were conducted (i.e. which room they started with and which way around the property they showed viewers).  When he started to talk ‘price reductions’ I challenged his thinking – ‘Why reduce now if this is the quiet season and ‘very few’ are looking?  Surely you’d wait until September if it really was the right thing to do, otherwise you’d risk having to reduce it again wouldn’t you?’

Both he and I were of the opinion that the 3/4 bedroom house should appeal to a wide range of buyers, professionals, young families, and older couples.  And it would.  However, the reality was, that most people viewing or equiring about the property were in fact downsizers!  

Downsizers, ok, forget reducing the price, I had a better idea. 

Downsizing buyers are (usually) leaving a much loved family home, an acre or two of garden and lots of room to swing a cat (if so desired!).  Although they want (or need) to downsize, they often view with an image of their large rooms and big furniture firmly at the back of their minds. “How will we fit our huge wardrobes in there?” “Where will we have our music room?” etc. etc.  When people are buying a home they buy with their heart, not their heads.  To secure a buyer for this house we needed to ensure viewers would buy into the ‘lifestyle’, could appreciated the versatility of the rooms and more importantly, could imagine themselves (and perhaps some of their furniture) actually living there!

Firstly, we needed to improve the details.

To me, the brochure didn’t show the reality of the roomy, light interior.  The main accommodation looked small when actually it is a brilliant party house.  Re-taking some of the interior shots from another angle would still show the views from the windows, whilst at the same time reflecting the EA’s description of a spacious open-plan home.  I also felt there should be a vendors comment.  Perhaps describing how efficient the house was to run or, explaining a little more about the property’s ‘eco-features’.   After all, not many would have come across ‘rainwater systems’ or ‘high spec insulation’ and buyers definitely wouldn’t understand the benefits… unless they were explained to them.

Secondly, some rooms required further definition. 

The very large hall area, I thought, could be utilized as a ‘valuable’, useful, living space, rather than a place to simply hang your coat and dump your post.  Stylishly presented, this area challenged the dining room for size, yet other than a room to meet and greet it wasn’t really being used.  One of the main rooms downstairs also needed a minor re-jig but, it was upstairs that I really hoped my ideas would make an impact.

Upstairs in the property there was a beautifully styled and furnished bedroom but to all intents and purposes it was really Bedroom 2 – not a bedroom many buyers would see themselves occupying.  The so-called Master bedroom was across the hall and, completely empty

I could see why my clients had left furniture in the other room, it had huge windows, stunning views and a ‘summery’ feel.  However, in my opinion, leaving the Master bedroom empty left viewers failing to find and visualise a ‘room of their own’.  This room also had great views but (according to the agent) most viewers didn’t stop to look at or appreciate the space, it had just become a way to see and access the en-suite!  Styling the ‘Master Bedroom’ was key.  It would complete the picture, allow viewers to appreciate the size of the room, identify their own space and ultimately get them to stop and realise (daft as it sounds) that this ‘walk-through’ was actually a bedroom!

None of my ideas were costly, in fact apart from a couple of accessories for the bedroom, the owners had everything in-house to make the necessary adjustments.

Under strict instructions not to let anyone view the property until everything was completed, I left my clients to implement the changes and skipped off to impart more property marketing wisdom 😉 to other Devon based clients.

The next people to view, gave us the feedback we wanted! They loved the house, thought it was bigger and the rooms more spacious than it appeared in the brochure, they lingered in the Master bedroom, appreciated the separate study/computer area and could really visualise themselves living there.  Fantastic!  The only problem was, they hadn’t sold, their own home wasn’t even on the market ….

All was not lost though.  The second viewers to look round after our changes also loved it.  Downsizers again, they came from a very traditional cottage but totally fell for the contemporary look and lifestyle my clients property offered.  Better still ..this time they were proceedable 🙂

After the usual too-ing and fro-ing, I’m thrilled to report that an offer was agreed at the end of last week.  Hands have been shaken on the deal and the couple in question who were so ‘sold’ on the overall package, even enquired about buying many of the furnishings.

My client comments;

“7 Viewings with no offers. You came and worked your magic 2 viewers who wanted it and an offer, higher than expected, in the quiet season, from a sale agreed buyer! Excellent :)”

Should be easy to find an estate agent shouldn’t it, after all there are a dozen on the high street; they are in the property paper and they are always putting flyers through your door telling you they have a buyer for your home… just call this number for a free valuation.  So yes, it is easy to find an estate agent, but, the right one for you, that may be a different matter.

I have heard it all, from the potential vendors point of view, ‘‘you all do the same thing, so long as you put it on Rightmove I will be ok’’. ‘‘I chose them because I found one through them’’.  ‘‘I bought from them, so just as easy to sell through them’’ – Don’t get me wrong these are all valid reasons.  However, I believe people should put a little more effort in before they even invite the ‘valuer’ through their door, after all this is probably your biggest asset.

Not all agents are the same, just as not all clients are the same; it is potentially a very stressful experience selling your home.  You need to trust and have faith in your agent so; may I suggest some ground work? Don’t just pick three at random, put the groundwork in then invite round three agents from the firms that seem to most closely match your needs.

