As buyers are becoming increasingly aware of trends and gain access to more homes than ever before, selling a home is a competitive business. A well-known and oft-used method abroad, home staging is still relatively under-utilised in the local market. We reached out to Lucy le Roux, founder of Johannesburg-based Illuminate Home Staging, to find out how this service can help local home owners.
Having worked in the marketing space for seven years, Lucy’s always had a passion for interior design. “The idea of launching Illuminate came about rather serendipitously. At a dinner party one night with my best friend, who’d just become an estate agent, and my Aunt visiting from Canada, where Home Staging is the norm when selling houses, the idea was sparked,” she says.
Asked about their process of staging a home to sell, Lucy explains: “When we stage a home to sell it could include anything from moving a client’s existing furniture around, to adding a few pieces to what they already have, or taking an empty property and furnishing it from scratch using the show house furniture that we hire out to clients.”
Home staging is any improvement or change made to a property with the goal of increasing its marketability and broad market appeal. As a result, Lucy explains that understanding the sellers’ situation and the history of the property is essential. Questions that look at how long the property has been on the market, how urgently it needs to be sold, how much as been invested into it by the sellers, and how much time and money is available to stage, are important indicators to Lucy and her team.
Once these basic questions have been answered, it’s important to take a tour of the property and photographing possible problem areas. The Illuminate team then spends a few days researching the area, looking at past transfers of similar homes in the last year or two and looking at the competing homes in the area to determine whether the pricing is correct.
“Once we’ve ruled out any other barriers to selling, we compile a detailed report listing all the changes, repairs and renovations we feel are necessary and can be recouped,” Lucy explains. “This report includes a mood board, furniture layout and a detailed online shopping list of exactly what to buy and where, so that our clients can easily implement the changes. We also offer a service where we handle the changes on our clients’ behalf.”
Tips for selling your home
Half update: Unless you are selling a renovated home or a fixer upper (that is priced
accordingly), ensure that your property is presented in such a way that potential buyers
could ‘put up with’ the finishes for the next few years. This prevents low ball offers or
buyers simply walking away because the property looks like it needs too much work or
needs to be renovated immediately.
Paint over dated tiles or wooden cabinets; change handles; update curtain rails and light
Declutter: In terms of the amount of furniture, your property should be furnished like one
would furnish a doll’s house. Each room should contain the main pieces of furniture that
are appropriate for the purpose of the space. Each room/space should include an area
rug, a few artworks as a focal point and a few decorative elements but the majority of the
surfaces should be bare. Most properties we see could remove up to half of what they
have on display.
Repair: No one wants to buy a house with obvious maintenance issues. Make sure you
give the entrance areas a fresh coat of paint and fix any issues around the property.
First impressions: Street front appeal is very important to buyers. Make sure you add
charm and a clear identity to the outside of your property and the first areas buyers will
see when they walk into your house.
As a homeowner, it can be difficult to see any flaws in your own property. We become familiar and attached to it, so it becomes near impossible to look at it objectively. This, Lucy explains, is why home staging is so important. “Staged homes not only sell 50% faster, but for around 10% more than the seller would have received if not staged. With staging costs only 1% or less of the value of the property, it’s an obvious investment to make to offset the costs of buying and selling,” she says.
Lucy explains that they have also recently launched an Airbnb design service. As more and more South Africans jump on the short-term letting bandwagon, competition is fierce. Airbnb is increasingly prioritising and rewarding hosts who go above and beyond what used to be expected, both in terms of design and the guest experience.
“We saw a market for an Airbnb design consultancy because Airbnb hosts need much more than just an interior designer to do this. Design Air combines the skills of home staging, marketing, branding and interior design to provide hosts with a complete solution to take their listing to the next level,” she explains.
Depending on the customer’s specific needs, Lucy explains that they can either offer a full-service Airbnb package – where all changes are handled on the customer’s behalf; or a consultancy service that can be done over Skype. All packages also include their Host like a Pro guide, a resource that helps hosts to deliver an Airbnb host experience that perfectly blends hotel and home.
As technology continues to advance, buyers and sellers are becoming increasingly connected. “With an increase in competition, properties need to do more to stand out and to convince buyers that they are worth a click through or second consideration,” says Lucy. The property landscape is set for dramatic changes, from online services to the use of VR to market and sell homes.
Home design trends
Property buyers are looking for light, bright and airy houses with an open plan layout, an indoor outdoor feel (folding and stacking doors) and with facilities that enable them to entertain at home and spend more time with friends and family.
Grey walls, white/light kitchens and bathrooms, wood look floors, subway tiles, shutters and feature lights are all popular.
New developments are increasingly focused on environmentally-conscious design elements. Buyers are looking for properties that offer water and electricity saving features, without skimping on luxury.
The growth of the sharing economy has enlightened us to the possibility of making money from under utilised resources. Investors should look out for opportunities to invest in properties that are designed with multiple uses in mind- both residential and as short term rentals.
At the end of the day, however, Lucy believes the physical show house will always have a role to play: “There is just something you feel when you find the right property which is a lot harder to feel through a computer screen.”