Have you ever been house hunting and seen a listing with real estate photography so bad, it’s turned you off from even visiting a house? Or have you ever visited a home for sale you’ve been eyeing off only to be disgusted the moment you step foot inside?
I have, while we were house hunting. Not only do I remember feeling turned off from bad real estate photography (like countertops piled so high with clutter you could barely see the kitchen, dishes in the sink, and dark, blurry photos that make untidy houses look like unclean hovels) but I also remember visiting a 1970s apartment in Applecross with my parents and Mr Nerd.
The inside of the apartment looked okay in the photos. But there was a horrible smell as we walked down the weed-covered path through the dead gardens to the front door. It was a dead magpie, right near the front steps. I have NO idea why the real estate agent (who proceeded to ring me mercilessly every two days for the next three weeks, even after telling him the apartment wasn't what we were looking for) didn't get rid of it for the next home open. And inside the apartment, after we were blinded by the hideous bright yellow walls, we looked down to see a trail of rat droppings and a box of rat poison on the kitchen floor.
Not quite what most people envision when they picture themselves romantically finding their dream house. Deceased avians and rat baits have no place in today’s competitive real estate market, when presenting your house at its best is more important as ever. Both home owners and real estate agents frequently need to do what they can to make their properties stand out from the crowd and achieve the highest selling price - and home staging is one of them.
Some of you will be wondering, what on earth is home staging? First conceptualised in the United States and now getting more and more widespread in Australia, home staging is the practice of preparing and styling a private home for sale, with the goal being to make the home look and feel more appealing, stand out from a crowd, showcase its versatility and scope to attract the highest number of potential buyers. The end goal is to make a property sell more quickly – and sometimes for more.
The property styling and staging industry in Australia has gone through a sharp growth in the past couple of years; there are now numerous companies that offer staging services across our city alone, so it’s nothing new. Traditionally, people can engage the services of a property styling business, with a home owner or real estate agent will invest in the service in the hope that it will pay off in a great selling price. But when I heard about The Perth Property Co., I thought, “Now THIS is a great idea”. This is a boutique company that offers real estate listing together with complimentary home staging.
The Perth Property Co. licensee director Nadija Begovich is a licensed finance broker who got into real estate six years ago. With a lifelong love of houses and interior design, she quickly realised that in her real estate capabilities she had an ability to look at a client’s home and instantly see where it could be decluttered, fixed up and styled to sell quickly, and at a good price.
“I started out years ago by helping my clients add fresh linens to bedrooms and bright cushions and accessories to living areas so their homes were presented a little better,” she says. “I felt there was an opportunity for me to combine my passion for property with my passion for interior design and create a point of difference with the service I offered as a real estate agent."
Nadija, who predominantly sells homes around the inner-city suburbs of North Perth/Mount Lawley area but takes on listings across Perth (“We go where we’re needed”) says she saw a niche in the market for a boutique real estate company that also offered home styling and staging (without the additional cost).
“I saw an opportunity to differentiate my business model as I had a passion for property as well,” she says. “The two work well together and splitting my skill set across finance and real estate makes for a unique service offering compared to other providers.” She teamed up with husband Dan Broad to launch The Perth Property Co.
“Staging and styling can be very costly and not everyone has the ability to outlay this expense when they’re selling their house. I wanted to help people by making a difference in a small way; when you work with The Perth Property Co this service is complimentary."
While there are now numerous standalone professional home staging businesses across Perth, where home owners pay for the business’s staging services, Nadija knew there was a hole in the market for a company that combined real estate with complimentary staging. “I’d always wanted to set up my own agency and 2017 presented that opportunity,” she says. “So Dan and I took the plunge in January and established The Perth Property Co.” Since its inception, they have been able to offer all clients who desire it a free-of-charge styling and staging service for the homes they sell. “Whether vacant or owner-occupied, we’re able to partially style and stage a house or fully dress it from top to bottom,” says Nadija.
Have you ever noticed every time a character in a movie is looking at a house to buy, the house is empty and unfurnished?
