Selling your property? Is professional home staging worth the cost?

Published by Kara Gammell on 21 July 2017.
Last updated on 21 July 2017

A woman prepares her home for sale viewings

Hiring a company to stage and decorate your property to lure in potential buyers could mean you get a lot more when you sell, and in a cooling property market, it could clinch a sale. Moneywise looks at the dos and don’ts of home staging – and whether it pays off. For more tips on home staging on a budget, read Moneywise's tips for home staging on a shoestring.

Companies spend millions of pounds every year creating the right image for their products through packaging, logos, typefaces, the way products are displayed and the wording used to describe them. Whole teams are dedicated to creating the right look and feel. In the US homeowners have known for years that applying this philosophy to their homes gets them sold – and fast. Professional home staging – the art of making a home appealing to the highest number of potential buyers using art, paint, accessories, lights, greenery, furniture and carpet – is very popular there.

But a quick look on online property portal Rightmove reveals that this is not the case here in the UK, despite figures from the website showing that a staged home will sell for 8% more than a non-staged one. On an average UK property worth £220,094, that’s an extra £17,607.

Most home buyers look online before they even consider visiting their local estate agent. So with buyers scrolling through pictures of thousands of homes, the way your home is presented and photographed really can make all the difference.

But UK property owners appear to feel home staging makes little sense. Why splash the cash on sprucing up the place if you are about to move out?

“Although there is a considerable shortage of homes in most price ranges, the market has cooled, so properties need to stand out to sell,” says north London estate agent and former Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors residential chairman Jeremy Leaf.

“It is so important that your home is properly staged, both inside and out, before taking photographs or having viewings.”

The theory is simple: potential buyers aren’t just looking for a house: they are looking for a home. A staged home helps a potential buyer imagine your home as their own and increases their willingness to pay for it.

Staging can add significant value to many properties, especially those being sold to first-time buyers, says Mark Homer, founding partner of Progressive Property, a property investment education company.

“These buyers don’t always have the inclination to carry out work on a property, and they often want to see a property furnished and staged to get a vision of how the property will look with their possessions in it,” he says. “Many don’t have the money to perform work that is unlikely to be funded by a mortgage.”

It’s not just live-in homeowners who are staging homes. Private landlords are also staging their properties to achieve the very best returns.

Jonathan Daines, chief executive at Lettingaproperty. com, says: “It’s really a no-brainer for landlords, because by staging a house, they can often command the rental income they want and get their property let quickly, so avoiding long voids – periods when the property is empty between tenancies – which cost the landlord.”

How do you stage your home?

“The first thing to remember is that the way you sell your home is very different from the way you live in your home,” says Lucy Joerin, managing director at property consultancy Stowhill Estates.

“When you decide to sell your home, it’s important that you change your mind-set and start thinking about the property as a financial asset – a commodity you’re going to sell to help you realise your dream of living in a new home.”

The good news is that it’s possible to stage your home on a budget, whether you go down the do-it-yourself route or seek professional help.

How much does it usually cost to hire a home staging company?

Typically, interior designers or home staging firms offer a free initial meeting to discuss your options. If you have a consultation and can put the suggestions into action yourself, costs will be modest: around £50- £200. You should expect to pay anything between £20 and £75 an hour if you want the work done on your behalf. Note that some firms charge a fee based on a proportion of the increased price the home fetches, so it is crucial to do your maths.

The cost of improvements, repairs and accessories, will obviously vary, but experts suggest that 1-2% of the property’s value is a good benchmark figure.

Companies such as Whynothomes.com and Doctorphoto. co.uk will virtually stage your home. For as little as £36 a picture, they will digitally insert designer furniture and flowers into photographs of your home. This works especially well for unoccupied properties. The theory is that the enhanced photographs give the viewer a deeper connection with the house and a vision of how the property could look in future.

What are the best ways to catch buyers’ eyes?

Much can be done to catch the eyes of potential buyers by making your home stand out from the crowd.

If you’re looking to sell your home, it can be worth investing in giving it a facelift to avoid having to drop your asking price.

A new kitchen, bathroom, flooring and wall coverings will usually deliver the biggest “bang for your buck” increase in its sale price relative to the cost of the building work entailed, according to Progressive Property.

However, Mr Homer points out that it’s crucial to keep the cost of these improvements down.“People are unlikely to pay extra for highend bathroom suites rather than good B&Q equivalents,” he says.

“A Howdens kitchen is often perfectly fine, and your house could sell for the price it would fetch with a John Lewis kitchen if the installation is well executed. The style and scheme of a home is much more important than installing high-end fixtures and fittings.”

‘Our property had to appeal to buyers with kids’

 

For Jonathan and Catherine Smith, who are in their 40s and live in London, hiring a professional home stager was “an eye opening experience”.

“Our town house has three bedrooms and two reception rooms, and the interior designer pointed out that the property would suit a family,” says Jonathan.

“But as it is just the two of us living in it, the way we had the rooms set up didn’t give that impression at all. To get the best price for the property, we knew we had to appeal to buyers with kids.”

Jonathan explains that the first thing they did was clear out the formal dining room to create a family room.

“We sold some of the furniture, placed other items in storage and hired some furniture from the staging consultant to fill gaps that were created,” he says.

Their property, in Limehouse in east London, was listed in January for £1,295,000. The couple are thrilled with the impact of home staging. “We spent around £1,500 on the service, but we believe it was worth it. In the first week we had eight viewings, and we received an offer of the full asking price within a fortnight.”

“The advice from the interior designer really opened our eyes to how important it is to market your home when you sell,” he says.

“Having someone with an unbiased opinion walk through your home will give you a new perspective and get the foot traffic through the front door.”

‘I staged my home myself’

 

When Nicki Treffers (pictured above), from Writtle in Essex, bought a property just 18 months ago for £143,000, her goal was to get a good return on her investment. After forking out £7,000 on the property for home staging, Nicki is hoping to sell it for £200,000 – a profit of £50,000.

Nicki believes everything should be aesthetically pleasing, and she knows that this can pay dividends in the property market

“I’ve been involved with show home design in my marketing career, and I’m keen to use my skills and make the apartment look the best it can to get the best price,” says Nicki. “I’ve spent £5,000 on a new kitchen and a further £2,000 on accessories to get the price I am aiming for.”

Nicki opted to stage her home herself rather than shell out for a professional service. She says: “I gained a lot of inspiration from sites such as Pinterest, which offers fresh designs and easy-to-copy ideas.

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