Struggling to sell your property? It could be time to call in the doctors
- Credit: Nigel Sutton
One of the ironies of drafting in Robinson Shalev to make over your home to help you sell it is that once they’ve finished, you may find yourself unwilling to move.
“That has happened to us a couple of times,” laugh the pair of north London-based property dressers. “We did a project recently in Muswell Hill for a family who felt their house just didn’t suit their needs anymore.
“We spent a few months doing a lot of decorating on this old, slightly tired family home, changing the use of rooms that they’d got used to using in a certain way. They ended up deciding to stay, which was interesting.”
It’s easy to see how this could be the outcome of Shelley Robinson and Janine Shalev’s efforts.
As they say, “We don’t turn the house into an interior design showpiece. It’s not about going in and thinking ‘Wow!’ It’s about sinking into the sofa and thinking ‘This is lovely, it feels like home.’”
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If it already is home, the temptation to stay must be high.
Of course, people don’t tend to move house because they’re sick of the décor and Robinson Shalev are usually drafted in by estate agents, either immediately when they see that a cluttered house won’t do its best at viewings, or after a property has spent too long on the shelf.
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A free consultation with the vendors follows, and a list of recommendations is provided and then the serious, and potentially painful business of sorting years’ worth of accumulated treasures, souvenirs and memories into yes, no and maybe piles begins.
“We’re very gentle with people,” says Shalev. “We can’t identify what they do and don’t need. It’s important people understand that we’re not trying to change their beautiful home and they can take all the personal stuff with them, but the new people coming to view the property will find it difficult to imagine as theirs.
“We help them visualise being in their new life, in their new property, because the huge difficulty of letting go is not really knowing where you’re going. We’ve found that once people get on board, they can see the process and it’s quite a relief for them to have people helping.”
In case this is all beginning to sound a bit too like a Hoarders Anonymous therapy session, the duo remind me that the ultimate goal in hiring a property dresser is to get the best possible price for any property.
Working as an Islington estate agent for several years, this was something Robinson began to feel increasingly passionate about, and is what led her to want to fill what she saw as a huge gap in the UK property market.
“When I worked as an agent 15 years ago, people didn’t prepare their properties to work for the market,” she says. “There were all these programmes that everyone loved on TV showing how to prepare your house to sell but it wasn’t translating and people didn’t actually do it.
“This was somebody’s biggest asset and the norm was to get up in the morning and go to work and leave the house as it was, with the beds unmade. And then they’d expect you to do a really good job because they knew it was their biggest asset, not realising that they have a part to play as well. I found it so discouraging.
“If you were going for a job interview you’d make sure your shoes were polished and your suit was pressed. Well, your house is going to be interviewed.”
So, Robinson set up in business 12 years ago, and has been working with Shalev for the past two years.
The duo provide a full range of services, from simple property dressing, intended to draw the eye away from less attractive areas, to full repaint, kitchen renovations and garden maintenance, aided by an able team of local specialists from their bulging little black books.
“Nobody wants to buy a property that doesn’t look cared for,” they agree. “You can’t fall in love with something that doesn’t look cared for unless you’re a puppy rescuer.”
Prices start from £125/hr with a free initial consultation. Fixed fees are available for larger projects.
Robinson Shalev’s tips for a successful viewing
First impressions count
It’s a very old adage but it’s absolutely true. Walk to your front door as though you were a viewer seeing it for the first time and be really critical of everything.
Clean, clean and clean some more
We start at the pavement at the front of a property, sweeping up rubbish, making sure there’s no cobwebs or dust on the front door, all the way to polishing the taps in the bathroom, remembering the windows inside and out. It’s got to gleam.
What’s clutter to one person might not be clutter to another so use this trick. Remove everything from the surface and then put items back, one by one. Ask yourself if the object adds value. If it doesn’t make the space look better, it’s clutter. This applies to all items on all surfaces.
Research other people’s homes
Look at properties that appeal to you on local estate agents’ websites and then look at your home and ask if it looks like the homes that you’d want to buy. Because that’s your competition! Would you look at your property if you could look at that other property?
Also look at pictures of show homes and get tips on how to present your property don’t really want to make it look like a show home. Make the beds the same way, and learn how to arrange the furniture. That’s not at all how we work but it could work for the novice.
Don’t assume that people are going to love photographs of your family
If you have family photographs grouped somewhere people won’t look at the room, they’ll go straight to the photographs and spend ages looking at the family, imagining the person who lives there. Same with books. De-personalise and allow people to imagine it as their own home.
Don’t assume people are going to love your pets
Store everything you can out of sight. And don’t forget to get rid of the pet smell.
Don’t assume people are going to love your toddler
Of course you don’t want to pretend they’re not there, but if you can, try and contain the colourful plastic to only one area of your house.
Make sure that nobody has a bath or shower just before a viewing.
The bathroom will get steamed up and it will smell damp.
If this list feels daunting, call us.