House staging tips – making every room have a purpose

Have you been to view a house recently? Were you walked into a kitchen and told – somewhat unnecessarily – ‘this is the kitchen’? It is common practice for those showing people houses to announce the title of each room as it is entered, writes house staging expert Anna Hart. But when showing buyers a house, it is usually best to keep quiet and let the room speak for itself.

09.06.14 Hart 2

It is best to make it as obvious as possible to buyers what the purpose or identity of each room is – in your photographs, your floorplan, and when they visit the house for a viewing. This is especially important if your house has more than four bedrooms, or its floor plan is unusual in any way.

When we search for a new house there are a few basic parameters that we type into Zoopla to narrow down the available options so the search only returns those we’re likely to be interested in. Location, price and number of bedrooms are the three major criteria, and number of bedrooms is the common way to judge how large a house is.

While there are dozens of uses for a bedroom other than for sleeping, when you’re selling, my rule is that you’re best to give buyers what they will feel comfortable with, what they expect, and what they can understand.

09.06.14 Hart 3 09.06.14 Hart 4

That means if you’re selling a house that is listed or described as having a living room, dining room and four bedrooms, then you need to show your buyers a living room, a dining room and four bedrooms – not a living room, an office, two bedrooms, a gym and a storage room.

Many people find it difficult to imagine things any other way than how you present them. So if they’re looking at photos expecting to see four bedrooms and they only see two, the first thing they have to do is work out which of the other photos are the dining room and the missing two bedrooms. This makes extra work for buyers, and that’s never a good idea if you want to wow them and keep them happy. You want to tick their criteria boxes immediately, not make them work.

Anna’s top 5 tips for presenting easily identifiable rooms:

  1. property_viewingIf a room counts as one of your advertised bedrooms, put an appropriately sized bed in it. It means double beds for double rooms, avoid king size unless it really is large enough to take it, and use single beds for smaller rooms.
  2. If you’ve got a downstairs room that’s not a kitchen, utility room or lounge, then put a dining table and chairs in it and call it the dining room.
  3. Try to define and present a positive use for extra rooms, such as rooms upstairs that are not listed as bedrooms, or additional living spaces downstairs. Office, studio or library are far more attractive than ‘dumping grounds’ or storage areas.
  4. Always have a floor plan on your internet listing, and make sure the room names match up with the image you’re presenting in the photos for each room.
  5. Ask your estate agent to name each photo on your internet listing appropriately, such as using the terms ‘master bedroom’, ‘family bathroom’ and ‘en-suite’.


09.06.14 Hart

This four bedroom semi-detached house in York has room names on the photographs, which is especially useful in pictures eight and nine where they identify the ground floor bedroom and shower room. The third bedroom is named but has no bed in and so putting a single bed in this room would help buyers be confident that a bed would actually fit into this small room (provided of course that a bed will fit). The floor plan is useful as well, but would be even more helpful if the ground floor bedroom was named as such to match the photographs, instead of simply ‘reception room’.

03.01.13 Anna photoAnna Hart is an expert in staging homes for sale, working with house sellers to maximise their chances of selling as quickly and as profitably as possible. Anna’s ebook ‘How To Sell Your House For Top Price, Fast‘ brings her practical and proven house sale preparation strategy to sellers across Britain, and there’s a special offer on her books for Zoopla blog readers here.



June 9, 2014 at 11:10 AM Leave a comment

Nearly 50% of young homeowners fear interest rate rises

Young homeowners are storing up problems for the future by resorting to “desperate measures” to get on to the property ladder, a study warned today.

First time buyer 3

Seven out of 10 homeowners aged between 25 and 34 admit they relied on non-standard routes to buy a house, according to the HomeOwners Alliance.

Some took out a mortgage with a term of more than 25 years, while others opted for an interest-only loan, took out a mortgage with a very low interest rate or put down only a small deposit.

Young homebuyers also turned to the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’ for help, or took advantage of Government schemes such as Help to Buy.

But among those who could not afford to buy their home with a standard mortgage, half admitted they were worried about their housing debt.

