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Home Staging: How To Sell An Unsellable Apartment

21 Jan 2024

unofficial translation from Aif.ru (Source)

If a real estate property such as an apartment seems to be hard to sell, realtors often recommend using the skills of home staging, that is, pre-sale preparation of an apartment with an account for psychological, aesthetic or marketing principles. Below we collected examples how this was done.

Nicer window view
Nicer window view

Illiquid properties include those that are difficult to sell or take a long time to sell. As a rule, they would be located in a place with poor transport accessibility and lack of infrastructure, or in a dilapidated building, or on the first or last floor, with an inconvenient layout ir in a bad need for renovation; or the property have a "grey" legal history or other related problems. Experienced sellers say that there is always a buyer for every product. If you use imagination and apply some effort, you might turn the disadvantages into advantages and successfully sell any apartment.

"A correct appraisal of the property and identification of potential buyers, preparing a high-quality presentation and advertising will lead to a successful sale of such a property within reasonable time frame at the maximum market price," says Konstantin Shibetsky, managing partner of a real estate company from the Moscow capital city region.

The impression from the apartment starts with its entrance. If there are problematic neighbors, alcoholics or troublemakers, then you should take care of this in advance. For example, you can bring clients to a showing when those who like to quarrel are away from home.

"Once we were selling an apartment three floors from people who were noticed to abuse alcohol. There was an unpleasant smell of tobacco and alcohol in the entrance. To break it up, we used citrus fruits. Before each showing, we peeled tangerines on the staircase and laid out the peels in cups on the windowsill," said real estate agent Daria Patrusheva.

Garbage and dirt create a negative impression on the client. The mold on the ceiling and graffiti on the walls need to be cleaned and washed away, and bright lighting will need to be installed in the stairwell.

"A client approached me: for a long time he could not sell an apartment in a three-story century-old building. It was in excellent condition, with expensive repairs, but the entrance was painted over and the plaster was crumbling. The owner had to allocate several hundred thousand rubles and do cosmetic renovations throughout the entire entrance. Within two months, the apartment was sold at a price three million more than the original price," said Eduard Meyer, a lawyer, realtor, and investor.

Floor and view from the window

The apartment on the ground floor can be converted into commercial real estate and rented out or sold at a profit, or you can look for buyers for the property among older people.

"They can be lured by the words that everything is close and nearby: they don't have to climb high with heavy packages; in case of a fire it's easy to run out into the street, and if they feel unwell, an ambulance will get there faster. You don't have to worry about accidentally flooding your neighbors, because no one lives below, and you won't need to pay compensation. If the housing is located on the top floor, then it's easy to see the advantages: no one will run over the residents' heads and disturb their sleep in the morning," says Daria Patrusheva.

If the windows open to a wall, then a beautiful drawing will fix the problem. One realtor invited an artist to sell such an apartment. He made a drawing of the sea and a ship with scarlet sails. Then a buyer, a student designer, had immediately shown up.

"When the windows overlook a roof of a neighboring building, you can plant flowers, strawberries, even cucumbers, as my neighbors did, and harvest it in the summer. It's beautiful and there is always greenery at home," said Ilgizya Sharafieva, general director of a group of construction companies, business consultant, and marketing expert.

A window view
A window view

Noise

Having a highway nearby can be an additional advantage: customers will be able to get to work faster and without traffic jams. The problem with noise from railways and highways is solved by installing noise-proof windows.

"The windows of the apartment for sale overlooked a busy motorway. The realtor identified the potential audience of buyers and created a presentation that would attract this particular category of clients. Two weeks later a buyer was found. He intended to rent out the apartment on a daily basis to tenants who come to the capital for a few days and who were not bothered by the noise from the windows, but liked the factors of the apartment's proximity to the highways, metro, and MCR (Moscow Central Ring), which played a more important role in choosing a temporary lodging. The deal was closed at a price close to the listing price", says Konstantin Shibetsky.

Gas Heater

A column gas water heaters reduce the attractiveness of a property. In order not to scare away potential customers, information about this type of heating must be presented correctly.

