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“My house has been on the market on and off for 5 years. I’m ringing you as a last resort , can you help?” is enough to strike terror into most home stager’s hearts.  Terror aside, I like a challenge and a call for help and I couldn’t wait to see this house that wouldn’t sell.

I’m unclear of the 5 year time line of the unsuccessful sale but it involved a number of agents, a number of price reductions and at least one period of rental. Another price reduction had been mentioned to the client and that’s what prompted her to find another way and that’s how she found me.

I’m so glad she did.

I’ve talked before about gut feeling when staging a house. When I walk through a house for the first time, I use my gut reaction because it will be similar to the reactions of potential buyers and that’s good information for my clients to know. As my lovely clients walked me through their house I felt a heaviness in my chest and a lot of noise in my head. My heart was sinking and my brain was trying to compute everything that needed doing, how it was going to be done and how much it would cost.  I remember standing in the middle of the high maintenance garden saying to my clients “there’s just so much to do, it’s scaring buyers away. You need to do the work for them and show them how lovely this house is”.  It was a lovely house too – an antidote to all the modern boxes being ‘thrown up’ in Brisbane’s burgeoning  estates. I felt sure that someone would love this house and want to buy it.

What we focused on:

Painting: The owner, an artist, had painted every room a different colour. It was a fabulous extension of her and therefore very personal. The whole interior (with the exception of a couple of areas) was therefore re-painted a neutral colour. This was done by the clients themselves. A huge undertaking.

Timber and kitchen: The house was chalet style and with this came a lot of timber.  The result was quite dark and dated. The timber panels were painted out and the timber kitchen was sprayed white and given a new counter top and flooring.

Furniture: When I first saw the house it was being rented out so actually different again to the ‘before’ photos below and the furniture was a hotch potch of rental furniture along with some of the owner’s furniture. I wanted to do the house justice and make it more appealing by bringing in some hire furniture.

Here are the before and after pictures: 

When staging a house it’s important that the furniture is placed in a way that sells the features of the house – in this case the fireplace and the view out of the window.

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When a house is painted a lot of different colours buyers know that they won’t be able to move straight in. This is a barrier to purchase and the aim of selling a house is to knock down those barriers. Off white with a simple table and chairs and the same mirror feels a lot calmer.

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Again this lilac colour isn’t to everyone’s taste and the curtains are overpowering and dated. The bed is the right size and scale but just needed some lovely comfortable bed linen.

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The dated timber in the kitchen was a big focus. Buyers assume they would need to rip this kitchen out to change it. Not when you spray the cabinets in white, fit a new counter top and replace the floor. Looks like new, and certainly more modern but still in keeping with the house.

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No before picture of the family bathroom but the pine cupboards were sprayed white and the vanity top was new. I kept the blue. It looks fresh and pretty.

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The Guest bedroom: This bed belonged to my clients, as did the artwork. I just hired the bedlinen, side table and accessories. A lovely room looking out onto the garden.

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So… after all the owner’s hard work and a change of agent, did their house sell?  It sure did!

About 6 weeks after it listed I got this text message from my client: “Hi Imogen…unconditional as from today… Yarhoo!! Can’t believe it yet!…thank you once again so very very much for all the time that you invested in our home for the sale…can’t tell you how much it helped us..love Bx”

I’m Imogen Brown a home stager based in the Western suburbs of Brisbane. If you have a house that won’t sell and you don’t know what to do then maybe I can help. Call me for a chat on 0432994056 or contact me through my Home Staging Brisbane website 

You might also like:

Help my house won’t sell

When you don’t want to spend another dollar selling your house

15 presentation mistakes that put off buyers when selling your house

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This is the second post in a series called  “people who stage their property” The first post was about families. This post considers downsizers

I love working with downsizers…

  • Their properties are often most in need of home staging because the decor and furniture are dated
  • They live in sometimes overwhelmingly large and cluttered houses.
  • They are open to suggestions as they are often fed up with their decor and furniture and can’t wait to move and buy shiny and new. For more on this read “talkin’ ’bout your generation”
  • They usually have the money to spend on preparing the property and understand the return on investment argument
  • They’re just really interesting people to chat to and make a good cup of tea!

