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Award Winners & Finalists, Staging Myths and July Catch-up!

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

We've had an incredible year so far for a number of reasons - we've continued to grow, we've achieved many successes and won a prestigious regional award. To add to this, on 25 July we were delighted to hear that we've been recognised by our local community in Windsor and Maidenhead. We're finalists for two awards in this year's Maidenhead & Windsor Business Community Awards:





We're over the moon and look forward to attending the awards ceremony at The Castle Hotel Windsor on Friday 22nd September 2023.


A day later, we then received some more amazing news - we have won the 2023 Quality Business Awards for Home Staging in Slough!


How Exciting!


The Quality Business Awards recognises businesses that achieve an average quality score of 95% or greater over the last 12 months relating to customer satisfaction. We're over the moon!


Thank you to all our clients who took the time to write reviews for us - they don't go unnoticed and they are key to helping us continue to grow!


Common Staging Myths


We have a range of clients including homeowners, developers, investors and estate agents. Our clients find us via our website, google, Bark, Houzz, Yell etc. The also come to us via recommendations from other clients, solicitors, architects and financial advisors and so on.




For our homeowner community, our clients have never previously staged so it's a huge learning curve for them. Understandably for our clients, they are nervous about what to expect and how the process works. Here are 5 myths about staging - more to come in future blogs!


1. "Staging does not work"


That is not correct.


Staging does word. It's the best marketing technique there is to improve online presence and also to showcase the home when the buyer does the viewing in person. The reason is quite simple - we create a lifestyle so buyers can emotionally connect with the home and in turn they are more likely to put in an offer.


Across the UK and Ireland, on average a staged property sells 2-3 times quicker than a non staged home. Our client's staged homes sell much quicker and from as little as one day on the market. Take a look at our case studies to see the precise time it takes to sell our repaired and/or staged properties. This is one of the reasons why we are Home Staging Company of the Year, London & South East, three years on the trot.


2. "Staging is expensive"


That is not correct.


Typically the investment is around 0.7% of the achieved resale value. The precise investment figure is dependent on so many factors ie. property size, resale value, whether it is empty or lived in etc. We will always confirm the precise investment figure in our fixed price staging proposal so you know exactly what that means for you.


What is key, is coming up with a staging solution that is stylish yet cost effective and we achieve that each and every time. The investment for staging is also significantly less than a price reduction that you may be asked to consider by your estate agent.


We have incredible client reviews and this is because we deliver a stylish yet cost effective solution which delivers results. Here is one such review for you:


"I met Ceri Owen, founder of sort style and stage via a staging portal. I posted the details of our property during a Saturday morning and she called me within the hour despite being on another project. That approach set the tone for the excellent service I received from Ceri and the team at Sort Style and Stage. Ceri attended our house the following Monday and advised necessary decorating works to the house, all of which she sourced contractors for. Ceri then met with them, organised quotes and managed them. I could interact, supervise and be involved as much as I wanted, however, it was clear that it was best to leave all to an expert. By the time we retained Sort Style and Stage we were under pressure to stage the house and put it on the market as soon as possible. Ceri met our timeline interacting throughout with us and our decorators and never once failing to meet our and her own (very high) expectations. The staging was more than I expected; a contemporary classic style which suited our period home perfectly, with all items being of excellent quality. They filled a four bedroom house with furniture, objet d’art, pictures, faux plants (very good quality), books, children’s’ toys and even bathroom accessories so any perspective purchaser could really see a family home, not a show house. I could not see one mark on the floor or the walls from the furniture installation and removal. There is also clearly a good team behind Ceri, from the staging team to their office support who were helpful and responsive, at all times. I have no doubt the staging was a major contributory factor in selling our house and I have no hesitation in recommending Sort Style and Stage for any staging project. My review is a 5 star review and it would be a 7 star review, if that were possible!"

Mrs T, Chiswick


Take a look at more of our incredible 5* reviews.


3. "I can't live in my home once it's staged"


That is not correct.


We make it possible for you to continue to stay in your home once we've staged it. You use all the inventory provided as if it was your own. We do of course expect you to look after it too!


Here's an image from a recent client lived in home that we sorted then staged. We worked with the client's furniture where we could and here this is the client's bed, wardrobes and chest of drawers. We supplied the side tables, bedding, art work and accessories.




4. "Staging is going to take too long"


That is not correct.