"Clients contacted me. They already worked with another realtor and were still unable to sell the apartment in six months. They were offered a maximum of just over 9 million rubles, but they started selling for 12 million. Such a price reduction did not suit them. While studying the realtor's advertisements, a (old-style column type) gas water heater caught my eye. It was captured in a close-up and displayed as one of the first photographs. The realtor's logic was simple. His intention was to specifically screen out buyers because he didn't want to go to showings again. I explained this gross mistake to my clients and we started selling. I took professional photographs of the apartment, with no gas water heater at all. The ad text didn't say anything about it either. If they asked on the phone, we would tell the truth, trying, however, to turn everything into an advantage: in the summer the hot water supply would not be interrupted, the modern gas boiler was reliable and safe, and it worked automatically. As a result, the apartment was sold within a month and at a price 1.5 million over the listed one," Eduard Meyer gave an example.

Defects

The disadvantages of the apartment associated with renovation and finishing works can be used to significant advantage if the house was built less than 5-7 years ago. According to the law, five years from the date of apartment transfer, the developer has an obligation to confirm the quality of work. They are connected specifically with the apartment itself, and not with careless exploitation by the first owner, as many people think. To increase the value of the home, the seller can play around the fact that the developer will have to make renovations or pay appropriate compensation that will cover them.

"The developer is obliged to compensate for actual damage, or pay a penalty for failure to voluntarily meet requirements and cover other costs that the buyer incurred as a result of poor-quality construction. Such sums are quite significant and sometimes exceed 2-3 times or more the amount of actual damage. Apartments with such shortcomings can attract buyers who buy property for investment, says Sergei Romanov, founder of the legal center for protecting the rights of participants in shared construction and owners of residential real estate. "For example, a seller purchased an apartment from a developer in a building under construction in 2014. Construction was completed in 2015. Three years later, the property was resold to an investor, who discovered construction defects amounting to 6% of the apartment price and filed a law suit. In 2020, the court ordered the developer to pay the second owner of the apartment 12% of its price for deficiencies discovered 3.5 years after the completion of construction. The buyer, when purchasing an illiquid apartment for 2.7 million rubles, thus received another 324 000 rubles."

Market

Realtors recommend that attention should be paid to the competition and the situation in the city. The best time to get rid of illiquid assets is a "high" market, when demand exceeds supply.

"Last year in Sochi, the real estate market was stagnant, and there weren't many people willing to buy. And when it was announced that the construction of high-rise buildings was prohibited for two years, a queue started to build up. We sold everything, including illiquid assets, in a fairly short time. At the same time, the price did not go down," says Ilgizya Sharafieva. — "It is also possible to artificially create a real estate shortage. For example, one can raise prices in advertising and sell at the price we need, while explaining that in reality the apartment is more expensive and we are making a big discount."

Renovations, Cleaning and Gifts

Most of shortcomings in an apartment can be corrected by small repairs. Experts advise doing it in light colors.

"If the walls are damaged and there are holes in them, you can try to hide them with a picture. It's a big mistake to sell an apartment when personal belongings that have not yet been removed. This is a 'mauvais ton'. Things may contain the previous owner's energy. It's better to throw away all the furniture from grandparents or sell it if it is valuable," says Ilgizya Sharafieva.

If the owner still stays in the apartment and there is no way to get rid of the furniture, then, according to Daria Patrusheva, it is better to equip the property in such a way that the rooms look larger. To do this, you can additionally install mirrors.

Before each showing, it is necessary to do wet cleaning and air the premises. If nobody lives in the apartment, visitors can be given shoe covers. This will create a good impression of the property and its owners. You need to get rid of insects and rodents: after seeing them, the client most likely will not return.

"A dog or cat on site can be an additional disadvantage for buyers because some people suffer from allergies and are afraid of being bitten. During the showing, it is better to take the animals out for a walk or hide them on the balcony," says Daria Patrusheva.

Before visitors arrive, you can add a few more touches. "It's better if you put a small bouquet of wildflowers in a prominent place, and provide the apartment with the smell of freshly brewed coffee," advised the creator of a digital real estate agency, Irina Drobysheva. "Remember that the client buys emotions, not square meters."

Gifts will help leave a good impression. "When selling apartments, we used to give air conditioners, make a screed, or replaced windows, all for free. It can be anything. When you realize that the client is ready to buy and cannot decide, make a gesture of goodwill in the form of a gift. You will cheer up both the guest and yourself," added Ilgizya Sharafieva.

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