 

The most important concept for downsizers to grasp is that there is a mismatch between how their house looks and the way it is set up and what their (younger) buyers are looking for. For example bedrooms used as store rooms or craft rooms need to be re-purposed as kid bedrooms,  a dining room may need to be re-purposed as a play room,  well tended pots all over the yard removed to provide more scooter space. I ask my clients what their son or daughter would be looking for if they were buying. Buyers with young kids are busy and they watch the block!  They want a house that is move in ready, aspirational and has a layout that works. They don’t want dated bathrooms, flowery curtains and teapot collections (I generalise).

This is a good example of a dated kitchen bought up to date for a younger buyer. New floor, spray painted cabinets and new counter top

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In summary, this is what I tell my downsizing clients…

1. Get clear on the most likely buyer of your house (and they won’t be like you or at your life stage)

2. Give each room and area of each room a clear purpose to attract those buyers

3. Keep the fixed elements of the house a neutral colour (window treatments, floors, walls etc).  New carpets are often needed and I often replace curtains with blinds. Wall colour may be a 1990′s version of neutral with a yellow or peach undertone. Re-painting with a more on trend neutral pays dividends

This house had lilac in the bedroom, flouncy curtains (is that a proper design term?) and dated pine furniture. A neutral re-paint and more modern furniture were used instead.

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4. De-clutter!  Downsizers usually have too much furniture and too many things on display. This needs to be culled right back. Remember the Barb Schwartz quote:  “how you live in your home and how you need to prepare your house for sale are 2 different things”  Don’t forget inside of cupboards and garages. This is your chance to throw, give away and sell. You will have to do this anyway when you move so do it now and increase the saleability of your house. For ideas on how and where to get rid of clutter read this post.  Note to any agents reading – It takes a long time to de-clutter 30 years of ‘stuff’ – give your clients longer than a couple of days before arranging the photographer.

5. I may need to hire some more up to date furniture, artwork and accessories.  I will always try to use what my clients have and fill in the gaps with hire pieces.  This makes a huge difference to the appeal of the house.

In this home I swapped out the dated furniture and accessories and bought in furniture that complemented the style of the house but had a more modern look and feel.

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6. Do the work now, spend a bit of money now where it counts and you will safeguard your precious equity and be able to move on .

I’m Imogen Brown a home stager based in the Western suburbs of Brisbane. If you are downsizing and need some help preparing your house to sell I would love to help. Call me on 0432994056 or contact me through the Home Staging Brisbane website

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2 days after this house on Brisbane’s Northside listed I received the above text from my client. 2 weeks later the contract went unconditional and the furniture was picked up.  Now that’s what I call a quick sell!

This project came through a switched on agent who knew the owner needed help preparing her home to sell. In our initial consultation we discussed re-painting key rooms, what needed repairing and what furniture could stay, what should go and what I therefore needed to hire. I don’t like my clients to spend money when they don’t have to so I re-purposed a couple of the sofas, beds and outdoor furniture. I then just pared everything back so that the house felt light and spacious and the purpose of each room was clear.  The result of keeping some furniture doesn’t give a high end display home finish but it does give a happy family finish and I think that’s one of the reasons the house sold so quickly. I’ve said it before but I don’t like my staging to look ‘too staged’ just that a stylish and organised family live there. Aspirational but achievable.

Here are the before and after pictures:

First up, the living area. I wanted to show this before picture because this is what most of the family houses I see look like. Toys and games left out and family life in progress. The blue sofas had been with this family a long time and I decided to use them in the sun room and rumpus and to bring slightly more formal items into this area.

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Here’s the full length of the room including the dining area. Most dining rooms don’t need a buffet or storage unit, just the dining table.  You wouldn’t be able to live without storage but for staging it does just fine.

