Professional stagers: Why their business is booming, and how they're getting you to buy houses
A staged home can help raise the profile and price of your property
When the owners of 7 Ashfield Road in Ranelagh, Dublin 6 decided to put their family home on the market, they enlisted the help of a professional stager.
Property assessed, measurements taken and several in-depth conversations later, Marie Louise Keeley of House & Garden Furnishings rocked up at the red-brick mid-terrace with three trucks and six men in tow.
It took them a day to transform the empty three-bed Victorian property into a tastefully stylish home, kitting it out with everything from beds to sofas, side tables, lamps and bedlinen.
Ten years ago few had ever heard of home staging. If you wanted to sell your house, you did a quick declutter and vacuum. You certainly didn't pay someone to do up the place for you.
Now, more and more Irish homeowners are embracing the American phenomenon of presenting a property for sale.
As such, Ireland's home staging business is booming. Companies such as House & Garden Furnishings and Fitout Interiors, with specialist teams dedicated to property staging and warehouses full of furniture and accessories, have sprung up.
Where once stagers focused on depersonalising and decluttering, today they are increasingly offering comprehensive interventions that aim to present an aspirational lifestyle to prospective buyers.
"Our aim is to ignite a buyer's imagination by styling a property in a way that inspires them to visualise themselves living there," says Marie Louise Keeley of House & Garden Furnishings.
"We carefully assess each property, taking into consideration its character, size, location and potential buyers and create a bespoke look accordingly."
When it came to staging 7 Ashfield Road, Marie Louise knew instantly what to do.
"I wanted to create a bit of fabulosity with a classic-contemporary, high-end look befitting its character and location on one of Ranelagh's most sought-after streets. While acknowledging that it is a family home and so should be comfortable and practical also."
In practice this has meant kitting out rooms with slick glass tables, upholstered button-back headboards and chairs, touchy-feely fabrics and toe-friendly, sumptuous rugs. The level of detail has also extended to putting soap and candles in the bathroom, inspirational magazines on coffee tables and hanging pictures.
The property is on the market for €1.1m with Quillsen.
As the practice of home staging has evolved, prices have also increased, with costs ranging from a couple of thousand euro up to as much as €50k.
"First impressions count. A staged home can help raise the profile of your property and grab the attention of not only buyers but also property supplements," says Christopher Bradley of Sherry FitzGerald.
While evidence of staged homes selling faster and for a higher price is largely anecdotal in Ireland, recent US research released this year by the National Association of Realtors revealed that staging does make a difference. Statistics showed that staging can reduce a listings time on the market by one-third to a half and that a staged home can fetch as much as 1pc to 20pc more than an empty house.
"Getting a client to accept that how they've designed their house to live in might not be appealing to potential buyers can elicit strong emotions," says interior designer Sinead Considine of The Interiors Project, Dublin.
"You have to be very careful of people's feelings and remind them that when it comes to selling, a house is not a home, it's a product."
Together with fellow interior designer Niamh deBarra, the pair offer staging to individual sellers as well as investors and developers, "who have been quicker to embrace and understand the value of the service".
Keen to capitalise on the appetite for staging, some estate agents have launched their own property staging service. Earlier this year, Hunters Estate Agents launched Hunters Interiors, headed up by interior designer Deirdre Walsh.
"With nine out of ten buyers beginning their search online, presentation of a property has never been more important," says sales agent Rowena Quinn. "Staged properties sell faster and attract more offers."
She sites 7 Brendan Road, a five-bed period red-brick in Donnybrook as a case in point. Hunters staged the property and brought it to market in May with a €1.675m price tag. According to the Property Price Register it sold in August for €1.75m.
Such is the demand for property staging in Ireland that Darrán Lennon, managing director of Fitout Interiors, Dublin estimates that the firm has styled and fitted out over €200m worth of property in Dublin in the last year alone. It has a 20,000 sq ft warehouse with over €1m worth of stock.
While they offer a full staging package for all types of property, Darrán says the majority of business is from clients of million-plus homes. At Number 2 Clyde Road in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4 (for sale with Sherry FitzGerald for €3m) Darrán and his team were called in to present the four-bed, two-storey over-garden level period red-brick, which had been previously rented by the British Embassy, for an affluent family buyer.
They created a bespoke, luxurious vibe with expensive on-trend furniture and accessories, hung crystal chandeliers from the ceiling and even added a baby grand piano.
With ex-rentals, older properties and executor sales Darrán is cautions against blowing the budget on styling if the damp needs sorting, electrics fixed or leaks repaired.
"No amount of styling can improve a property with obvious snags," he says.