Tag Archives: staging

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, I was working with a developers, sourcing properties for him, when I got a call out of the blue from John, a friend of a friend.

“Can you help me?” he asked. Turns out he’d been offered a great new job in London, starting immediately, but couldn’t sell his house in Cambridgeshire.  He’d already been on the market several months, and reduced his asking price, but he just wasn’t getting viewers across the door.  So what was the problem?  I promised to investigate, and said goodbye to him.

Now, those were the ‘bad old days’ when Rightmove was just a little property website with a handful of agents on it, so the first place I looked was on his estate agent’s website: I studied the photographs and read the description carefully: it was a spacious four bedroomed, two bathroomed ‘executive’ style home, with modern fittings and a large garden; in short, a great family home.  I checked the asking price against his competitors: it seemed to represent good value for money; certainly not over-priced.  What about the location?  I checked it out: lovely village, within 20 minutes’ drive of Cambridge, and boasting the all-important pub, shop and school.  Big tick there then.  So what was the problem?

I decided to give the estate agent a call and pose as a buyer, to ask them to send me the property brochure.  Perhaps that would hold the answer.

“Good afternoon, Acme Estate Agents, how can I help?” was the chirpy answer.

“Hi there.  I’m looking to relocate to the area, and I’d very much like to see anything you have in Smallsville,” I told her.

There was a moment’s hesitation, before her response came back: “I’m sorry, we don’t cover that village, it’s out of our area of coverage”.

I was momentarily struck dumb.  Did I really hear her right?  After all, I knew very well that she did have a property for sale there: I was staring right at it on their website!

“Where exactly do you cover?” I asked her.  As she told me, I traced my fingers on a map.  Nowhere near the village in question!

I thanked her, and immediately dialled John.  “You’re with the wrong agent!” I burst out.  I went on to tell him word-for-word what I’d been told. He was absolutely astounded; not least because the manager of Acme Agents who had taken on the instruction to market his property had assured him that they had “buyers waiting for that very village”.

“That’s why you aren’t getting any viewings!” I told him.

“So which agent should I use?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I said, “I’m not familiar with the area”.

“Can you find out and recommend one to me?” he asked.  “I’ll pay you for your time, of course.”

We agreed a fee, and I told him I’d get back to him with a recommended agent by the end of the week. But where to start?

Firstly, I drew up a criteria of what I thought a really good agent should offer: well-placed office, professional photography, supportive staff, and lots more.  My list covered around thirty separate points.

Next, I scoured the internet, checking every agent against my admittedly pretty tough criteria, and came up with a shortlist of only three estate agents.

I decided the only way I could be confident of my recommendation to John, and after all, he was paying me to come up with the best agent for him, was to actually call the respective managers or partners of each of these three shortlisted agents, and ‘interview’ them.  So I did.

One I ruled out straight away; I thought his attitude to be overly negative and unaccommodating.  I knew the relationship between John and his agent would need to be as strong and positive as possible, right from the start, so I discounted him.

The second agent was positive about the property, but wanted a significant price reduction before taking it on.  I told him I’d pass on his advice to my client, and called the third agent.

Just like the Goldilocks fairytale, this agent was ‘just right’.  She was positive, friendly and personable; we had a long chat about how she would propose to market John’s house, and I liked everything she said.  She also told me she thought the asking price to be realistic, and told me about other properties she’d sold recently in the area.  I’d found John’s new agent.

I quickly set up a meeting between the agent, John and his wife, and John called me afterwards, delighted.  He and his wife had both really liked the agent I’d recommended, and they had signed up there and then.  I was very relieved. Now all she had to do was put her money where her mouth was, and sell John’s house!

A couple of weeks went by. I checked out the online advert, which looked great.  John had even taken on board a couple of staging tips I’d given him, so the house was really looking its best.  Then, I got a call from John.

“We’ve sold!” he said. “The agent you recommended not only got us half a dozen viewings in the first two weeks, she also negotiated an offer to within £10,000 of our asking price, so we’ve decided to accept it.  We can’t thank you enough for putting us on the right track.”