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Next up the sunroom. This was a lovely bright room but again there was too much furniture. I’d rather the client had taken the curtains down in this room as they were difficult to work around but she had her reasons and everything else I asked her to do she did perfectly. Sometimes you’ve just got to work with what you’ve got!

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The kitchen (and bathroom, not shown) were big selling features of the house as they were both recently renovated. I cleared off the counter in the kitchen then lightly accessorised

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The client had a red feature wall in her bedroom and as you can see from the photo below was already thinking about making it more neutral and therefore appealing to a wider audience. I love staging master bedrooms. They just need to be  grown up, relaxing and comfortable for the people that will be buying the house! Small aside on the curtains. I see a lot of houses that have a slim window above the bed with curtains in front – always reminds me of the curtains that draw across in a funeral home but that might be just me! A blind gives a more contemporary and sleek finish.

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And finally the rumpus room downstairs. This was a bit of a catch all room but was an important space for the most likely buyers of this house – a young family.  I staged it to appeal to kids with comfy seating and TV, games and a craft table.

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For more on staging family homes read this: People who stage their property. No. 1 Busy families 

I’m Imogen Brown, a home stager based in the Western suburbs of Brisbane. If you have a lived in and loved family house that you want to sell and need some help  preparing it for sale I would love to help. Call me on 0432994056 or contact me through my website

You might also like:

So you’re thinking of staging your vacant house for sale

Sold for 5% over asking and in 5% days. Staging Works

Home Staging: not just a club for elites

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Home staging is a growth industry in Australia with more and more agents staging their listings.

If you are an agent and you want to know more about home staging (or property styling as it is also known) or want to decide if it’s right for you and your clients then I hope the information below helps:

Firstly, What is home staging?

  • How your sellers live in their home and how they need to prepare their home for sale so that they attract their ‘most likely buyer’ are two different things.
  • Home staging is simply the merchandising of a house to capture the hearts and offers of potential buyers so that a house gets sold quickly, for the best price and with the least stress.

Why would a real estate agent recommend a home stager?

  • Staged properties sell quicker  - a huge motivator for all agents
  • Staged properties sell for more. For more information on these 2 points click here
  • With over 90% of buyers looking to the internet first for listings, staged properties look better on-line
  • Staging your properties sets you apart from other agents with a ‘never needed it before, not doing it now’ mindset.  With an increase in well presented properties on the market, if your listings aren’t staged they help to sell the ones that are.

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When  would you recommend a stager?

  • For virtually every listing!  These are the only times that you wouldn’t call a stager
  • Staging isn’t just for high end houses or a club for elites. Every house can look its best come sale time. I’ve worked with a $350k workers cottage in Acacia ridge to a multi million dollar house in Clayfield and all points in between
  • Home stagers are particularly recommended when: the home is dated, in need of repair, very cluttered, has little or no furniture or the furniture doesn’t match or is the wrong size for the house, if there is a mismatch between the seller and buyers (e.g. older seller, younger buyers), if the seller needs to move quickly (ill-health, divorce, move interstate). Basically, if you see a house and you know it’s not presenting well but don’t know what to suggest to your client, call a stager.
  • If you want to keep your client/agent relationship sweet and don’t know how to broach the presentation subject then a stager can have these difficult conversations for you.

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How does home staging Work?

  • You give the stager’s details to your client and recommend they call.
  • The stager and your client meet at the house for a consultation. You are welcome to attend if you want to see the stager ‘in action’. By the end of the consultation your client will know who the most likely buyer of the house will be, the purpose and layout of each room to attract those buyers, repairs, upgrades, painting, yard, cleaning, what to store, what to keep, how to style what’s left, what to buy (e.g. new bedlinen, towels, fresh flowers) strategies for open houses and lots more. Stagers can also help in recommending suppliers (e.g. handyman, storage unit). This may be all your client needs to get into action.
  • If the client needs to hire furniture or accessories the stager will measure for these in the consultation then hire and install everything for the client. To see the full process of hiring furniture read the blog titled : so you’re thinking of staging your vacant house to sell?

