Life & Culture

Just what the doctor ordered

House doctoring (aka “home staging”) can maximise the price you get for your home and speed up that sale.


The property market is in a state of flux; it’s a rough time to sell and, of course, you want the best price and the speediest possible sale. But it is often difficult to see for ourselves exactly what it is about our home that is holding this back. We are so used to how everything looks and works for us, we are busy and, well, it’s our home. Only a brave estate agent will tell you, tentatively, that it is time for some expert advice and assistance to help you to achieve this and embrace the service of house doctoring or, as it is known in America, home staging.

Home staging is needed in so many homes, of every size and value. So now it is time for action — what are the tactics and where to start?

There are two aspects to the marketing of your home: first, the photographs that will be taken by the agents and secondly, the viewings by the potential buyers.

Never underestimate the power of that first impression — the approach to your home, the front door and the entrance hall are all vital in triggering that positive initial response from a buyer. Simple tactics of a fresh coat of paint on the front door, a tidy path and front, a potted tree, a new doormat... all are low-cost and can make such a difference.

Declutter, declutter, declutter
It’s the obvious one and purchasers don’t need to see every personal possession you have. Remember, you are going to move soon, so start the process now and get rid of all the excess furniture and “stuff”  that is not coming with you, broken items, those unwanted gifts from Aunt Dolly, the tuht you brought back from the souk in Fez. Look around and remove as much as you can so now the space is looking bigger, fresher, more open.

Your first reaction might be: “No! I am moving!” But hang on, are rooms looking too tired, shabby, sad? A quick coat of paint cam make a huge difference. And that purple feature wall that seemed so cool at the time? Now it needs a simple neutral coat of paint too.

Full-scale renovation is not generally necessary. If the kitchen is dated, so be it — let the new owner choose their own replacement, but if there is a door hanging off its hinges, a broken glass pane, damage, mould and mildew evident then, yes, you must get this minor work done. Another option is to replace the cabinet doors to spruce up a tired kitchen — this can be a cost-effective tactic too.

Clean and tidy
It sounds so obvious again — but every room, every space needs to look as if the purchaser could move into your home. It must be tidy, vacuumed and dusted, with nothing lying around, clothes (clean or dirty) draped all over, laundry drying, books, full sink, dirty soiled hob... and yes, all those kiddy and pet toys can be off-putting rather than endearing. So get some crates or toy chests and find space in cupboards — but beware: potential purchasers open cupboard doors too.

A frequent request we receive from the estate agents and the sellers is to help complete a space that was never quite right or never quite finished.  We often rearrange the furniture, add that cool feature chair, some art for the walls, mirrors in smaller spaces, some cheerful scatter cushions  on the old sofa, a few smart accessories, a rug. Or when carpeting is really soiled or worn,  we may even recommend a new wood floor — touches that can make all the difference.

But what if you have moved out already? We are often hired when the house is empty, too — to stage the rooms again to show lifestyle — and in these instances, when the furniture supplied will not be used, it is rented rather than bought. 

And it is not just inside — we need to include garden doctoring, too, which can make a huge difference. 

It is an important part of what people buy into — and mowing the lawn, tidying, cutting back, repairing fences and adding some colour in pots or containers can make just as much difference at both the front and back of the property.

Final touches
Bake a cake. It might seem like a waste of time, but it can make such a difference. A recent client is convinced that the ultimate deal-clincher was the aroma of  baking. OK the punter had just got divorced,  but he did exchange within two weeks. 

No time for all that? Here’s a sneaky trick — drop some vanilla essence on a baking tray and place in the oven at very low heat a short while before the viewing. Sold? It will be.

What about the costs for all this? House doctors will charge for an  initial assessment of what a home needs, involving a site visit costing on average of around £150 for the first hour and £100 an hour thereafter, plus travel, plus the cost of a one-off report of between £200 and £500 depending on the property size.

The firm will also source and/or supervise the agreed improvements, based on a similar £100-per-hour rate, although we often prefer to agree a fixed fee for this stage, so no surprises.

The seller then pays for materials and goods and for the work undertaken. 

And the result: your total doctoring spend should still be quite modest, compared to the outcome and your return of achieving the best possible price with the speediest sale in the current market.

Mark Riese is the owner and creative director of Urban Living Interiors providing services including interior architecture, interior design, show homes and home doctoring/staging for properties of all sizes and values.

Urban Living Interiors can be contacted on 020 7637 9427 or you can visit the website here.

85 Great Portland Street London W1W 7LT

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