We deliver our service quickly and within 2 weeks or less. The amount of time we take to at a client's home, depends on how much work is needed. Sometimes, our client's home need repairs, so we can do those or the client can do these. Other times, we provide a staging service only. Once we've staged, our professional photographer takes photos so we can showcase our staging so you can then use these in your marketing collateral on the property portals.


5. "I'll have to get rid of all my furniture and belongings"


Some staging companies insist on this - we do not.


This is how we work - we want to create the best layout and flow so if a client has pieces which are better suited elsewhere, we will relocate those pieces. We then sort so the home feels well organised and spacious. We then introduce our own pieces and these complement those already in the home. Our goal is always to minimally disrupt you and your family so you can get on with what matters for you.


Typically we introduce some furniture pieces eg. sofas, bar stools, coffee tables, accent chairs and then accessories. However as each and every project is unique, this determines how many and what type of items we provide to at our client's home.


Take a look at our vast gallery




Housing News Update


Migh, even though we are well and truly in the summer period, it's been a busy time in the housing sector. Here's the latest news and let's start by taking a look at Rightmove ...


Rightmove have reported the following for the month of July:

  • Selling prices are down by an average of 0.2% (-£905) this month, marginally below the 0% norm for this time of year,

  • The recent increases in Base Rates is impacting sales level - which are 12% behind 2019's housing market.

  • Buyer demand remains 3% higher than 2019, with estate agents reporting that well-priced homes are still attracting motivated buyers because of a shortage of properties for sale.

  • The number of properties for sale is 12% lower than at this time in 2019.

  • Where sellers are over pricing and then having to reduce pricing by more than 10%, those sellers are less likely to find a buyer compared with those that price right at the outset.

  • Some movers are pausing on their purchases, according to estate agents, due to the instability of mortgage rates.

  • Following Rightmove's recent launch of mortgage products, their 5 year tracker with an 85% Loan-To-Value mortgage is at 5.69% (up 0.49% compared to June).


Source: Rightmove


Tim Bannister, Rightmove's Director of Property Science, says:


"The continuing twists and turns of persistent inflation and higher mortgage rates have posed some additional challenges for the market.
Agents report that some movers are pausing until there is more certainty that mortgage rates have stabilised, as well as reviewing how higher costs affect their plans. However, there remains a large volume of motivated buyers who can factor rate rises into their budgets and are continuing to enquire about homes for sale, which is keeping the market functioning, albeit now with lower sales levels than at this time in 2019.
Sellers who price right the first time, rather than starting with too high an asking price only to reduce later, have a much better chance of attracting one of these motivated buyers, and a good local agent will provide sellers with accurate evidence of prices that are being achieved in their area.”

Take a look at the five year average asking price trend - this shows a steady overall increase in asking prices.


Source: Rightmove


To learn more, click here.


For their June update, Zoopla have highlighted:

  • House price inflation slowed to +1.2% following a pick-up in sales activity over the Spring period.

  • Quarterly sales prices are expected to decrease in the second half of the year, due to the fact that rising mortgage rates are reducing buying power by as much as 20%.

  • House prices are expected to fall by up to 5% over 2023.

  • That they expect to see an acceleration in homes for sale which will boost choice and further room for negotiation, resulting in sellers needing to be realistic on pricing.


To put some context on this, Zoopla's market share of properties for sale is significantly less than that of Rightmove, so their perspectives won't always be aligned. In 2021, Rightmove says it had 208 million visits per month across its platforms and Zoopla says its listings attracted over 120 million visits per month. In addition, Rightmove reported 692,000 properties listed on their property portal in 2021 although Zoopla figures are not publicly available.


Interestingly, Zoopla indicates that there are less buyers although more supply and sales over a 5 year period, as per the graph below.


Source: Zoopla


For the month of June, Halifax have reported:

  • Average house prices falling by -0.1% in June, a third consecutive monthly decline.

  • Annual house price growth falling to -2.6%, from -1.1% in May.

  • The average UK property now costs £285,932 (versus £293,992 in August 2022).

  • New build prices are more resilient compared to existing homes prices.


