Thursday 14 November 2019

How a clean sweep really can add thousands to price of your home

Maximising the price that vendors will achieve for a house takes time and effort, but there are professionals ready to do the hard graft. Katy McGuinness meets them.

Rebecca Rowe says people find it hard to de-clutter. Photograph by Frank McGrath
Rebecca Rowe says people find it hard to de-clutter. Photograph by Frank McGrath
Katy McGuinness

Katy McGuinness

As anyone who has ever sold their home will know, making the decision to put it on the market is only the start. Suddenly, all those niggling jobs that have been on the long finger - the wobbly handles, the mysterious damp patches, the mouldy grout in the shower - have to be attended to. And then there's the de-cluttering, the endless trips to the dump, the painting and the weeding. It's enough to make the faint-hearted stay put.

But if there's no going back, Brian Dempsey, a partner at estate agents DNG, says that sellers need to put their best foot forward to maximise the sale price.

"Potential buyers expect a property to be clean, tidy and presentable," he says. "But not everybody has the ability to imagine what it could look like after some small changes and so a vendor may lose out if they don't do that work in preparation for selling."

Rowena Quinn of Hunters agrees. "Painting, changing carpets and preparation of the garden will be at a cost to the vendor," she says, "but an interested party will double that cost in their mind and accordingly will hold back a greater amount of money for upgrade works."

"Most people buy a home, not a house," says Dempsey. "They buy into a lifestyle. They think that their home would be like a show house all the time. So I tell my clients to clear the presses, tidy the wardrobes, clean the house to within an inch of its life and manicure the gardens.

"Bring it to a stage where they can find nothing more to do and are cursing me for this advice.

"Then they know it's ready for viewing."

But what if you have neither the time nor the vision to transform your shabby home into a show-house?

Then you call in the professionals.

Rebecca Rowe is an interiors expert specialising in property revamps and preparing houses for sale. With a degree in art history, a diploma from the Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers, a stint spent running an interiors shop (Reverie in Sandycove) and a great eye, she finds herself much in demand by clients who are downsizing.

"I start with an initial consultation and then make a plan that includes a few options and estimates as to how long the process will take," explains Rebecca. "Recently I worked with the owners of a large country house. They had to edit down what they had by about 75pc in preparation for the move to a smaller house. We categorised items according to whether they would be kept, sold, put in the skip, or donated to charity.

"I arranged for valuations of the good pieces and advised which auction houses would be most suitable. Selling one very good sideboard can cover the cost of the whole move.

"In this instance, the agent had recommended a few minor tweaks. My team of handymen and cleaners worked on repairs, improvements and cleaning, while the owners and I de-cluttered. Between us all, we did it in four days.

"One of the things that people find hardest is having to let things go, but the upside is that at the end of the process you are ready to pack up and leave and the pain has been dealt with.

"De-cluttering is tough. I'm with Marie Kondo - if it doesn't spark joy or if you haven't looked for it, used it or needed it in the last 18 months, then it's time for it to go. I'm mindful of how traumatic and upsetting the whole process can be.

"Arranging the furniture and getting the house ready for photographs is my favourite bit. A lot of it is about making sense of room arrangements - it's very much about working with what the clients have to hand, rather than about running out and buying more furniture. I streamline and improve what's there and set it off with cushions, rugs and throws."

The property owner in this instance was delighted with the result.

"Twenty-three years of family life had to be sorted," she says. "I would not have known where to start and would have agonised over every child's toy or utensil that had never been used but might come in useful in the future. Rebecca and her team were sensitive to my personal feelings but necessarily ruthless at the same time. My home has been de-cluttered and re-styled and looks amazing. She did a job in a few days that would have taken me months."

Rebecca works with all sizes of properties from suburban semis upwards and frequently for clients who have inherited houses in Ireland but may be living abroad. She charges €250 plus VAT for an initial two-hour session (Dublin area rate) with on-the-spot recommendations. After that, her fee depends on the amount of work and time involved and she will negotiate each project on an individual basis.

Niamh de Barra and her business partner, Sinead Considine, work with private clients, via referrals from estate agents, and with developers on new builds.

"If an owner needs advice on how to present a property for sale, we advise on everything from colours to de-cluttering, re-carpeting to kitchen upgrades and we have a range of furniture that we can hire out, usually for a three-month period while the property is being shown," says Niamh.

"We have furniture to suit every type of house whether period or more modern, and we have some very good furniture suitable for high-end properties. Sometimes, if a house is empty, then we just stage key areas such as the reception room and the master bedroom, and we can refresh flowers for viewings and keep it in top shape.

"There's no charge for an initial consultation and the fee comes down to the level of furniture required. A three- or four-bed house completely staged to show house standard, including linens, for a three-month period, would cost from about €5,000. Painting and de-cluttering would be extra - it all depends on the level of work involved."

Eva Byrne of Houseology is an architect and house consultant. One of the services that she offers is to help property owners stage their house for sale. "I'm the equivalent of a wardrobe consultant for houses," she says. She charges €180 plus VAT for a one-hour consult and €300 plus VAT for a two-hour session (rates apply to Dublin city locations).

"I will walk through and identify what's needed to make it the most appealing to a potential buyer and style the rooms for the photographs. There is a knack to preparing a house for good photographs - the hall has to be bright and welcoming and the living room has to look inviting, the kind of room that just begs you to come in, sit down, put your feet up and relax.

"It's about making it look like a home, not a property. You have to make it easy for a potential purchaser to imagine what it will be like for them when they live there. With very few changes and some strategic use of colour, you can elevate something that's awful to much better, and something that's good to start with to something amazing."

"The first introduction to the property will be the photographs on the website," says Rowena Quinn. "The photos, coupled with the price, are what will encourage viewers to attend the property. A vacant property can be transformed in to a welcoming home with colour and furnishings. Dressing a vacant property can involve as little as a good deep clean and adding some plants for colour, while a few pieces of furniture will transform an empty room and demonstrate its size.

"The transformation that comes from staging an entire property results in more attractive photographs and is conducive to a more pleasant viewing experience," adds Rowena. "It is hard to quantify the exact uplift in a sale price due to staging, but in many instances has resulted in a bonus price being achieved."

DNG's Brian Dempsey seconds that, saying, "I have come across many houses where if they had taken the advice and spent an extra €5,000 getting it ready for sale, they would have achieved another €50,000 on the price."

Now that's an incentive.

Sunday Independent

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