Around 23 per cent said they were concerned about the size of their mortgage and being able to repay it one day, while 20 per cent said they worried about getting into negative equity.

A further 19 per cent were nervous about how they would afford their mortgage payments over the long term.

Most worryingly, 49 per cent admitted that they feared that an interest rate rise would make it more difficult for them to meet their monthly repayments.

The HomeOwners Alliance warned that while non-standard financing options may help young people to afford their first home, they could also be storing up problems for the future.

Paula Higgins, chief executive of the HomeOwners Alliance, said: “As house prices rise and homeownership levels drop, young people are left with no choice but to resort to desperate measures to realise their dream of owning their own home.

“This goes to show how the housing crisis is giving young people a raw deal.

“Schemes to help make homes more affordable in the short term do little to solve the fact that we need many more new homes, in the right places and at the right price.”

The research, which was carried out with conveyancing provider myhomemove, found that young people were more likely to have to take steps to make homeownership affordable than other buyers, with 72 per cent resorting to non-standard methods, compared with 62 per cent of people across the population as a whole.

Taking out a mortgage with a term of longer than 25 years was the most popular option for people struggling to get on to the property ladder, with 28 per cent of young homebuyers doing this.

A further 24 per cent borrowed money from family or friends to boost their deposit, while 23 per cent opted for a low interest rate or mortgage deal.

Around 12 per cent of young homeowners said they had taken out a high loan to value mortgage, and 10 per cent had used a shared ownership scheme to get on to the property ladder.

But despite the challenges they face, the desire to buy a property is still strong among non-homeowners, with 68 per cent saying they aspired to buying their own place in future.

But 52 per cent of potential first-time buyers admitted that they viewed high house prices as a very serious problem.

Doug Crawford, chief executive of myhomemove, said: “Our own data shows that over the past year, the average deposit size has decreased by 1.2 per cent despite house prices rising by nearly 8 per cent – just showing how much schemes like Help to Buy are having an impact.”


June 9, 2014 at 7:00 AM Leave a comment

Hundreds of JCB diggers buried underground – London’s property development legacy?

So how do you solve a problem like ‘digger’? A small JCB digger that is. Used to dig an increasing number of basements in London and the South East, the challenge is getting them out once the work is finished. Developers are turning to an alternative solution to the problem.

06.06.14 Digger 2

Image via Till Krech.

The development of so-called “iceberg” homes has soared across London as homeowners who seek more space have no option but to build downwards due to the capital’s planning rules that restrict building upwards.

The luxury basements often include swimming pools, cinemas and studies – and require huge amounts of building work that can only be completed with a small digger.

06.06.14 Digger 1The difficulty is getting the machine out again as the digger often has to go so deep into the earth that it is unable to drive out again.

Developers would often use a large crane to scoop up the digger from the large hole, but now they are no longer bothering with this approach. Instead, they are simply buried in the ground with a layer of concrete.

One developer has suggested that as many as 1,000 diggers may now be buried in London.

Ed Smith explains in the New Statesman: “A new solution emerged: simply bury the digger in its own hole. Given the exceptional profits of London property development, why bother with the expense and hassle of retrieving a used digger – worth only £5,000 or £6,000 – from the back of a house that would soon be sold for several million? The time and money expended on rescuing a digger were better spent moving on to the next big deal.”

“This metallic icon was a special sacrificial gesture”?

“The new method, now considered standard operating practice, is to cover the digger with ‘hardcore’, a mixture of sand and gravel. Then a layer of concrete is simply poured over the top.

“Digger? What digger? The digger has literally dug its own grave – just as the boring machines that excavated the Channel Tunnel were abandoned beneath the passage they had just created.”

He concludes by imagining an archaeological programme chancing upon the diggers many years from now: “What will the explanatory caption say? ‘Situated immediately adjacent to the heated underground swimming pool and cinema at the back of the house, no superior London address was complete without one of these highly desirable icons, sometimes nicknamed ;the Compact Cat’. This metallic icon was a special sacrificial gesture, a symbol of deep thanks to the most discussed, revered and pre-eminent god of the age, worshipped around the world: London Property.'”


June 6, 2014 at 1:59 PM 3 comments

Top 10 tree houses

You might not have a tree house on the list of must-haves for your next home but I’m sure the children would love if you did. It’s a nice surprise that can be found at the end of many a garden in the UK. We’ve picked our top 10 homes with tree houses on offer.

1. Blending in with it’s surroundings this tree house looks sturdy enough to live in.
Ten bed in Kent – Strutt & Parker


2. A children’s paradise with extended play house attached.
Seven bed in West Sussex – Hamptons


3. Previously featured in The Sunday Times this tree house, with electricity and phone line, is an ideally secluded home office.
Four bed in Horsham – Hamptons


4. An impressive cedar clad Tree House that goes a step further with heating and satellite TV. Would you ever need to leave?
Six bed in Southwell – Fine & Country


5. This bespoke tree house has us seriously envious.
Seven bed in Oxford – Penny & Sinclair


6. Invite all the family; this estate comes with not only one but two eco-lodge tree houses.
Thirteen bed in Mayfield – Batcheller Monkhouse


7. Just imagine how much fun the kids would have here.
Seven bed in Kingsbridge – Marchand Petit


8. A fun homage to Tudor houses.
Four bed in East Sussex – John D Wood & Co


9. Lets build a house on every tree!
Seven bed in Edinburgh – Savills


10. A whole new level of tree house complete with river frontage.
Eight bed in Hertfordshire – Strutt & Parker


Send us a link via Twitter to your #propertyoftheweek on Zoopla and our favourites will feature on the blog every Friday.

June 6, 2014 at 9:30 AM Leave a comment

Homeowners typically need £1,200 to cover mortgage and household bills

You know how much your monthly mortgage repayments will be, but many people overlook that rising household bills can add up to almost as much. It’s important to make sure you’ve considered all your costs up front, explains The Money Advice Service.


First-time buyers in particular will be concentrating on getting their deposit together, often not thinking about other home-buying costs, such as Stamp Duty or removal fees.

Striking a balance between the household bills and mortgage payments can have an enormous impact on your lifestyle.

For most people the biggest outlay you’ll ever make is when you buy your home. A typical first-time buyer with a mortgage of £140,000 will have monthly repayments of £749 a month assuming a 3.4 per cent (APR) Annual Payment Rate. For many people this represents a large percentage of their average monthly salary.

Meeting your mortgage repayment commitments should be your first priority especially if you have dependants. Fixing your mortgage interest rate is one option, but these are usually up to a period of five years and you could still come unstuck at the end of the fixed rate period should interest rates go up. For example, even a 1 per cent increase in your mortgage rate would mean you having to find an extra £83 a month based on the example above. A 3 per cent increase would see you having to find an additional £265 a month.

And then there are the household bills to pay and general living expenses to cover. Squaring these outgoings may not always be easy. Money Advice Service research shows first time buyers spend an average of £467 a month on bills – an amount half said was higher than they’d expected.

This gives a total of £1,216 a month – of which household spending accounts for 38 per cent and mortgage payments the remainder.

New rules on mortgage lending were introduced in April to encourage more responsible lending and increase consumer protection. They are designed to ensure consumers fully understand the commitment they are taking on and have thought about how they will make mortgage payments if foreseeable events, such as having a baby or interest rates rises, occur during the mortgage term.

So what does this mean to you? In short, lenders will ask you to provide evidence of your income and disclose your entire monthly spending including things like school fees, gym memberships and outstanding credit agreements.Given the increased number of questions you’ll need to answer, you can expect your mortgage application to take longer than you may expect.

The new rules may sound tough, but if you can satisfy your lender that you can balance the books when it comes to mortgage payments and household bills you can at least rest easy that you are well placed to step on or up the property ladder.

If you are thinking about buying a home, it’s essential to consider all the key costs. The Money Advice Service has a guide explaining what you need to know when buying your home.

Money Advice Service

June 5, 2014 at 1:10 PM Leave a comment

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