Source: Halifax


Kim Kinnaird, Director, Halifax Mortgages, says:


“To some extent the annual growth figure also masks the fluctuations we’ve seen in the market over the past 12 months. Average house prices are actually up by +1.5% (£4,000) so far this year, with most of that growth coming in the first quarter, following the sharp fall in prices we saw at the end of last year in the aftermath of the mini-budget.
These latest figures do suggest a degree of stability in the face of economic uncertainty, and the volume of mortgage applications held up well throughout June, particularly from first-time buyers. That said the housing market remains sensitive to volatility in borrowing costs.
The resulting squeeze on affordability will inevitably act as a brake on demand, as buyers consider what they can realistically afford to offer. While there’s always a lag effect when rates go up, many existing mortgage holders with variable deals or rolling off fixed rates will likely face an increase in the next year."

Mortgage Market


Fixed-rate mortgage pricing has experienced a rollercoaster ride of late, with the average new two-year fixed rate at about 4.75% in late September 2022, but by the start of November this had reached 6.47%. Mortgage rates then gradually fell back as markets stabilised, until they were spooked once again by a smaller than expected drop in the UK inflation rate at the end of May 2023. Mortgage rates then again rose, with the average two-year rate closer to 7%.


Lewis Shaw, founder of broker Shaw Financial Services, says:


“I’m going out on a limb here to say fixed mortgage rates have peaked. We may see a little shuffling around, but the continued painful increases are over.”

Mortgage Charter


Given the continuous hikes that have been experienced in the mortgage market, the UK’s largest mortgage lenders and the Financial Conduct Authority, in conjunction with the Chancellor have agreed a set of standards. These are to help residential mortgage borrowers worried about higher mortgage rates. This is referred to as The Mortgage Charter.


Kim Kinnaird, Director, Halifax Mortgages, says:

"The recently announced Mortgage Charter provides important reassurance that mortgage holders have a range of options if they’re concerned about making repayments, and that lenders will be flexible when supporting anyone in difficulty. Extended terms, affordable repayment plans and alternative fixed rate deals are among the choices for existing borrowers seeking to mitigate the impact of higher interest rates."


If you would like to learn more about the Mortgage Charter, including which financial institutions are signed up to it, click here.


Housing Reform


Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities announced its housing reform plans on 24 July 2023. Detailed proposals are being consulted upon this Autumn. The plans are intended to unblock the planning system and build more homes in the right places.


Rather than concreting over the countryside, the government will focus on prioritising building in inner-city areas where demand is highest and growth is constrained. He says:


"unequivocally, unapologetically and intensively concentrating our biggest efforts in the hearts of our cities".

The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak says:


"Our reforms today will help make that a reality, by regenerating disused brownfield land, streamlining planning process and helping homeowners to renovate and extend their houses outwards and upwards."

These changes will also benefit developers through enabling increased heights and density to existing homes and extended rights to convert larger commercial buildings, such as department stores, offices, and retail spaces, into new homes.


Read more about this here.




The Renters Reform Bill


This proposed law is making it's way through Parliament and is intended to transform the private renting sector for good!


The Bill plans to:

  • Abolish section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions and move to a simpler tenancy structure where all assured tenancies are periodic.

  • Introduce more comprehensive possession grounds so landlords can still recover their property (including where they wish to sell their property or move in close family) and to make it easier to repossess properties where tenants are at fault, eg. anti-social behaviour and repeat rent arrears.

  • Provide stronger protections against backdoor eviction by ensuring tenants are able to appeal excessively above-market rents which are purely designed to force them out. Landlords will still be able to increase rents to market price and an independent tribunal will make a judgement on this, if needed. The tribunal will continue to be able to determine the actual market rent of a property.

  • Introduce a new Private Rented Sector Ombudsman which will provide fair, impartial, and binding resolution to many issues and prove quicker, cheaper, and less adversarial than the court system;

  • Create a Privately Rented Property Portal to help landlords understand their legal obligations and demonstrate compliance (giving good landlords confidence in their position), alongside providing better information to tenants to make informed decisions when entering into a tenancy agreement. It will also support local councils – helping them target enforcement activity where it is needed most.

  • Give tenants the right to request a pet in the property, which the landlord must consider and cannot unreasonably refuse. To support this, landlords will be able to require pet insurance to cover any damage to their property.

Learn more here.


Social Housing Act

On 20 July 2023, the Government’s new Social Housing (Regulation) Act received Royal Assent. Key impacts are:


  • Enhanced powers for Social Housing Regulator - Introduce proactive consumer regulation, allowing intervention where landlords are performing poorly on consumer issues.

  • Stronger enforcement powers - The Regulator can take action, including provisions for regular inspections of social housing properties, to ensure landlords are providing high-quality services and accommodation.