The sparse, empty home thing might work well to win characters over in the movies. But in real life, nicely decorated and staged homes tend to sell faster than empty houses, says Nadija.
“Staging is about perfecting the art of creating moods, because not everyone can see a home’s full potential if it’s vacant or empty!” she says. “Staging helps buyers visualise the potential use of the spaces as soon as they walk through the front door.”
Staging also minimises the chance of potential buyers being turned off – whether that be from merely photographs, or from a property in real life, like I was telling you about earlier. I ask Nadija if she has any real estate horror stories. “Years ago, like six years ago, I was asked to sell a top floor fully furnished apartment in Mt Lawley for a chap who was living in London,” she says. “His tenants had gone overseas for a month on holiday and the property was to be sold as their lease was coming to an end. I’d viewed the property a few weeks earlier with my clients parents and it presented reasonably well. The tenants had given us the okay to come in and take pics of the property whilst they were away so that we could start the marketing campaign.
“I arrived 30 minutes before my photographer and was completely horrified. The apartment was left in total disarray, there were clothes thrown everywhere, food was left out on the benchtops, the dishes were piled a mile high in the sink, the bedrooms were a mess. And smack bang and nestled in the centre of the lounge room/kitchen was a home gym, which wasn’t there before. And to top it off the tenants had turned off the fridge/freezer. The stench was horrific!
“I rang the photographer and begged him to come a little later and then got on to my seller’s parents to share with them what had happened. My photographer still came right away as did my seller’s parents, we all rallied together and after a trip to Bunnings for cleaning products, a trip home to grab my vacuum cleaner and a trip to Kmart to grab some accessories, we got to work. We moved the gym equipment, mopped the floors, made the beds, got to work on the kitchen and fridge (will never forget that experience) and two and a half hours later the little apartment was restored back to its former glory. It sold uber-quick and my seller was over the moon.”
Nadija’s grit made a lasting impression. “Truth be told, it was my seller’s parents who all those years ago when I was a rookie agent, planted the seed and said that I needed to go into business for myself as an agent with the added service of dressing homes. They believed in me so much that when the time came to sell their beloved home of 50 years they tracked me down and had me style, stage and sell their home.”
There is a reason that display home builders always open up the homes to the public with the homes furnished and beautifully styled - it makes sense. A furnished home usually looks better, and generally, your average person is better able to visualise themselves living in a house that is furnished rather than one that is empty. So in the event of a home open or viewing, they’re more likely to develop a greater emotional connection to a property, picturing themselves curling up in that comfortable-looking club chair by the fireplace, having a morning coffee on that patio listening to the birds, or lying in bed gazing out at the garden view.
“Professional staging encourages a buyer to instantly connect with a property and see themselves living within the space,” says Nadija. “You know that feeling when you walk into a house and immediately feel at home? That’s what we aim to achieve. Styling and staging creates an emotional connection and it’s much more than just simply dressing a house for a sale. We want to create warm and inviting spaces that emphasize the best use of what’s available within the property, and hopefully makes buyers fall in love with the place. When selling a home, the ultimate aim is to achieve the best pricepoint in the current market. Yes, you only need one buyer to purchase a home - however to achieve the desired pricepoint, it helps to have multiple buyers interested.”
A home stylist or stager is also a fresh pair of eyes who will look at your home and suggest ways you can make it more appealing and seem more versatile. For example, a stylist might look at your house’s empty landing and advise putting a study desk or a cosy reading chair and small bookshelf there - turning an empty ‘dead space’ of the property into another functional, aesthetically-pleasing room or corner.
Or they might advise you seriously declutter your junk room (c’mon, nearly all of us have one! I know we definitely do!) to decorate it and turn it into a guest bedroom. A potential buyer is going to be more attracted to a guest bedroom over a junk room, will be more likely to visualise their own family or friends staying in that inviting guest bedroom - and chances are they will start to want the house more.
