We’re so influenced by the US — despite an ocean between us — and increasingly so, when it comes to houses.
Not only have we adopted the New World’s scale and style but it’s influencing the way we sell out houses too.
Enter the latest trend to hit our shores — house staging, the new science deployed in anticipation of selling your house quickly by agents.
Essentially, it’s a mix of marketing and interior design born out of the inability of most viewers to get past the personal taste of the vendor, to see a house’s potential.
“Most people form an opinion within 10 seconds of being in a property,” according to Emma Riordan of Fresh Eyes Home Staging and Property Styling.
While the staging process, she advises, must be preceded by a thorough cleaning and tidying, she doesn’t advocate drastic decluttering so halt before you rush to the charity shop to offload accessories you don’t want to take to your new home.
“Sometimes things you want to throw out may work well in staging the property,” she says.
“We identify what needs to go and what needs to come in.”
Simple things like mirrors and lamps brighten a space, and the old wisdom of removing furniture to give the impression of more space is reviewed.
“If a double bed fits, don’t put in a single,” she says.
“Understandably, vendors don’t want to spend money on a property they’re leaving. but they don’t count the cost of a house sitting stagnant on the market. A quick sale saves on mortgage repayments and maybe even, arrears.”
The Fresh Eyes’ approach, which starts from €125 for an initial two-hour consultation, highlights features and downplays problems to maximise foot-fall.
The service can also involve shopping and hiring in furniture where necessary, but the timing of your staging project is critical, Emma explains.
“Some vendors test the market before staging, but if your property is still on the market after 90 days, staging afterwards won’t necessarily bring viewers back.
“If there’s another house on the street for sale, it’s human nature to view the better looking one.
“First time buyers, particularly, are always attracted by the condition of the house as they don’t have much money.”
As a starting point, staging should give rooms a focal point. For instance, is the fireplace the ultimate focal point in a room, but is it blocked or offset by a sofa?
The arrangement may be functional for someone living there now — but not for the in-mover.
And it seems vendors have difficulties too, in not seeing the sale of their house as a business transaction.
“You have to cut the cord emotionally or it will be a longer process if you can’t,” says Emma.
“Staging provides a faster sale. Houses are set up for a specific family so when you’re selling you have to remove your own personality without making it sterile.”
Architect Isabel Barros agrees.
“Sellers don’t consider that people have different tastes. You want viewers to feel as if they could move in the next day, that it’s their home and not yours.”
She advises plain, clean and bright interiors.
“Vivid colours and old furniture won’t help,” she says.
For outside she maintains a brightly coloured door may not attract everybody but landscaping helps, even if it’s just some plants and flowers.
Old houses are another challenge if they haven’t been updated or decorated in a long time.
“Take everything out that’s old and dated,” she says.
“Paint the walls white or cream to make the space seem bigger and brighter, but don’t leave the house empty as it won’t give a feel for how it will look when lived in.”
She recommends renting rather than buying furniture so it doesn’t necessitate a big financial outlay, and like many staging specialists, she carries a car boot full of accessories to help achieve the desired effect in clients’ homes.
For anyone tackling a DIY staging project, she suggests, after cleaning and tidying, you engage the five senses.
Everything should be clean, tidy and clutter-free.
Use your best bed linens and have soft fluffy towels viewers will want to touch.
Place a little bowel of sweets at the entrance for viewers to take away something nice.
Play soothing background music, easy listening or light classical.
Open windows and let fresh air in or light scented candles.
“Later,” she says, “when a couple are discussing their viewings they’ll say, ‘remember it was the one that smelled so fresh.’It’s important to leave the viewer with a memory.”
* Next week: We’re going shopping.
TIPS TO A SALE
From America where it all began, Top 50 estate agent, Orla O’Callaghan-Dominick offers her essential house-staging tips.
* Front door, brasses and glass should gleam.
* Place a small table, a lamp, mirror and flowers in the hallway.
* Touch up with paint in high traffic areas.
* Have nothing but a cookbook, a bowl of apples or lemons and flowers on the kitchen worktop. No kettle or toaster.
* Switch on all lights for viewers, even in daylight. Have solar outdoor lights for night-time drive-by viewers.
* If floors are in good condition, remove as many rugs as possible leaving just one in the hallway.
* Have good towels and colour-matching liquid soap.
* Use white bed sheets and pillowcases with a folded throw across the bed end.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved