Cautious vendors have been turning to property stylists this summer ahead of the auction season kicking off, in the hopes of making their home stand out in a weakening market.
Stylists are reporting growth in demand as sellers pull out all the stops amid falling prices and tighter bank lending criteria which have led to an increase in the length of time properties take to sell.
David McLean, general manager of Furnish & Finish Property Styling which operates in Sydney and Brisbane, said the company had seen an increase in the number of clients using their services at every price point.
“We’re busier this year than last year already,” Mr McLean said. “There’s definitely been an increase in demand because agents and vendors are taking longer to sell.”
Sydney homes are now sitting on the market for 71 days on average, some 27 days more than a year ago, according to Domain Group data on private treaty sales from December 2018.
Melbourne homes are averaging 52 days on market, up from 41 a year ago. Even in Brisbane homes are taking 81 days to sell on average, up from 72 a year earlier.
Mr McLean said vendors chose to style their properties to show buyers how they could live in that home with specially chosen decor.
Some clients splurge $20,000 or more on styling services and furniture rental for their auction campaign, depending on the size of the home, while others might pay as little as $3000 and keep some of their own furniture on display.
“It really depends on how much furniture [they use],” Mr McLean said.
This home at 6 Norman Street, South Yarra was styled by Bon Habitat in Melbourne.
Some vendors are even taking a short-term, six-month loan from finance companies to cover the costs, he said.
In Melbourne, director of Melbourne Property Stylists Cheree Scott has seen rising demand as savvy vendors look to stand out from the crowd.
She said awareness of the industry had changed a lot in her 13 years in the job.
“When people asked me what I did for a living and I would say ‘I’m a stylist’, people thought I was a hairdresser,” she said.
But she says now sellers understand beautiful furnishings can tap into an emotional connection with buyers and lift their price expectations.
“When it’s styled, [potential buyers] are walking in and seeing how they could live [there]. If people are emotionally connected with a property, they tend to spend a little more,” she said.
Melbourne-based Bon Habitat director Liz Montgomery said she had come back to work a week early as her phone had been ringing “off the hook” during January.
A lot of her time is being taken up by downsizers who are both selling and buying.
“I help them get rid of all their clutter and their excess,” she said.
“They’ve been in their home for 30 years and are so daunted by it and they’re also so emotionally involved, they need someone to help them out.”
19 Lunn Street Sandgate is on the market, styled by Grace & Co Property Styling.
Melanie Grace from Grace & Co Property Styling in Brisbane said business had been busy with local sellers now using styling services – usually for the first time.
“Around 95 per cent of interstate people have used a stylist in Melbourne or Sydney and they have that knowledge of styling,” she said.
Local Brisbane home and unit sellers are now wanting to style their homes, realising they need to make them stand out.
“A lot of new stylists have come onto the market in the last 12 months. Some will do the cheap end of styling – if it’s $2000 that’s cheap, but they won’t be using high-end furniture. They’ll be using their own from Target or Ikea,” Ms Grace said.
She said styling would usually cost between 1.5 per cent to 2 per cent of the property’s value, except for multimillion-dollar homes.
“That will shock some people,” Ms Grace said. “You need to spend money on making it look good.”