I told him I was absolutely thrilled for him, and picked up the phone to thank the agent, who was suitably modest, but also clearly very pleased.

“So who are you going to send me next?” she asked.

And HomeTruths was born.

I realised in that moment that the average seller has no idea which agent to select to sell their home. They will ask friends, look through the paper, and browse online, but it can be like finding a needle in a haystack.  Sellers need professional advice from an independent expert, in order to ensure they instruct the right agent to sell their home effectively.

There are currently around 15,000 estate agents in the UK, and over the years, we have recommended less than 1% of them.  We’re picky, to say the least.

HomeTruths is for sellers. What we do could change your life; literally.  Because when you need to move on, in every way that one can move on, you really need the cards stacked in your favour.  That’s where we come in.  We will give you the information you need to get it right, and the confidence to stick to your plan.  And there are eight years’ worth of happy sellers behind you, proving it can be done.

If you’d like my help to sell your home more effectively, please answer a few short questions here and if I think I can help you, I’ll be in touch.

No viewings for a few weeks?  Plenty of viewings but no one wants to buy? Try these three simple steps and see what happens!

1. Call your agent! Make sure you’re on his mind so that if a potential buyer calls the office, he’ll mention your home first.

2. Take some new photographs of your garden in beautiful autumnal light, so that your images are seasonal and fresh.

3. Treat your beds to some new, contemporary bedding. It will freshen up your bedrooms in an instant.

If you’d like my help to sell your home more effectively, please answer a few short questions here and if I think I can help you, I’ll be in touch.

Nine Ways To Sell Your House Fast

We know setting prospective buyers loose on your home to play Simon Cowell can be daunting; suppose the dog has an ‘accident’ or the neighbours decide their bonfire just can’t wait until November 5th?

Yes, buyers can indeed be difficult to please, but here’s the good news – we know exactly how to please them. Putting the effort in, pays dividends when it comes to getting that all important ‘quick sale’!

Follow our 9 tips to get your house big fat ‘yes’s’ across the board:

Improve your kerb appeal

We know you should never judge a book by it’s cover, but sadly, people often do – a lot of people will drive around first before deciding on which properties to visit.

The exterior of your home is just as important as the interior, if not more so for that all-important first impression. Peter Illingworth Estate Agent says ‘you must make sure every part of this visual picture looks at its best. If the interior is beautiful they may never see it if the exterior is shabby. The pavement in front of your home should be swept clean if necessary, any weeds that are growing should be removed, unsightly bins hidden and any litter picked up.’

Invest in some doggy day-care

As much as you love Rover, not everyone’s a fan. Potential buyers don’t want to walk in and smell cat litter, or walk out with dog hair stuck to their clothes; it gives the impression that your house isn’t clean. Hire a dog sitter or at least exile your furry friends to the garden whilst showing buyers around.

Come up smelling of roses

Or lilies, daisies, tulips – you get the idea. A bunch of flowers goes a long way!

Or there’s always the oldest trick in the real-estate book: pop some cookies or freshly made bread in the oven and intoxicate your buyers with that warm fuzzy feeling, instantly bonding them to your home – or so they say.

Whilst whipping up freshly baked goods each time you have a prospective buyer in your house may be impractical, you can always ‘brew some fresh coffee’ or buy flower-scented candles for an alluring welcome buyers are sure to appreciate. At the very least, ensure all ashtrays are out of the way and Fabreeze is always on hand.

Keep your hardship to yourself

If you think buyers will hear your life story, feel sorry for you and consequently sign on the dotted line, you’re sadly mistaken. Whatever the reason is for selling your house – be it debt, death or your husband running off with the next-door neighbour – keep schtum! Nearly a quarter of the cases of off-putting behaviour in the My Online Estate Agent survey involved sellers unburdening themselves about the reasons for their marriage break-up. Save it for your shrink, please.

Clutter is killer

Get rid of it – and sharpish! Buyers want to be able to imagine themselves living in your home, and family photos, swimming certificates and your grandma’s ornaments make it that bit harder. If it’s too painful to get rid of them permanently, why not put them in temporary storage?

Keep it PG

According to research by My Online Estate Agent, one in five buyers have encountered ‘something unusual’ when being shown around a property. A total of 22 per cent of house-hunters have been confronted with weird collections of sex-dolls and teddy bears, while 11 per cent have had to avert their eyes from naked pictures of the owners. Awkward.

Less ’50 shades’ more ‘vintage lampshades’, please.

Lighten up

Light, bright and airy – three words to take as house-selling gospel. Especially when it comes to kitchens and bathrooms, open plan is in fashion and buyers want as much space as possible. Colour scheme-wise, think whites and creams, or pastel hues.

Bathrooms and kitchens are two of the most important rooms in a property and should be immaculately clean and tidy when showing a property to viewers – again accessorised to emphasise light and space.

“Wildly coloured bathroom suites were regarded as the ultimate in taste in the 1980s, but can look pretty hideous to modern eyes,” says David Newnes, director of LSL Property Services. He claims such a fitting could knock up to £8,000 off the value of your property. Wowzers. Oh, and keep it clean people! Research by Rightmove among 4,000 buyers found that dirty kitchens and bathrooms were the biggest turn-offs – so get out that Mr Muscle before every viewing.

Putting the effort in, either on your own or with the assistance of a specialist property company can clearly pay dividends when it comes to answering the question – ‘how to get a quick sale’

Stay Switzerland

Fancy yourself as the next Kelly Hoppen? This is not the time to test out your skills. The thing to remember is your taste is not the same as everyone else’s. Keep colours neutral and decoration to a minimum to make your house appealing to as many buyers as possible.

Be warned: additions can be made but unsightly adornments cannot be unseen!  Offer an empty shell for buyers to build their dream home around from scratch – your estate agent will thank you for it.

Enlist the experts

Don’t fancy dealing with estate agents, viewings, and the general stress that comes with finding a buyer? You’re not alone.

www.sellhousefast.uk buys over 300 houses a year, direct, from all over the UK! Simply apply online, agree a price and set a date for a rapid and hassle free sale – often completed within four weeks. Oh, and they buy houses regardless of condition, meaning everyone’s invited.

If you’d like my help to sell your home more effectively, please answer a few short questions here and if I think I can help you, I’ll be in touch

Nine Ways To Sell Your House Fast

What to read next: How to make your online property advert work for you

What to do next: Sign up to my Selling Secrets https://www.home-truths.co.uk/selling-secrets

A gentleman called me recently, having struggled to sell his house for several months.  I took a look at his property advert online and saw a house that was full of mismatched furniture and cluttered rooms.  “Have you considered using a home stager?” I asked him.

He hadn’t heard of the concept.  In fairness, whilst it’s something that the Americans do to sell their properties, it’s not an idea we have embraced in this country yet, though sellers who are struggling often find that it can make a huge difference to the interest they get from buyers.

So let’s look at your living room, and how best to present it for sale, and wow your buyers:

  1. Your suite – I often visit homes that are on the market with old, sagging sofas that haven’t been in fashion since the 1980s! When the homeowner tells me they plan to replace their suite when they move, I urge them to do it now instead, to help the house become more saleable. Old sofa equals dated house, or that’s what a buyer will think.  A new modern sofa will really add a stylish look to your living room and prove a worthwhile investment for you.

Your suite

2. Your carpeting – how is your carpet looking? Is it heavily patterned, darkly-coloured, or both? Would a professional clean refresh it, or does it really need replacing? A dirty, worn and dated carpet will give the impression that the house hasn’t been looked after, so if you want to portray a well-presented home, it may be worth investing a few hundred pounds in a new, neutral carpet.

Your carpeting

3. Your walls – you don’t need to paint everything magnolia, but you do need to present a buyer with a décor that they will like, as much as you can do. Whilst you haven’t got mind-reading powers (I assume!) few people will be put off by neutral, modern colour schemes.  If you have a feature wall in say, vibrant purple, you are risking alienating anyone that doesn’t like purple, so play it safe and go for neutral shades.

Your Walls

4. Your lighting – this can really make or break the impact of your living room. Downlighters and table lamps can create a cosy atmosphere; uplighting can add a splash of drama.  If you have overhead lighting, it’s usually best to leave that off and create a real feeling of homeliness with your additional lighting choices.

Your lighting

  1. Your cushions – if you can’t justify a new sofa, perhaps new cushions will help to refresh the look of your living room. A recent client of mine bought a really inexpensive cream Ikea sofa, then added some lovely colourful cushions in rich fabrics, to add a real feeling of luxury without a big spend.

Your cushions

6. Your accessories – have a look around your living room at your ornaments and other accessories. Are any of them new and stylish? Or do you have little collections of old-fashioned ornaments you’ve gathered over many years? If they have sentimental value, why not parcel them all up now ready for your forthcoming move? That way you can clear the space for some pieces that are in keeping with current home style and perhaps that match your new colourful cushions.

Your accessories

7. Your art and pictures – if your walls and surfaces are covered in personal family portraits, it’s time to take them down, and box them up for your move. Generally speaking, it’s best if art is neutral and not distracting, like the kind of bland style you see in hotels. Lots of mirrors and large pictures in a style and colour to match your living room, will lift your presentation and add a feeling of coordination and harmony.Your art and pictures

8. Your tv – these days, many living rooms are dominated by a large black box, aka your tv! Unless you have one of those high-tech mirrors that magically transforms into a tv at the touch of a button, you need to consider how you are going to diminish its impact however you can. Try rearranging the furniture around the fireplace or other feature, rather than grouping it around your tv.  You may not be able to live with the furniture in that position, but it’s worth placing it especially for your photography and viewings.

Your tv

9. Your ambience – how does your living room feel? Does it have a nice sense of calm and tranquility that makes it feel like somewhere you want to be after a busy day at work? Consider the way it smells, and sounds, as well as the way it looks. Lightly scented candles and some background music can really enhance the feeling of your living room and provide a restful space so that your viewers can relax.

Your ambience

  1. Your finishing touches – before you have your photographs taken, or book a viewing, take a last look at your living room with a critical eye. Take away anything that doesn’t improve the look of the room, like wastepaper bins or piles of magazines, and add a vase of flowers and a beautiful coffee table book, and voila! Your room is ready.

Your finishing touches

Home staging really doesn’t have to cost much, but it can pay dividends!  If you have a great staging tip of your own, please let me know in the comments below.

If you’d like my help to sell your home more effectively, please answer a few short questions here and if I think I can help you, I’ll be in touch.

I’ve sold my house.  Not the one I live in, but a little cottage I bought, renovated, and then because of the banking crash in 2007, I had to rent out for a few years.  When the tenant moved out last year, I took my chance, and prepared it for sale.  Just as I advise my clients to do, I freshened up the paintwork, washed all the soft furnishings, and bought lots of lovely accessories to stage it.  Then I had professional photographs taken and I wrote a great description, specifically designed to tempt viewings. Finally, I employed a designer to put together a beautiful brochure for me, together with a logo for the cottage, to add some brand appeal.

It all looked fantastic.

So which agent would be worthy of marketing such an easy-to-sell house?  I looked at the local independents: too parochial.  The big nationals: too impersonal.  Really, I wanted to sell it myself, but the private seller sites, like Tepilo, just aren’t big enough yet.  I know that buyers only look at the four big portals: Rightmove, Primelocation, FindaProperty and Zoopla – that’s where I needed to be, but they don’t accept private sellers.

The answer, was to use a ‘virtual agent’.  If you don’t know what one of these is, you might be interested in reading my previous blog post on the subject, but briefly, it’s a no-frills agency that offers just enough of a service to comply with the property portals, but doesn’t offer viewings, or charge a commission.  In addition, they don’t ‘value’ your home; you tell them what you want your asking price to be.