It’s about showcasing versatility. “We sold a large Federation style home in Mt Lawley recently and it was launched as a 3 x 2 with a large billiard room that merged with a lounge area,” says Nadija. “After a few home opens, I was able to encourage the sellers to convert the billiard room into a fourth bedroom which would increase our chances of getting their desired price point. We facilitated a speedy and cost-effective renovation, basically erecting a stud wall in one week and dressed the room as a grand guest bedroom with a beautiful fire place and its own separate entry and not long later the property was sold.
Staged homes generally tend to stay on the market for less time. “Experience shows that homes that are staged and styled tend to sell quicker than the average timeframe in Perth,” says Nadija. “That said it’s the combination of presentation, price and marketing which contributes to the sale time. When all three aspects come together you can be pretty much guaranteed a good sale price in a reasonable timeframe. It’s our aim to provide a positive outcome for both buyer and seller.”
So what tend to be the most common presentation mistakes home owners make when they put their property on the market?
“Sometimes people rush to put a property online without putting in enough effort or thinking about the buyer and what they want to see,” says Nadija. “We always point out major things like polarizing colours, poor paint jobs or walls with glaring cracks in them to our clients and suggest repair works. But the biggest presentation mistakes are often the simplest things; an undressed bed, too much clutter on a kitchen bench or an untidy bathroom.” I know as a home owner that it’s easy to ‘get used to’ something without realising how off-putting it may be to someone looking to buy a home.
Bad marketing is also common. “Additionally a poor marketing strategy without professional photography is a big mistake. We know it’s easy to take iPhone photos these days but we recommend leaving the listing photos to the professionals.”
When a home owner wants to list with The Perth Property Co, Nadija says what first happens is a general ‘stocktake’ of the property, looking at what furniture, art and decoration is already there or what should be brought in. “This is basically an assessment that outlines what needs to be actioned in order to prepare the home for sale; then we allocate tasks which either the seller will complete or we will complete,” she says.
With a recent Maylands property, the seller had moved out so the property was vacant. “We had a blank canvas to work with,” says Nadija. “This is a great opportunity to bring suitable pieces into the home and showcase the features of the property. We brought contemporary furnishings that complimented the modern design aspects and fully staged and styled the property outside and in. On the flip side, when houses are lived-in, we still tend to use the same approach: we’ll give our professional opinion on key elements that we feel will enhance the presentation and marketing of the home (this may include, for example, swapping out dominant items of furniture with pieces that better suit the room and create space or suggesting a quick paint job). All of the accessories and items stay in our clients homes until the properties are sold and we have a network of suppliers we work with which mean last minute improvements can literally happen overnight."
HOW TO SHOW YOUR HOUSE AT ITS BEST: NADIJA’S TIPS
- Change your front door – make a statement with a pop of colour or a brand new simple design.
- Update light fittings. Big W, Target, Kmart and IKEA have cost-effective lights that are easy to install and make a big impact.
- Mulch and weed your garden. It sounds simple but a clean outdoor space that’s warm and inviting is just as important as a clean indoor space.
- Clean your floors and your windows. This includes carpets, tiles and grout (or regrout if needed).
- Declutter, add a lick of fresh paint (if required) and fix any obvious structural issues.
- Cast your eyes over the space and ask yourself, “What can I do to quickly tidy it up?” It takes less than a few minutes per room and cleanliness is key.
- Use a window wiper to clean your shower after each use so the glass is streak-free and ready for any last minute inspections. Vinegar is also a great home-made cleaner – but be careful not to overuse because your home can go from squeaky clean to fish and chip shop in an instant!
- Put the dishwasher on, clean the floors, wipe your benches and take the rubbish out so people can’t smell what you ate for dinner last night!
Thanks to Nadija and The Perth Property Co team for supporting this story. You can check out their website here or follow them on Instagram @theperthpropertyco, Facebook or Houzz for inspiring before and afters and property styling and staging advice. Real estate photos used of Nadija’s listings (past and present).
Have you ever been put off a property so badly presented it has made you not want to live there? Maya x