  • Tenant empowerment - Strict time limits will be imposed on landlords to address hazards, with access to swift redress when things go wrong.

  • Standards for Registered Providers - A set of standards for registered housing providers, requiring social housing managers to possess specific qualifications or be actively working towards gaining them.

Learn more here.




Work Experience


This month we had the pleasure of taking on our first work experience student from a local secondary school. It's been an absolute pleasure to show our young adult, Lilly, what we do and it also gives us immense pleasure to be helping the local community and supporting the next generation of interior designers and stagers!


During her time with us, Lilly came to an open house event, which she loved! She also used this time to measure up a room so she could determine the appropriate layout for a dining room, including preparing a mood board and shopping list. Lilly was very enthusiastic and helped on a number of other projects too.


Her interest and passion for the industry is exhilarating! Hopefully we'll be seeing Lilly in a future edition of VOGUE Living! Who knows!


Lilly says:

*I have had a great time!*


Case Studies


We have a number of case studies on our website for you to take a look at. You can see before and after photos, specifications for that project as well as client reviews. Click here to see them all.



This image comes from our High View project. This was a stunning unfurnished staging project of a newly refurbished duplex penthouse apartment. We added a piano to the living area to create a high quality finish which was a real head turner!



This Months Highlights


Interiors


We have a number of interior projects underway including:


Redefining a Home Office into a Snug


We are working on a wonderful new project where our clients are having a complete makeover of their home office.


The brief is to create a warm and cosy snug room for watching tv/reading with plenty of storage. They gave us a fabulous Pinterest board to show their ideas so we could hit the ground running with their design once we had visited the space. With new flooring, radiator, a fresh lick of paint and furniture and décor pieces, it is going to be a full transformation! There is currently a condemned gas fireplace built into a flat wall, so our design is going to see removal of that fireplace so that a faux chimney breast can be built out which will be encased in brick tiles and we will install an electric log burner. We will also incorporate plenty of storage to fit within the alcoves of the new chimney breast that we are creating.


Here is the proposed floorplan:



More to come on this project soon!


If you are thinking of an interiors makeover, take a look at what we offer, here.


New build in Hitchin


This month we have been in touch with a long term staging client of ours. Previously, we had worked on staging their home to sell - it sold quickly and for over £100k above the asking price, we provided interior services for their son's new abode and we also provided interior services for their sister's property!


This time round, we are helping our client who is building their forever home. We are providing floor layout advice, flooring advice as well as general interiors assistance s they can plan out how to fit out their new home. Initially we are focusing on how to create a welcoming open plan area which will have kitchen, dining and living zones in spaces which currently feel cavernous! We'll help them visualise the potential of these spaces with our renovation services. More on this in next month's blog.


Space Planning & Staging


Effective space planning is the key to any space and doing this right means that our clients get the best use out of their spaces.


We're working with another new client in Hitchin. They are developing two new builds close and initially their focus was for us to help with staging. However, when we saw the floorplans, it was evident that there was more value to be added. We met with our client and provided them with various suggestions on how to add this value. Two examples of this include:


- redoing the layout for the primary suite to maximise the floorplan and so also benefit from improved wardrobe space.

- splitting a disproportionally downstairs bathroom into a cloakroom and en-suite so therefore the adjoining room can become a guest suite or even home office with its own bathroom facilities.


Settling in and Seating!


One of our clients has moved home and so we have provided our settling in service. This means we unpacked their belongings and found new spaces and put everything away for them in their new home. So it was sort, sort and more sort! We've then also helped our client by guiding them on their seating arrangements for their open plan area. We visited the fabulous Arlo & Jacob in Marlow with our client to guide them on selecting their new seating. This is now on order. We can't wait to see these in our client's home.



August Outlook


We've got some super exciting projects to come:


- we're being featured in two publications. How exciting!


- one of our long term clients has asked for help as they have just moved into their forever home. They want us to reconfirgure parts of their home so they improve the useability of the spaces. They also want to add some upgrades eg. make the en-suite a wet room.


- staging for one of our developer clients.


More on these in future blogs.





How we can Help You


If you are looking for inspiration or need help on the following:


  • Staging

  • Property refurbishment

  • Interiors

  • Garden Landscaping

  • Property repairs

Please reach out to us at info@sortstyleandstage.com to arrange a complimentary call to learn how we can help.



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