Once the preserve of prestige properties, having a home professionally styled to sell has become, well, increasingly commonplace.

More and more savvy homeowners across the city, looking to give their property an edge in a competitive marketplace and maximise its value, aren’t thinking twice about calling in stylists and home stagers to help give their residence a face-lift – anything from a cosmetic touch-up to a full-scale makeover.

“What’s changed in the last 10 years is that it’s become much more mainstream,” says Lisa Hipkins, who runs styling outfit Hiphouse with Heidi Groen. “It started with high-end homes but now it’s everyday (places). We do a lot in the middle suburbs.”

A major component of styling is refurbishing a home with decor – furniture, colour-matched soft furnishings, artwork and the like – that fit the style and architecture of the home. In many cases, particularly with new homes, this involves a wholesale set-up.

With older homes, property stylists are more likely to supplement, upgrade, rearrange or replace chattels, depending on what already exists. Sometimes, furniture is worn and cat-scratched, outmoded, the wrong tone or scale. If a table’s too big or a rug is undersized, for instance, the room can appear smaller. They’ll focus on high-trafficked areas, such as living and dining rooms as well as kitchens, bathrooms and master bedrooms. “Deals are made or lost in kitchens,” says Keyhole Property Investment’s Melissa Opie.

But stylists are quick to point out it’s not simply about wheeling in new sofas with some lamps, cushions and a throw rug. Fiona Mallinson, a senior stylist with Melbourne Home Details, says it’s about improving flow, making sense of difficult spots (fashioning a study nook from a dead corner, for example), creating points of difference between spaces and visuals that tantalise the eye. “It’s finding the best way the house can be used,” she says.

Neutralising spaces, through de-cluttering and de-personalising, is crucial. Often larger families with small children will move out during the campaign, placing in storage what’s in the way. Splashes of colour (flowers, fruit), warm and welcoming accessories and small details (fragrant soaps, hand-rolled towels, open cookbooks) are important too.

“Our job isn’t to make the house look pretty,” stresses Hipkins. “It’s to make the house look sellable (and) as attractive as possible to the broadest audience possible.”

Agents recommend styling because it produces winning campaign shots and bestirs buyers’ pocketbooks. “You aren’t buying four walls and a ceiling, you’re buying a lifestyle,” says Marshall White agent Kate Strickland. “We buy houses on feelings and emotions.”

At the same time, Jellis Craig’s Richard Earle says it’s essential to project an idyll without stripping charm and character. “Some buyers prefer to see the odd crack and blemish.”

Of course, styling a house properly costs. Consultancy fees vary but typically ring up a few thousand dollars, before rental and storage charges and any purchases. In addition, styling frequently involves more substantial sprucing: a fresh lick of paint; installing carpets, blinds and surfaces (a stone bench in place of laminate); and general repairs.

With our love of all things alfresco, vendors are also increasingly investing in styling the outdoors – returfing, repaving, adding plants, trees and furniture. “You’d be amazed what a big difference a high-pressure clean makes,” says Brent Parsons, whose company Phipps Parsons handles general livability people both aspired to and desired. Style counsel – 10 hot styling tips to sell your property

  1. Neutralise rooms – strip the house of clutter, personal items from bathrooms and anything that interferes with buyers imagining themselves living there.
  2. Ensure furniture and soft furnishings play to the property’s architecture.
  3. Scale furniture to fit spaces – smaller if the room’s tight (a double bed instead of queen-size), bigger if it’s cavernous.
  4. Create an open-arm welcome – keep spaces fluid and open. Don’t back a sofa, for instance, to a doorway; don’t simply push furniture against the wall to create roominess.
  5. Add “pops” of colour – flowers, fruit, anything that brightens and lightens the house.
  6. Invest in new accessories – cushions, throws and rugs can transform rooms (and hide stains).
  7. Give the house a fresh, new look and smell – a coat of paint (especially the front door), new carpets and, externally, a high- pressure clean.
  8. Keep driveway clear of cars.
  9. Hire a professional who isn’t too close to the property and can introduce a dispassionate eye; know the market you’re styling for.
  10. Enter the house as if you’re a buyer not a seller.

Case study: What a stylist can achieve for you

Having decided to relocate to their native New Zealand with their three children, Sandra and Cam Downs knew they had one shot at selling the family’s renovated Californian bungalow in Glen Iris

“We needed to have the home styled to give ourselves the best chance of selling the property for the best price,” Sandra explains.

Although they had looked at magazines and shows about selling homes, the couple believed a professional touch was necessary, turning to Von Haus Design Studio interior designer Fiona Parry-Jones, who had worked on the couple’s renovation.

Parry-Jones altered the layout of the house, recasting a formal dining room as a second sitting room and a child’s bedroom as a guest’s, replacing the single bed with a queen-size and adding bedside tables and artwork.

Alternative furniture and artwork were also introduced to other areas of the house to lighten and modernise the place – including a couch for the sitting room, bar stools for the kitchen, a table for the hallway – with existing furniture stored. The Downses also bought soft furnishings.

With repainting, the couple spent $12,000 all up, including $1700 for the stylist. But the investment, says Sandra, was well worth it. Campaign photos, web video and inspections generated huge interest, with the auction smashing their reserve. “We received $200,000 more than we expected,” smiles Downs.

Posted by Paul Best – The Age on 12th October, 2014