Written by John Williams
As a profession, home staging has come a long way from the bland, cookie-cutter installations that plagued our homes a few years back. Sure, there are companies out there that still churn out the same old tat, but there is a new breed of home stager that offers a bespoke service, designed and tailored to bring out the best of your property when it comes time to move on.
Simon Gill (Interior Concepts), Ron Redel (BOB & Friends), and Louise Sinclair (Polished) are amongst the best home stagers in the business. Here is what they had to say in answer to some basic questions we put to them about their profession:
What is Home Staging?
Louise: Home staging is when furniture, art and accessories are installed into your home in order to display your property to its full potential.
Ron: As a home stager, my job is to take a fresh look at a home and create an appealing and visually exciting environment.
Simon: Home staging is the art of highlighting a home’s most desirable features and minimising its least. Essentially, we are makeup artists for property.
Does home staging work?
Simon: There has been no quantitative research done in NZ, but there is plenty on line from American studies. We know it works and so do real-estate agents. We have had many satisfied vendors over the years with many stories of success. As a vendor, you need to make an effort to compete with other property marketed at the same time, and your best option is to use a professional.
Ron: Home staging definitely makes a difference to most homes. Not because people have bad taste, but mainly because the expectations of buyers are so high. Often, vendors don’t have the skill-set to see the full potential of a space. The clients that get the best results tend to listen to our recommendations, and I can confidently say that we have added value in almost every case.
How much does it cost to stage a home?
Louise: A standard two-bedroom home or unit starts at around $2,000 for a five-week period. A larger five-bedroom home with two lounges will be around $3,000 for a five-week period.
Ron: If I’m doing a ‘partial’, it can be as little as $1,000, but the average is around $2,700. A bigger five-bedroom will be up to $4,500.
Simon: A base package starts at around the $2,000 mark. However, we have two properties this year that have been as high as $10,000. The average spend is around the $3,000 to $4,000.
Isn’t home staging only for high-end properties?
Louise: Any property would benefit from quality staging, but we’ve found the lower to mid-end properties benefit most. If a buyer were to visit an open home for a property in need of TLC, their eye is better drawn to the modern, fresh furniture and art, rather than the threadbare carpet and tired kitchen cupboards. And obviously a home will sell better when presented fully staged rather than cold and empty. People are visual. Generally they find it hard to make the leap from an empty house to a family home, without seeing the property furnished.
Ron: No. For example, we just did an ordinary looking two-bed apartment in Mt Eden. There was nothing special about it. The kitchen and bathroom were original. The only thing that had been done was the floorboards. Once we’d been in there with a rug and few selected pieces, it looked great – and the owners said they got a lot more for it than they were expecting. This happens a lot with apartments.
Simon: Not at all. In fact, the very high-end properties tend not to need staging as they have already had advice from an interior design, and hence have the furniture to match the property. The most benefit can be found in a small property, where the right scale furniture is selected to maximise space and demarcate specific areas.
Can’t I just stage my home myself and save my money?
Louise: It is a tempting option and indeed many people could do it themselves, particularly if they have a flair for interiors. I would however recommend making a list of the items you would need to buy before staging yourself and compare your costs with the cost of having a professional style your home for you. There is also a considerable risk in staging the property yourself – you might mess it up. That risk is removed when you hire a professional.
Simon: You can, and people do. Sometimes it’s a matter of rearranging existing furniture to suit the space, or removing some furniture pieces from a space that is over furnished, then adding some colour or artworks. My advice, however, would still be to employ an industry expert to point you in the right direction, or you could end up wasting your money. Bad home staging is worse than no home staging at all.
Why should I spend money on my home, when I’m moving out anyway?
Louise: Money. Our discussions with agents suggest that dressed homes sell faster and for a higher price than undressed homes. Presenting your home at its ‘show day best’ will attract more viewers to your open homes. The more people through the door the more likely you are to achieve multiple offers. Additionally, a well presented home suggests a well maintained home.
Simon: Ask yourself – Do I want to sell my property for the maximum price? You only get one shot to do it right. We are often called in to home-stage a second campaign. If the vendors had only adhered to the original advice from their agent, they would have saved money in the long run.
Ron: You have to remember that a lot of properties are spotted in magazines, and if your property looks great it will attract more people to the open homes, and that creates the buzz you need to get the best price.
Can’t buyers just appreciate my home for what it is, and see past the dated curtains, old furniture and clutter?
Louise: Human beings are much better at processing how things actually look, rather than imagining how things could look. Home staging takes the guesswork out of play.
Simon: Absolutely, if you are marketing a do-up. Most vendors aren’t. People live how they live for reasons that suit themselves, and that’s fine, but when selling your home you need to accept that it is now a product competing with everything else that’s on the shelf at that same time.
Do you work with the homeowner and agent to style a property with a potential buyer in mind?
