Home staging: a way out of long listing periods

Jan 28, 2019 | How To's

A tastefully furnished home is easier to market and sell than an empty one. Photos: Roxanne Mott.

“An empty house never makes for good online viewing”

These could be challenging times to sell high-end properties and should an estate agent find it in a mess or empty, then home staging might just be an option to consider.

Home staging has become the norm in the US, but in South Africa the upper end of the property market is fast catching onto the trend. A quick Google search reveals there are already 15 top home stagers to choose from just in the Cape Town area.

Home staging is where a professional home stager advises a seller on how to rearrange their furniture with perhaps a few new accessories to look more welcoming or transforms an empty property with furniture and accessories so that the listing photos attract the attention of sellers during the first few weeks when the property is hot.

Liesa Jossel of Home Stagers Cape Town says her own successful experience with home staging is how she stumbled onto her current profession. In 2017 she had an investment property that she wanted to sell. Her estate agent suggested she put some furniture in it as it would get a better price and sell faster than if it were empty. Liesa decided to go for a retro look. The online photos attracted a lot of people to the show day and the property sold on the first day.

A few weeks later the same agent asked her to stage a property she was trying to get a mandate for after being on the market for three months with another agency without a single offer. Liesa took up the challenge and staged it as a happy family home. It sold within three weeks. She was hooked and decided to start a new career in staging at 56 years old.

3 Reasons to home stage a property

  • Listing with attractive photos

“An empty house never makes for good online viewing, it’s like looking at an empty dinner plate – boring,” says Liesa. Equally off-putting is a chaotic home with toys all over the place, fridge magnets covering the fridge and papers piled up on the desk. A home stager starts her work by thinking how to make the listing photos ‘wow’, so that when the property is released the agent will get the maximum clicks and enquiries in those first weeks when the property is hot.

A good home stager working with an empty home brings in attractive furniture, art, plants and other accessories to showcase its potential, highlight its strengths, address any weaknesses and make the home cohesive. With occupied homes, they restyle each area to highlight its strengths, give it purpose and good traffic flow, and be welcoming and inviting.

  • Agents can focus on selling while stagers take on the sensitive issues

Selling a home is fraught with emotions for the owner, who may be getting divorced, an empty nester, moving city … The last thing a seller wants to hear from an agent is what needs to be done to present the property for the market. Home stagers can take away the pain of agents dealing with this aspect, which allows the agent to focus on the job of selling.

  • Home staging is a value add to clinch a mandate

A sole mandate is what all agents want. Offering a consultation with a home stager or recommending a home staging service is something the agent can extend to the seller that other agents don’t. It’s a huge value add that sellers really appreciate.

Home stagers offer all kinds of services, from walk and talk consultations, to hands on restyling to full scale staging. Some agents offer to pay or share the cost of these services on transfer in exchange for a sole mandate or an increased commission.

Liesa Jossel of Home Stagers Cape Town.

How does it work?

There are two kinds of staging: when the property is empty, and when the property is occupied by the owner or tenant. When the property is empty, the home stager brings in everything needed to make the place look like a place a buyer would want to live in. This can include everything from sofas, chairs and side-tables to rugs, art and plants. Some stagers like Liesa have some inventory that she owns, but she also rents some and buys some for the specific house (she keeps what she buys).

“The seller pays upfront, but sometimes a savvy agent will offer to refund the seller a portion out of their commission on transfer,” says Liesa.

For occupied properties she offers either a walk and talk consultation where she goes through the entire house with the seller and they keep whatever they decide to buy; or she does hands on styling using as much as possible of the existing furniture to restyle each room. Whatever the seller buys (usually scatters and throws, art etc) is for the seller to keep.

Calculating the cost

There are costs involved. A walk and talk consultation can be charged at R850 per hour where as the upfront cost for staging the main areas of a standard home can be around R30 000 for 30 days. “These may seem like large investments, but they add much more value when marketing a home than expensive finishes and appliances,” says Liesa. Also consider that sellers save a lot of money if they stage from the beginning instead of selling in an average of 17 weeks. The majority of sellers lower their price by 10% after the first three months: on a R3 million house that’s R300 000 less, compared to a R30 000 investment.

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