During his 30 years as an agent with hockingstuart Peter Kennett has seen plenty of change in the real estate industry.
One of the biggest changes is how agents now sell property, and where they spend big to ensure they get the bids.
The licensed agent and experienced auctioneer says that property styling, or ‘staging’ as it’s known among American agents, will soon become the biggest expense of campaigns.
“People are spending as much, dollar for dollar, on styling as they are for marketing,” Mr Kennett says. “I reckon in five years’ time there will be less spent on marketing and more on styling.”
The reasons behind Mr Kennett’s prediction lie in the changing lifestyle dynamics of Australian home buyers.
“People live busy lifestyles now,” he says. “They go online and if a property looks absolutely impressive online, it's beautifully presented, they go ‘Wow, I could live in that house!’
"In previous years buyers had to rely on their imagination to decorate the property and envisage how they might furnish it. Today, some people just don’t have the same imaginations as they used to," Mr Kennett says.
“People haven't got the time to imagine, they haven't got the time to shop, they haven't got the time, or the need, or the want or the passion to go about that, but they see good furniture and lovely paintings and lots of light and good colour schemes – spend 20 grand on a good house to present it,” he says.
“This is my prediction: within five years, I reckon it'll be one third promotion, two thirds presentation.”
According to Mr Kennett, the emergence of property styling is relatively new. It certainly wasn’t happening when he cut his teeth as an agent thirty years ago, he says.
“You would have never got the money for it. It was all about promoting. It’s probably become a big focus in the last five years.”
Visualisation is a major part of the sales process, Mr Kennett says, adding that potential buyers need to imagine themselves living in a property if they’re going to put in an offer for it.
“Many people are used to reading beautiful home magazines, lifestyle magazines, so it's just a natural extension of that. Then they see it online and they imagine it as their house, so I think that's become a massive part of our real estate industry now.”
Mr Kennett, who operates out of hockingstaurt's Brighton office, says the team use their own in-house stylist.
“She's fantastic,” he says. “Her name's Jacquie. She's amazingly creative at her job, she's very approachable, very professional. She contacts the vendor, goes in – we've already pre-empted it, lined it up – we cover the cost of her initial presentation and advice and then she provides them with all the ideas and the detail, follows up with all the contacts of comparable tradespeople, commercial tradespeople quotes, and then she'll oversee that whole presentation for however long it might be or she'll leave it up to the owners to do it themselves, either way.”
Depending on how much work is involved, some styling jobs can involve a cosmetic renovation of the entire property.
“It covers everything,” Mr Kennett says. “Plumbing, electrical, woodwork, decking, landscaping, painting and stylising.”
Mr Kennett estimates that 10 of the 12 homes he’s sold over the last few months have received a significant amount of styling. It doesn’t come cheap, either.
“We spend between $15,000 and $45,000 on some homes,” he says. “And I would have got that back in two bids. I know we've got a good market, but I also know that styling a property adds value. You get it back two or three times.”
With their homes fully staged for sale and mini-renovations complete, don’t some vendors change their minds about selling such beautiful properties?
“I'm one of them,” Mr Kennett says, admitting that he recently sold his Melbourne home after using a stylist.
“But isn't that a great thing? If they think it's so great, then the market's going to see it like that as well.”