I tried several virtual agents before I found one good enough to sell my cottage; most of them don’t allow you to upload your own brochure, which was none-negotiable for me, as I know how important it is.  Finally I found an up and coming online agent who was just right: right attitude, right approach, right skills, right price.  (I’m not going to share with you on here who it is, but I can create for you a plan to help you sell with them, exactly as I did.)

Viewings to organise now; as I don’t live near to the cottage, I found a local lady who could do the viewings for me for a small fee, and who I trained in how to prepare the cottage, and how to show it to viewers.  She called me after every viewing to give me feedback straight away, which was really helpful.  No waiting for days for the agent to call with it.

This weekend, encouraged by my viewing lady, a buyer called me direct, and made an offer to me.  I was able to explain my situation, and negotiate directly with him, and we settled on a price that suited us both, which was the 95%  I was hoping for.  Even better, there are no further agent fees to pay!

So what did it cost in total?  Here’s my spend to date:

Staging costs                                      £ 1000

Photography                                      £   300

Brochure design                                £   240

Viewings                                             £   200

Upfront fee to virtual agent             £  199

Energy Performance Certificate     £   60

For sale board                                    £    40

Completion fee to virtual agent       £ 199

Total expenses                             £2238

I’ve saved a total of £2500 on agency fees, which basically has paid for me to prepare the cottage the way I wanted to, which in turn, has resulted in a much better offer than I would have received.

If you’d like my help to sell your home more effectively, please answer a few short questions here and if I think I can help you, I’ll be in touch.

What to read next: Set the timer! Sixty seconds to sell your home

What to do next:  Sign up to my Selling Secrets https://www.home-truths.co.uk/selling-secrets


I don’t know about you, but even if your lucky enough to be in an area of the UK that is seeing a rise in property prices, it’s easy to wonder why to bother styling a property when it’s hopefully going to be snapped up quicker than an an Ikea sofa in the sales….

Well, I hope that you, the reader, have already screamed at the screen “NO! This property is probably the biggest investment of a person’s life! Why WOULDN’T they want to show if to it’s full potential and maximise the selling price?” If this was your reaction, may I shake you by the hand and welcome you to the 21st Century ! If not, well, then you may have a little catching up to do.

Kitchen remodel with before and afterWalking into this otherwise beautiful kitchen, the buyers first impression was a blank wall and a bin. Storage solutions were addressed and the space was styled to feel more welcoming, spacious and highlight the selling features of the room.


Regardless of whether you are in a region of experiencing a buyer’s or seller’s market, showing a property to it’s best advantage in the marketing photography and during viewings can only enhance the greatest profit for the owner and estate agent alike. Agents are starting to realise that by having a Home Stylist/Stager ready for referral brings a little added TLC and customer service, that goes a long way in these fiercely competitive times.

Eating area before and afterThis eating area was very narrow and normally seated only 2. By adding an inexpensive table, chairs, and repurposing the existing furniture in other rooms, the buyer could now experience the advantages of the space and imagine having friends round for dinner.


There are a few myths and misconceptions about Home Styling or Home Staging: Yes, decluttering a space, painting everything White (this season’s ‘Magnolia’) and pushing all the furniture to the edges of the room CAN make a space feel bigger, but this is not what Home Styling is about…. where’s the wow factor? the USP? the thing that makes THIS property stand out from the the other terraced houses on the street and have the buyers springing off to secure their mortgage?

conservatory area before and afterThis small conservatory was previously just a passageway to the back door. It was transformed into another ‘room’ where fresh coffee and the beautiful garden could be enjoyed in the sunshine.


The small investment required in hiring a Home Stylist/Stager who can address those tricky features, storage or layout issues of the home while also enhancing the positive features, is a sure-fire way of reducing a buyer’s concerns and increase the perceived value of the property. It is all too easy to assume that the buyer has the same vision as the agent or seller. This is often NOT the case.

guest room before and afterA cluttered office space that overlooked a tarmac driveway was transformed into a tranquil and spacious office/guest room.