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Got more questions?

Who pays?  Generally speaking the client does unless you as the agent want to pay for the initial consultation (most don’t).

What’s the time period? It depends. Staging can be turned round in a week but 2-3 weeks is more normal. You can’t expect someone who has lived in their house for 30 years to prepare for photos in 2 day’s time. Nor can you ring the stager last minute to help them.

How much does it cost? From c. $300 for a consultation up to $5k for a vacant 4 bed house and everything in between (These are my costs but give a general idea).  Staging is always more cost effective than a price reduction if the property doesn’t sell

What’s the proof?  Take a look at this infographic  or this Homegain survey

How do I know what stager to use? This could be a whole blog in itself but select a stager based on their good web presence, word of mouth, testamonials, experience, gallery (before and after pictures), communication skills, people skills and organisational skills.  Find out what properties or clients they love working with. You don’t have to just use 1 stager. You might select one for vacant staging and another for cluttered family houses.  One key question to ask is if the stager has their own inventory of furniture and accessories or whether they hire the furniture and who they hire it from. If the stager doesn’t have much to choose from their work won’t be as good.

It’s an expensive time for my clients how do I ‘sell’ the concept of home staging?  By sharing the research above, by showing them the difference between poorly presented and well presented homes, by getting them to imagine themselves as the buyer and what the buyer is looking for. By talking about return on investment (e.g. $5k outlay vs higher price for house).  70% of my business comes from home owners direct. In my experience, sellers see the benefit!

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Where can I find more information?  I have written over 100 blog posts.  Most of these are pinned on pinterest in one place. Just click on the one you want to read and it will take you through to the actual post. Feel free to share any of this information with your clients or on your blog or website.

Here are a couple of my favourites:

How not to sell your house in 4 easy steps

15 presentation mistakes that put off buyers when selling your house

And finally. Imagine it’s open house day. You have 5 properties to show. You turn up at each one and it’s presenting at its best. The photos on-line look great and you haven’t had to do anything except recommend a stager. Now, go sell!

I’m Imogen Brown a home stager based in the Western suburbs of Brisbane. If you are an agent in Brisbane and are thinking of partnering with a home stager I’d love to talk. Call me on 0432994056 or contact me through my website

If are are about to sell your house and want to avoid the biggest home seller mistakes then this latest survey from Active Rain* makes timely  reading.

Active Rain asked 1000 real estate agents to rate the top 3 mistakes made by home sellers. An infographic of the top 6 mistakes is below. The full list of 10 follows.

Its interesting to note that of the 10 top mistakes, half of them are related to the presentation of the home – and this is why staging your house to sell (whether you do it yourself or use a home stager) is vitally important.

Here’s the full list

1. Overpriced home

I tell my clients that the 3 keys to house selling success are price, presentation and promotion. Like a 3 legged stool if one of these is out of alignment the stool will fall over. Price is a key factor. No matter how good your agent and your home stager your property won’t sell if it is overpriced.  An even worse mistake is being greedy about the house price yet ‘tight’ with the money you spend in preparation.

2. Showing availability

Imagine that your house is a coffee shop. If you aren’t open when your customers want  a coffee, and, to continue the analogy, didn’t tell people where your coffee shop was or even the price of your coffee then your customers would get their caffeine fix elsewhere.  If you are serious about selling you need to make your house available and easy to find.

3. Cluttered space

Within 5 minutes of starting a home staging consultation I have usually asked ‘do you have a storage unit?’  When preparing a house to sell you need enough furniture to show the purpose of the room and enough art and accessories to make the house feel like ‘home’. You don’t need the rest of the paraphernalia that clutters up your house. Remember, your buyers want to buy your house not your things.

