The huge importance of ‘staging’, ‘window dressing’ or ‘presenting’ a home for sale is fully appreciated by most estate agents, but, despite their emphasizing this to clients time and again, their advice is frequently ignored or taken half-heartedly, says Rowan Alexander, Director of the new Cape Town Northern Suburbs estate agency Alexander Swart Property.
“Anyone who has sold residential property for some time will understand how essential it is to present the home for sale in a sensually appealing way,” says Alexander. “The seller must foster in the potential buyer a desire to own and live in the home because it appeals so strongly to him”.
“If the owner does not ‘present’ his home ‘at its best’ the agent’s task will be more difficult, no matter how good a salesman or saleswoman he or she is – and it is highly likely that the home will not only take longer to sell but will also fail to achieve the best possible price.”
What the home seller has to grasp, says Alexander, is that in buying a home the potential purchaser will be swayed largely by emotion, especially if the property is to be his primary home, not an investment for renting out.
“Other factors, such as price, position in relation to schools and the workplace or the reputation of the area in which the home is sited will all play their part in influencing the buyer’s decision. However, his gut feel, his emotional reaction is usually the overriding factor. If the buyer is strongly drawn to the home he may overlook certain factors on his criteria list such as having three rather than four bedrooms or a single instead of a double garage and he will sign an offer not withstanding these drawbacks.”
The buyer’s emotional reaction to the home, says Alexander, will be enhanced if the seller has seen the home from the viewpoint of a stranger visiting it for the first time: such a person’s response could be negative if he or she finds parts or all of the home are in need of new paint, if the door handles are loose and doors have holes in them, if windowpanes are rusting or the baths need refurbishment, if carpets or curtains are stained or worn out or if clutter of any kind (books, magazines, garden and other tools, children’s toys and sports goods) is left lying around and not packed away.
“We tell sellers to strive for a minimalist, uncluttered look,” says Alexander. “This is particularly important in the more commonly used rooms such as the living or TV room, the kitchen and the bathrooms where the personality of the seller can be too strongly evident.”
Particular attention, says Alexander, should be paid to eradicating any odours such as pet or cooking smells. The owner may have become accustomed to these – but they must be driven out by air fresheners and deodorizers – and bowls of pretty flowers at strategic points in the home will also help enhance its appeal and remove smells. Defects of any kind are not only off-putting but are likely to be used as a bargaining tool by the potential buyer.
Putting matters right prior to allowing buyers to visit may cost more than the seller wishes to pay, but such expenditure is almost always worth it and adds many times the outlayed sum to the final value of the home. Employing experienced artisans or professionals to bring the home to a presentable condition is almost invariably money well spent, said Alexander.
Special attention, he adds, should be given to the home’s street-facing façade, the garden, the swimming pool, the boundary fencing and gates to the property. These are the first things that the potential buyer will see and, if they are not up to standard, they can create the wrong impression, even when the interiors are spick and span.
“Quite frequently,” says Alexander, “the prospective buyer who has committed himself to inspecting several homes that day will drive on to the next address if the street image of the home is not sufficiently enticing. It is essential to begin the presentation process by attending to any defects in the external appearance of the home”.