  1. Mystery Shop. Register with all the agents as a buyer, by phone or in person. How are you treated, were you made welcome, did you feel comfortable with the person, did they take your details? Were they knowledgeable? Did they ask if you would like to make a viewing? What are the details like, floorplans, lots of colour pictures? Or, are the details single sided toilet paper, were you bombarded with attempts to get appointments to see the mortgage advisor, book a valuation? Basically, did you feel you were treated as a person or as a target? How you are treated is how your potential buyers will be treated, don’t forget we buy from people we like!
  2. Email in requesting details. Do you get a response? If you do, how long did it   take?
  3. Check the websites and press.  Do you like their ads, good pictures, wording? Try and choose an agent who appears to mainly deal in properties like yours, no point putting a £150,000 property with an agent who mainly deals in manor houses, and vice versa. If you choose a matching agent they are more likely to have existing clients on their books looking for a home like yours.
  4. Talk to people, ask about their experiences.  Would they use an agent again, did they feel they communicated, whilst you are at it ask about solicitors, you pay them a lot to you know.

Now invite your chosen three round…

  1. If they ask you for your thoughts on value before giving their own, say you invited them round for their opinion, it is ok to discuss it after they have committed.
  2. Have they brought comparables and evidence, are they relevant to your home? Or, have they just dragged out a big sales file telling you all about their great services and how fabulous they are? It is ok to be proud of your firm and yourself (I am) but I would rather see genuine thank you letters than a pre-printed mission statement.
  3. Do you feel comfortable with the person, are they knowledgeable, do they ask about you, your reasons for moving, do they listen or is it one big sales pitch! When they leave are you relaxed and more informed or are you just glad to see the back of them?
  4. Ask about their terms and conditions, including fee, fixed or percentage, agency period, dis-instruction period, how much for an epc. People always seem to worry about the fee, then sign up to a 20 week contract; this can be a much more costly mistake.
  5. Meet with all three agents before making a decision, don’t forget if they persuade you to sign up on the day you have a 7 day cooling off period (check their T’s & C’s) Make your decision after weighing up all the pro’s and con’s, sometimes the most expensive agent is the one for you, and sometimes the cheapest one may be, or even the one in-between, but, if you have done your homework hopefully you have found one to trust and that is far more important!

There is far more I could say about the actual valuation/appraisal itself, but, I will save that for another day.

Estate Agent Dad

Huge thanks to Mark for taking the time to write this article and share his knowledge and insight.  You can follow him daily on Twitter @EstateAgentDad

(images from idea go’s & jscreationzs /freedigitalphotos.net)

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.

A ‘how to’ guide for conducting successful viewings.  This was an article I wrote for Sarah Beeny’s property website Tepilo in 2010.

When selling their homes my clients benefit hugely from advice given for their own individual circumstances and properties but the general advice given in this article can help clinch that sale!

Show Time

Posted: on Teplio.co.uk, Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Supposing all your hard work has paid off and after you’ve tidied up a bit, taken some good photos and advertised your property, you suddenly get asked if a potential buyer can come and view your home.

If you’re not going down the conventional Estate Agent route, selling your property and achieving the best price, is now all down to you!

Unless confident that you’re fully prepared and left the place looking spotless before rushing out to work, avoid the temptation to agree viewings on the spur of the moment.

Before you show anyone around, spend a little time deciding which rooms to start with. Think about the last time you viewed a property and plan a route that gives buyers the very best impression of your home. Just because the downstairs loo is right by the front door, doesn’t mean it should be the room you take buyers into first! Equally, if you have more than 2 floors, is it really a good idea to take them to a room on the top floor last?

For some, the ‘show round’ can be a nerve racking nightmare; Where do I start? Will they like it? What do I say? What if they offer? Much is common sense but the emotional attachment you have with your home is often hard to put aside

To conduct a ‘perfect’ viewing, I find that many of my clients need advice on individual aspects of their property. However, the following guidelines can apply to every viewing and might just help you clinch that sale!

1. Its all in the planning;

Plan your route. Practise on family or friends if necessary; avoid having to ‘double back’ all the time.

2. Welcome your guests;

Don’t make the buyer feel like an intruder, let them view your property in a relaxed and unhurried manner.

3. Turn up the heat;

Check the temperature. Don’t worry about the utility bills now, if you need to wear a jumper – its too cold!

4. Not seen not heard;

Get rid of the kids, pets, lodgers and any other family members, your property will seem more spacious and you can give the buyers undivided attention.

5. Light and bright;

Turn on side lamps for warmth and atmosphere, take down the nets, pull up the blinds (unless there’s an unsightly view!) and let the light flood in.

6. Let them linger;

Offer tea or coffee, relax with a chat, the longer they linger the more ‘at home’ they will feel.

And finally, Engage with the buyer by all means but steer clear of the hard sell!

By Helen Silver from The Property Styling Company www.propertystylingcompany.co.uk

Follow Helen on Twitter: @propertystyling

TEPILO

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