Louise: Most clients prefer to let me to decide how to make their property shine. However, I also work with clients who have a particular look in mind. This week, for example, I am dressing an original 1970’s five-bedroom home. The client has requested that the house be dressed to that period. Frankly, I find these projects to be most exciting!
Simon: Eighty percent of the time, we are asked to do our thing, as vendors are happy for us wave our magic wand over their property. However, we do work with agents that have a vision for the marketing, or want the purpose of a particular room changed. We also work with developers, right from the initial drawings through to advice on finishes. We have a few key clients that we will purchase special pieces for their best properties. That’s fun!
How much input does the homeowner have in what you put into their home, and whether to use their existing furniture?
Louise: In most cases very little. Our website is the first place I direct prospective clients so they can get an idea of my previous work. I prefer to work with clients who are well informed and know what to expect. I have a service that is called a partial stage, where we combine some of the client’s furnishings with our pieces. Each client, stage and home is different. We approach each job with an open mind to ensure the client gets exactly what they need from our services.
Ron: Partials are often the most difficult because you are working with a certain amount of the vendor’s own furniture and they are still living in the property. Owners are often attached to their possessions, which is fair enough. Most of us are. But it is our job to help the client and the agent get the best price for the property by appealing to the most appropriate and widest audience.
Simon: On a partial staging we will work with the vendor on what will stay in place, what will go, and what we may bring in to suit. It depends on how passionate the vendor is.
If you decide not to use the homeowner’s furniture, what happens to it? Do you store it? Cost?
Louise: There are a few different storage options when a live-in stage is required. Client’s can happily store furniture in their garage, without affecting the appeal of a property. Alternatively, companies like Green Box provide portable storage delivered to your property. You can fill the portable box yourself or have the Green Box staff fill it for you. The box is then stored it for as little as $4.25 per day and bought to your new home after the sale.
Simon: We recommend a couple of storage companies that bring a storage box to your door. It’s the best way and the most cost effective option. You have a couple of days to load what is not required, and then it’s taken away and returned at the end of the process, or to your next property.
Home staging a vacant property vs furnished?
Simon: Staging a vacant property is the bulk of our business. We are more efficient operating from scratch, as we arrive with everything selected in advance. We can stage a standard three-bedroom, one-living in about 90 minutes. We are a well-oiled machine in that respect. Furnished properties can often be more expensive, as the time spent on blending our furniture with the vendors furniture can be consuming, plus the emotional factor can come in to play.
Home staging a tenanted property - is this possible?
Simon: In a word…no. We have been burnt before, and our insurers don’t like it.
How do you find out what’s on trend?
Louise: The internet! Sites like Pinterest and Flickr are a great source of both information and inspiration. I also have a healthy addiction to home decorating magazines and design books.
Simon: We take inspiration from everywhere. We operate in the fashionable end of the market, so are surrounded by on-trend information. However, just because it is on trend doesn’t mean it will suit every property.
Do you do garden furniture, outdoor settings?
Louise: Most Auckland homes have an outdoor living area, and an outside display can be booked to make your deck or garden even more appealing.
Simon: Yes. Anything from a simple patio set to full outdoor furniture settings.
Can a buyer purchase the home staging furniture?
Louise: We have sold a number of house lots along with the home itself, which is really quite a rewarding experience. I also do permanent installations for clients who would like some interior decorating advice.
Ron: We often sell pieces to ether the vendor or the buyer, though that isn’t the reason for doing the job.
Simon: It doesn’t happen often but it does happen. It depends on what the items are and if I want to part with them. I have many pieces I would not part with. Not unlike a chef with their favourite knife or an artist with their favourite brush.
Finally, why should I use your company to stage my home – what’s your point of difference?
Louise: For me each job is an adventure and a challenge. The question I ask is, how do I get potential buyers to spend as much time in your open home as possible. We’ve found that if a staging is interesting, modern, fun and appealing, buyers spend more time in your home, and are more likely to fall in love with your property. House hunters might go to ten open homes in a weekend. Some homes will be staged, some will be empty, and some will be a lived-in mess. My job is to help make your home stand out as the most memorable.
Ron: Every home stager has his or her own style. Mine is modern contemporary, with a bit of humour. I use designer pieces and good art, not anodyne bland wall fillers. I believe that spaces should breath, and feel light and airy. Most of the pieces I use come from my shop BOB & Friends. We are a boutique home stager – I don’t do 40 properties a month. I am happy to do a few for the right clients, and because we really care, I think our clients have always had a good result and have loved what we have done – and that’s ended with a good sale price at the end of the viewing period. I also love it when clients fall back in love with their properties.
Simon: We have been in the business for over 10 years and experience counts for a lot. Believe me, we have seen it all. Our talent is not only about communicating a design aesthetic correctly to the market to get a property sold, but we are also the nice guys in the industry. I’m proud of that. My staff are amazing, and best of all we have fun every day. Home staging is in our blood – it never feels like work.