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Dressing Your Home for Sale

We take a look at home staging, a technique that aims to turn your property into every home-buyer’s dream pad…

Unless your home is an absolute crumbling wreck, which you aim to sell as a ‘project’, most vendors want to make their property as appealing as they can. Bring on home staging – a concept that has long been popular in the US, and is now taking off here. The idea is to make it easy for any potential buyers to see how they would live in your home – so out go wacky colour schemes, personal mementoes and clutter – and in its place, neutral colours, attractive aromas and on-trend furniture.

But it is not as easy as you might think – come across as too contrived and it will set alarm bells ringing. One family not only baked bread before a prospective viewing but also had the children sat eating it and smiling angelically as prospective buyers made their way around the house. All very Stepford, and not advisable at all.

Maria Ward, founder of Aquarius Home Staging, says: “It is about showing your home in its best possible light, it is not about being fake – you are showing that people do actually live there but at the same time you have to be able to make it easy for others to see how they might live there.”

As I show Maria around my home to see what she would do to make it ready to put on the market, her honest but tactful manner is apparent throughout the consultation. And her insight is so much deeper than simply, “chuck out the clutter”, though that, of course, is a large part of it.

She surveys each room, suggesting how furniture may work better, even moving some items to other rooms. A dark corner in the lounge is the perfect spot for an uplighter and a plant. Look at what you have, take it all away, and consider what you put back. Does it add character or is it just clutter?

Kitchens are a magnet for all sorts of paraphanalia – hide the junk away but remember that buyers may well nosey in the drawers! If they see them stacked to the max, it screams lack of storage. Baskets are your best friend. They not only store things but hide ugly cables and sockets on the walls. My open display cabinets have become a magnet for yet more clutter. It matters to buyers. So hide it all away unless you can display it stylishly. Books are fine (but stack them attractively). A few bottles of wine on the counter are also okay – a selection of half-drunk ones that you leave around for the cooking are not. Photos of people are a no-no, but photos of your travels showing a beautiful landscape can liven up a bland wall.

On to the bathrooms and she has plenty of practical suggestions – it maybe a cliché but replacing your old scrappy towels with fluffy white ones really do make a difference but forget replacing all your toiletries with Molton Brown – too contrived. A simple refillable glass soap dispenser though is worthwhile. And add a fern for a quick and easy lift.

The top floor is the disaster zone – my office, now a dumping ground for everything that doesn’t have a place elsewhere, and the kids’ room, stacked with toys. Maria advises hiring a storage facility while the house is on the market for the junk – and then either making the room into a desirable office space or showing its potential as a fourth bedroom. As for the kids’ room – they really will have to tidy away with the exception of a cute play table with their carefully crafted Lego project!

Rather than feel daunted by what I need to do, Maria also points out what I don’t. I was going to get new carpets in the bedrooms – unnecessary, Maria, says, as buyers know that carpets will need replacing once someone’s furniture comes out. Do a deep clean instead and use rugs where needed. No need to sand the lounge floor either – again, a steam clean will do the job.

Finally, she advises doing all this in advance of any estate agent photos – buyers today judge whether to view by the pictures they see online.

Maria’s tips…
Kerb appeal

Start at the front of your home. Does your front door need a lick of paint? Do you have bright colourful flowers outside (not dead ones!)? Prospective buyers may assess your home from the outside before booking a viewing.

Move the furniture

Look at how you have placed the furniture. Could a room look more spacious if a few key pieces went into storage? Update towels and throws.

Rent what you need

Don’t buy pieces unless you want them for your new home. If you need new, you can rent everything from the furniture and rugs to artwork, blinds and lamps.

Fix It

Fix any odd jobs around the house such as leaky taps – ultimately, a buyer will seek a bigger reduction than you’d pay to have the task done.

Pets and kids

Remember, even buyers with pets and kids themselves don’t want to view houses filled with the sights, sounds and smells of other people’s.

Aroma therapy

Forget baking breads. Scented candles can work but some people find them too strong. A diffuser provides a more subtle alternative.

Garden living

Have some seating in your garden to show how the space can be used. Bring in some coloured plants, replace any dead ones.

The price is right

Make sure that you set a realistic asking price. There is nothing worse than having to reduce it later as buyers will suspect a problem or that you are desperate. Then make sure your house is the best on the block and show it in its best possible light.