Home Styling taps into the buyers aspirational requirements as well as their practical needs in order to secure the best possible price for the client and estate agent alike. It is an inexpensive service that is likely to pay for itself when clinching the deal… It’s a “Win-WIn” situation all round.

Catriona Archer offers Home & Retail Styling starting from £95 for a half day consultation and is based in Bath and the SW of England.

For more details, visit www.catrionaarcher.com , email [email protected]. or follow on twitter: @catrionaarcher.

If you’d like my help to sell your home more effectively, please answer a few short questions here and if I think I can help you, I’ll be in touch

What to read nextThe PUSH and PULL effect

What to do next:  Sign up to my Selling Secrets https://www.home-truths.co.uk/selling-secrets

Home Improvements Designed to Boost the Value of Your House

The UK housing market is at an all time high since 1998 and research by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) showed that on average, 22.700 homes were sold each month since the start 2014. People up and down the country are taking advantage of this “time to sell” and investing money back into their properties through redecorating and DIY.

It used to be that a lick of paint and a few nice light fittings were enough to generate interest in a house but people are getting savvy with their use of space, especially in the cities where converting an attic into a second or third bedroom could increase the average value of a house by 12.5%.

In order to entice people to buy, sellers are taking it one step further and totally revamping rooms in their houses.

Cellars, for example, if large enough can be converted into a second living room or entertainment room. This type of conversion is the most expensive however it yields the highest return on investment when it comes to adding value to a property.

As the “Help to Buy” Scheme increases in popularity more and more younger people are considering property as an investment so sellers need to provide the right incentive to cater for a younger audience in order to achieve a successful sale.

If there isn’t enough space to totally transform a cellar or loft then remodelling other rooms can also prove profitable in the long run.

This infographic by Evolution Money called “The Real Cost of Home Improvements” gives you an idea of what rooms can be renovated, how much you would expect to pay and what the average percentage of value you could expect to add to the asking price.

An infographic design by Evolution Money called The Real Cost of Home Improvements

If you’d like my help to sell your home more effectively, please answer a few short questions here and if I think I can help you, I’ll be in touch

What to read next: Can you sell your home with Social Media?

What to do next:  Sign up to my Selling Secrets https://www.home-truths.co.uk/selling-secrets

I once was asked by a client to help him sell his beautiful 18th Century oak-framed barn in Cheshire.  Despite selling a home in the £500,000 plus bracket, my client was still only in his twenties, having been initiated into the very successful family business from an early age.  His two passions were motorbikes and partying, and not necessarily in that order.  There was evidence of his interests throughout the house, from a fully-blown games room where the dining room should have been, and a full sized wooden motorbike in the middle of the living room.  He also had a “chillout” room in place of one of the bedrooms, complete with walls adorned with erotic art.  Needless to say, it didn’t go down that well with the family buyers……

I told him there were two possible solutions: one – find a buyer exactly like him. Two – change the house to suit the likely family buyer.  As he’d already tried the first strategy for over a year without success, I persuaded him that mine had a higher chance of success.  He reluctantly agreed.  Out came the motorbike, to be replaced by lovely rustic coffee table; the chillout room was transformed into an elegant guest bedroom and the games room was dismantled, and a large, family-sized oak dining table installed.  On the day of the photographer’s visit, I had a last run round the house, hiding unsuitable magazines, tidying away sixteen pairs of trainers, Playboy towels and bedding, and instructing him to put the several crates of empty beer bottles out for the recyling.  The fresh flowers, fruit and just-for-show toiletries were placed carefully and the resulting images made all the effort worth it.

We re-launched in the early summer, with an open house, and almost a dozen families turned up to see the barn, including some who had previously viewed and dismissed it.  The agent had done a great job of selling the ‘makeover’ and the new glossy brochures were snapped up and ooooed over.

The result?  Two offers at the asking price.  A contracts race ensued and my client found himself moving out just six weeks later.  Last I heard he was opening a pub….. well, he needed somewhere to display his ‘art’.

If you’d like my help to sell your home more effectively, please answer a few short questions here and if I think I can help you, I’ll be in touch.