These have been strange times in the world of property with the market as active as it has ever been. However the clouds are gathering. Interest-rates are rising and increases are being passed on by mortgage lenders. The cost of materials and products is escalating. The looming cost-of-living crisis is causing people to tighten their belts. This has implications for any involved in the property world. In this blog I want to talk about the empty property.
The Empty Property
There can be a number of reasons why property is empty when it is marketed. It might be that the owners have already moved to their next property or the owner may have passed on or gone into a home and the property has been cleared. The following points are relevant to whatever the situation but I specifically would like to focus on the property that is empty because it is a new build, a conversion or renovation. A property in this category is very much a blank canvas, the walls have probably been painted white or Magnolia with neutral coloured carpet. It is easy to believe that buyers like a blank canvas, after all buyers often talk about putting their own stamp on the place. But, let’s face it, such spaces are uninteresting. This is a problem not only from the point of view of marketing but also because many people struggle to visualise.These matters are linked but I’ll examine them separately here. Let’s start with visualisation.
According to one dictionary definition Visualisation is
1: the formation of mental visual images
2: the act or process of interpreting in visual terms or of putting into visible form
In this context we are talking about buyers being able to imagine themselves living in the property – if they can’t they won’t buy. One example of this is spatial awareness, it may be difficult for buyers to work out what furniture will fit in a space or plan a layout. Think of Kirstie Allsopp lying on a bedroom floor to demonstrate whether a bed will fit. A second example would be a decorating scheme, people can find it hard to imagine how a paint colour will look on the walls. If you have ever decorated you will be familiar with the experience of amassing loads of tester pots. I once found myself trying to decide between five shades of off white!
Visualisation doesn’t just involve buyers “seeing” the lifestyle they want, you want them to feel it too. You want them to be be able to not only picture the family gathering, the cosy evening in front of the fire, the relaxing soak in the bath etc. You want them to enjoy the feelings that that these scenarios will generate so that they then say “I can really imagine myself living here”. After all, how often on property programmes does the presenter take the participant to a property that, on paper, is perfect, only for that person to say “it ticks all the boxes but I’m just not getting the feeling”. An empty property makes it hard for buyers to experience feelings.
So how does visualisation affect your marketing? It’s all down to how people look for properties these days. Previously, if you were looking to buy a house or move, you would visit all the local agents who would have premises on the high street. You would register with them and the agent would assist you to identify suitable properties and you would take away a sheaf of brochures that you would look through at home before booking some viewings. These days we simply go online, enter our search criteria and a selection of properties pops up in our feed. The feed will show one image, usually the frontage of the property, or perhaps three images if the property has a premium listing. You scroll through, ignoring those that don’t appeal and click through any that you think might be of interest to see more images and read more about the property. It’s a bit like internet dating where a lot depends on the “Profile” picture, think of the image that appears in the feed as the “Profile”. But it doesn’t stop there. If your prospective purchasers have clicked through before they book a viewing they need to like the images they see. The point about an empty property is that images of empty rooms quite simply aren’t inspiring.
What then does visualisation mean for an empty property? It means furnishing and dressing the property in a way that will appeal to the target customer – families, couples, professionals, whoever that customer (or customers) is. It’s setting the scene so that your customer can easily imagine themselves living in the property. This is what staging is all about.
For example, if your property is in the countryside one reason why people may be looking to buy in the area is because they have, or intend to buy a dog.
Where one of its main selling points for your property is its easy access to dog walks then staging could include outerwear and dog leads hanging in the boot room or hallway. This helps your prospective buyers imagine that part of the lifestyle they can enjoy if they buy the property is going for fabulous walks with their dog.
How Does It Help You The Developer or Investor
In these uncertain times there are a number of issues you may be facing :-
The turn around time on any project can have major implications not only because of interest payments on any finance but also it may impact on your ability to take advantage of any opportunities that arise. If a suitable project pops up you want to be in a position to proceed. The amount of profit you make on a project can make or break your business, you want to be maximising the sale price not making price reductions. Staging works on both fronts because it helps properties sell more quickly and for the best price.
If you are a developer or builder developing, building, or converting a property for the first time you may be on a tight budget and worried that you will not be able to afford staging, in particular the cost of the “inventory“. I always use the term investment rather than cost. Yes of course there is a cost in terms of an expenditure but staging is just as much an investment as buying a piece of equipment or undertaking training in a particular skill. Big-ticket items such as furniture can be sourced from rental companies and smaller items can be either reused on future projects where appropriate or again supplied on a rental basis. I will discuss solutions that are appropriate for your particular project.
Cash flow is an issue for any developer or builder. You need to get your money out so that you can move on to the next project. A quick turnaround enables you to realise your investment and also put you in a position to proceed with your next project. Having your money tied up and not being able to proceed is frustrating if it means that you miss out on what seems to be a good prospect. It can also be worrying because of the cost of the finance that you might have taken out. You may end up dropping the price on the property in order to sell it.
Staging can not only help you sell quickly but maximise your selling price and avoid those price reductions.
Having staged properties can help your company image. Your marketing materials won’t look very interesting if they consist of images of empty rooms. Consider instead, a brochure for each development/ property showcasing your work.
It is also an opportunity to establish your business identity. Whilst I am not suggesting that you would use your brand colours to decorate every property, you can certainly demonstrate your brand values in the way you stage the property, for example the materials and products you use.
It is a way to demonstrate what you stand for.
In Summary …
Empty properties can be difficult to sell because prospective buyers struggle to visualise themselves living in the property. Staging a property for sale helps those buyers imagine the lifestyle that they could be living if they bought the property whether it’s a city centre apartment or character cottage in the country. This in turn enables you to maximise the selling price and sell quickly – maximising profits, assisting cashflow and helping you build a successful business. To book a consultation or simply learn more call me on 07745 876182