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Home staging does NOT sell a home

NYT staging resize

I’m going to be straight: No amount of curb appeal sprucing up or interior work and staging you do is going to help you sell your home. The number one motivator – for just about every home on the market – is price.

And I can prove it. You see, in my neighbourhood I witnessed a home sit for sale on the market for more than eight months – with new instant lawn planted on the curb – and a new, almost 2m-high perimeter wall built to enhance the home’s appeal.

I presume at least R25,000 to R30,000 was spent on these two aspects alone! And the fact that these upgrades were done before the house was listed further drives the point.

Piquing curiosityCat selfie.resize

I obviously never checked what the listing price was when it first hit the market, but after three months and a switch from a sole and exclusive mandate to an open mandate, I became curious.

I learned that the house was listed at R2,2m in a street where the average sale price was R1,8m. The house itself was a bit dated, but it was on a large corner stand in a popular, established suburb, with easy access to a range of primary and high schools, shopping and entertainment amenities, and a highway.

But despite all its great aspects, the house would not move.

The price begins to move…downmoney down the drain

Each day I passed the house on my way to drop off and pick up my daughter from school, and every now and then I saw an agent showing a buyer in, or the homeowner waiting for a buyer to arrive.

After about four months I checked out the house on Property24 and saw the price had been reduced to R2,1m.

But the grass that had looked so gorgeous when the house was first listed was starting to brown and thin. The homeowner was either disillusioned by the process or had given up; the grass was obviously no longer being watered.

In month five, the homeowner changed agents – probably blaming the original agents for the house not selling.

A small caveat: Sellers, your agent wants to sell your home. Their livelihood depends on it. If you want to price your home higher than they advise, the agent cannot stop you. But, and here’s the kicker: if you maintain that you want to price high to leave room for negotiation, you will not get your desired asking price.

HomeTimes’ own Power Broker, Julian Cornofsky, principal at Allegiance Properties, says that when a home is priced correctly, the margins of negotiation are actually diminished. This ensures a fair deal for both the buyer and the seller.

Five months on the market is a long time – the average in South Africa is between three and four months! For the entire country!

By month six the grass had just about disappeared, the wall no longer looked as bright and clean as it had and the price had been reduced, again. This time to R2m. The homeowner had in direct monetary terms already lost about R5,000 spent on the instant lawn.

When a home sits for half a year on the market, buyers become wary and begin asking what is wrong with the property; the agents employed to sell the home also have a harder time marketing it and getting potential buyers excited about it. This is because their own buyer databases have already viewed and rejected the home (because of price and the seller’s unwillingness to budge). This leaves the buyers searching the property portals. Again, most buyers do not buy a home in the first month of viewing and researching the market, so they will have seen the same house every time they searched for properties for sale – and seen that it was not selling and its price was being steadily reduced.

The biggest loserclosed mouth

In month eight the home was finally sold for R1,695m – some R100,000 less than the market average and R505,000 less than the seller started at!

Sellers, this is the CMA you should expect

While I do not know if the seller had to sell his home before he could buy a new one, I do know that he probably walked away from the experience with a bitter taste in his mouth. Had he listened to his original agent (a neighbourhood stalwart), he would have sold within three or four months and had a far better experience altogether – and he will not have “wasted” his money on a new perimeter wall and instant lawn around the house.


David A Steynberg, managing editor and director of HomeTimes, has more than 10 years of experience as both a journalist and editor, having headed up Business Day’s HomeFront supplement, SAPOA’s range of four printed titles, digimags Asset in Africa and the South African Planning Institute’s official title, Planning Africa, as well as B2B titles, Building Africa and Water, Sewage & Effluent magazines. He began his career at Farmer’s Weekly magazine before moving on to People Magazine where he was awarded two Excellence Awards for Best Real Life feature as well as Writer of the Year runner-up. He is also a past fellow of the International Women’s Media Foundation.

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