4. Unpleasant odors 

This subject is one of the most popular search terms on my blog. Real estate agents often find it difficult to tell their clients that their house smells as they want to keep the relationship and the listing smelling sweet. I don’t mind! If I smell something I will say so. I’m an objective pair of eyes and nose. Here’s some great research on  ‘smells that sell’ 

5. Unwilling to negotiate

The majority of house sale are completed in 3 steps: Offer, counter offer and final offer. This is not personal, its business. Being stubborn or overly emotional will not help your house sale.

6. Won’t make repairs

Buyers want to buy your house not your ‘to do’ list and over estimate to the power of 3 what a repair will cost vs the actual cost. Remember, for buyers its not just a monetary cost they are considering, its a time cost too and they are busy people. The reason they don’t want to do your repairs is the same reason you don’t want to do them. Make the repairs and you will be closer to a quicker sale at a better price.

7.  Bad listing photos

With most buyers looking on-line for their new home your listing photos are of huge importance. Great presentation is the starting point. Professional photos are the indispensable icing on the cake.  For a funny look at how not to take a listing photo see terrible real estate agent photos

8. The home is just plain messy

This links back to the cluttered mistake in point 3 but it also relates to how you look after your property whilst on the market. There’s no point presenting your property beautifully for the photos only to let the presentation slide across the weeks. This is the reason that a lot of my business comes from busy families with kids who don’t want to live in the house whilst it’s on the market. How I stage their property is how it stays. Problem solved!

9. Sellers Who Like to Play Tour Guide During Showings 

This doesn’t happen in Australia (or not that I’ve seen) but in England it’s very normal and we’re all very English about it. It’s very uncomfortable being taken into the owner’s bedroom only 2 minutes after you’ve met whilst they say “this is the bedroom” (Really?!)  Even if you hate the property you gamely follow the owner round making polite comments. As my daughters would say “awkward!”

10. Picking the Wrong Agent

Your agent and their marketing and negotiation skills are key when selling. Its easy to work-out who is selling (not just listing) properties in your area by going to the sold section on http://www.realestate.com.au/sold and tapping in your suburb. Speak to 3 agents and look for agents that listen to you not talk at you.

And finally….

Writing this post bought to mind a blog post I wrote after a frustrating day in real estate. It’s called How NOT to sell your house in 10 easy steps Enjoy!

* ActiveRain is an online community of real estate professionals who exchange best practices, write real estate blogs, and get free education from the industry and their peers.

I’m Imogen Brown, a home stager based in the Western suburbs of Brisbane. If you want to sell quickly and for a great price without making the above mistakes then give me a call on 0432994056 or contact me through my website

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This is the start of an occasional series looking at who my clients are and why they choose home staging to help sell their properties.

First up is busy families (a subject close to my heart).  In the last week I’ve staged one house and selected for 2 houses and all were owned by busy families. All had moved out/are moving out in order for me to stage their house to sell.

Let’s see who they are:

Family 1: Teacher Mum and Dad of 4 boys. Owner built their house, then built another one behind to move into whilst selling the first. Like I said – busy!

Family 2: Another Teacher Mum and Dad of 3 young kids. Have recently bought a renovator

Family 3: This family with 3 kids and 2 dogs have lived in and renovated their house over the last 18 years.

The main reason the above families contacted me was the same: They knew that they were too busy and their house too cluttered and full of kids to prepare it for sale and to keep it open house ready.  For two of the three they knew that their furniture had seen better days and wanted to hire something more on trend.

Because the families all rang me at the beginning of the process I was able to give them advice on wall colour, carpet, bathroom upgrades and garden makeovers as well as measuring for furniture. Because I saw each house fully furnished I was able to work out what stayed (to help keep costs down) and what would need to go. Just like one big jigsaw. By the end of the consultation my client had an action list and so did I.

Here’s a quick before and after from family 1.

The client already had a couple of bedsides (that I moved into the kids’s room) plus a couple of lamps and some artwork that stayed.  The bed was moved to my client’s new house so that they didn’t need to sleep on the floor.

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I hired a new bed, plus bedlinen, new bedsides plus an occasional chair (not shown)

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For more before and after pictures  read this blog about another busy family I worked with last year. They sold in 5 days for 5% over asking.

I’m Imogen Brown a home stager based in the Western suburbs of Brisbane. If you are a busy family and want to sell your house quickly, for the best price and with the least stress then give me a call on 0432994056 or contact me through my website

What a joy to be able to stage this beautiful 1901 Colonial near Samford, Queensland.  The property is on 88 acres of horse friendly land and the views from the property are just gorgeous (see below)

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The fixed elements of the property – wall colour, flooring, window treatments, bathroom were all ready to go.  The owners also had some beautiful antique pieces that I could work with.  I therefore concentrated on re-purposing some of the rooms and swapping out some of the heavier furniture which didn’t really fit in a heritage property. A bedroom became a TV room so the TV could be moved from the living area where it was in the way of the view. A spare room became a kid’s room as I felt strongly that the new owners would be a young family.  I then hired furniture, artwork and accessories around what the owners already had. Here’s a before and after of the dining area.

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The agent and I found the dining room table in the shed. It was like an episode of American pickers as we excitedly realised we could re-use it. I then hired some modern retro style chairs to complete the look.

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The living area had too much furniture and it was too dark. The main feature were the views out of the window so I moved the TV and placed a sofa facing the view.

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The delivery guys from Guest did a great job hanging the picture in this room as I wanted it right over the picture rail – a delicate operation!

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The room below was a guest room but I turned it into a TV room/another living area. A second living area is always a good idea for a family if I can fit one in.

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I re-used one of the black sofas in the room but lightened the look with the occasional chair, rug and artwork.

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One of the first things I said to my client was that the kitchen needed painting as it was such a personal colour. After being told this wasn’t going to happen as she needed to list quickly I had to work with what I had.

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The agent and I found the kitchen island masquerading as a work bench in the shed. Amazingly it was painted white and aubergine – the same colour as the cupboard units. The client bought the industrial shelving unit and I styled the kitchen with veggies, cutting blocks and fresh flowers. I’m actually pleased that we didn’t paint the units!

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Look at the lovely archway in the Master bed.  A beautiful feature. I kept the look/feel in this room light. I moved the pine bed into another room and hired a bed and bed head, side tables and lamps that did this master bedroom justice. If you are going to put the effort and money into one bedroom in the house make it the master – the owner(s) will be sleeping there!

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The room now looks light and airy and its all about the view and the archway.

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This is the spare room. Great floor and window – just waiting to be turned into a kid’s bedroom

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And what little boy wouldn’t want a sweet bedroom like this.

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This back verandah was showing signs of this being a busy acreage property.

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The agent had a few pieces that we used that fit perfectly with the eclectic country look and feel that I wanted to create. The client also hired lots of plants in pots. This always makes a huge difference. Big shout out at this point to the Agent, Ronni Grevell. It’s such a pleasure working with an agent who understands the importance of presentation when selling a property. Along with the owners this project felt like a true collaboration and a lot of fun.

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The front verandah housed a sofa that, although well used and comfy had seen better days.

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We swapped it for a white whicker setting and plants. A quintessential Queensland look.

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The time between the before and after pictures was approximately 10 days. In those 10 days whilst I was swanning around the furniture warehouse the clients and agent worked tirelessly getting the house and land ready. 10 days after listing the house had a contract on it and it went unconditional yesterday.

I’m Imogen Brown a Home Stager living in the Western suburbs of Brisbane. I LOVE staging Queenslanders as you’ve probably gathered! If you have a heritage house that you would like to sell and you would like some help and advice then give me a call on 0432994056 or contact me through my website

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Sold before listing. That’s the way to do it.

Dream project. Dream Client

Two stagers, one house and a wishbone chair

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