Expert Interviews with Kevin Turner. 03/10/2018

No doubt home styling helps sell a property quicker and maybe also for a better price but how easy is it and is it worth the investment to get a professional? 

Melanie Grace says it is and she tells us what turns buyers on and off and gives an example of the value of NOT doing it yourself.

Listen to the interview now:


Kevin:  More and more, we’re seeing television shows that are focused very much on improving a property, flipping it, turning it over, selling it. There’s just so much information available in some of these shows. And one thing you will notice is that more and more, we’re finding that styling, decoration is a key factor in moving these on to become successful.

So, how does that relate to you as a buyer and/or seller of property, not necessarily a TV show? I’m talking now to Melanie Grace who runs Grace and Co. They are property styling experts.

Mel, thanks very much for your time.

Melanie:  You’re welcome, Kevin.

Kevin:  Now, I know you’re very experienced in this field, you’ve been doing it for a long time, you have a lot of really good clients who are getting great satisfaction. I want to find out some real values here. But where do you see DIY decoration going wrong? Have we gone past the DIY? Has it got to be a lot more professional nowadays?

Melanie:  The DIY, as you said, to do with the TV shows, there’s a lot of DIY decoration going on. However, there’s a lot of wrong DIY decoration going on. As a stylist, things that really go wrong, things like colored feature walls, the old red, yellow, purple color pops really don’t work for buyers. Things like buying every item of furniture in a matching set throughout the house is definitely one that is a no-go for styling when you’re selling your property. And then, of course, the big one is the Kmart effect.

Kevin:  What is the Kmart effect?

Melanie:  Kmart as we all know is a very big company, and they have brought a lot of home décor market onto the market at a very cheap price. But it’s not just pops of Kmart; it’s the whole house.

Kevin:  Yes, it gets back to what you said earlier about just decorating in the one style throughout the house. Is it more about styling into zones so that the zone is very much about what’s going to happen in that area?

Melanie:  It is. And also, the way we style our homes is very different when we’re selling them versus the way we style a home that we want to live in. You need to make an emotional connection with a buyer when they walk through the door. You have eight seconds to make that emotional connection when the buyer says “I need to live here, I want to live here.” And that’s what property styling is all about. It’s not about styling your home to how you would like to live in it.

Kevin:  I guess it comes down to whether you’re styling it for a person who’s living there now or styling it for a future buyer. You have to understand what their motivations are, I guess, and then particularly if you’re looking at selling a property, it’s understanding what buyer is going to be attracted to it and how you decorate the home to suit that buyer, not necessarily the people who are living in it now.

Melanie:  Very much so. And any good real estate agent worth their money will be able to tell their seller who their market is and what their market is looking for.

Kevin:  What turns buyers off?

Melanie:  Pretty much what turns us all off: dirty, unclean houses, closed windows, no light, bad smells. The first thing you have to do is get a buyer into the property, and the way that you get a buyer into the property is through good photography. Good photography is reflected in good styling. You have to have something good to photograph.

Kevin:  Yes, that’s really the window display nowadays, isn’t it, the Internet? Can you give me some practical examples of how getting a professional in… And one of the points I’d like to make about this too is if you’re looking at selling, we all love our home, we all live the environment we live in, and we sometimes think “Well, if that’s good enough for me, it’s good enough for a buyer.” But it needs to have a professional look.

Can you give me an example of how you’ve come into a property, you’ve styled it up, and you’ve achieved a much better result than anyone thought?

Melanie:  Back in 2017. It was a waterfront property. This house had great potential, it had boat access, it was a big block of land, however, the property had been let go due to personal issues with the owner. We were hired to step in and help, but it didn’t turn out to just be a styling job. It was a six-week job of preparing the house for sale, which included hiring trades, hiring painters, hiring landscape gardeners. I was doing things like going to Bunnings and picking up plants and range hoods. Everything was fixed up in the property.

The agent we worked with on this property had told the owner if they were not to put money into preparing the property for sale – which is just as important as styling – and styling the property, they would be looking at around $880,000 as a sale price as was. After six weeks and after we came in and styled it, the property sold for $1.14 million.

Kevin:  How much did it cost to do the styling?

Melanie:  The actual styling itself was around $7500. It was a fairly big property. We have a saying in our business that cheap property styling isn’t good and good property styling isn’t cheap.

Kevin:  The figure you mentioned there seems to me to be extremely low. Was that everything? Was that purchasing or was that hiring of furniture?

Melanie:  That’s purchasing the furniture, Kevin. The way that we come into a client generally is that we go into the property, it may be vacant or the client may still be living in the property while it’s up for sale, which is what we call a partial styling where they keep their beds in the property and some furniture items. So, this property was actually fully vacant.

So, we give a general guide. Probably one of the biggest questions I get asked every day by clients is “How much?” Over the phone. And of course, I can’t quote over the phone on a property that I haven’t seen. Every room is different, every property needs individual styling, so as a general guide, we say to people they should expect anywhere between 0.75% to 1.5% of the property value.

Kevin:  That’s a really good guide. Melanie Grace is from Grace and Co. Property Styling. So many more things I wanted to ask you, but we are out of time. So, thanks very much for your time, Mel.

Melanie:  You’re very welcome.

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Kevin Tuner worked in radio as General Manager of various east coast radio stations. He started in real estate in 1988 and was ranked in the Top 10 Salespeople in the state until he was appointed as State CEO 1992.

He operated a number of real estate offices as business owner and was General Manager of several real estate offices in Christchurch.

He now hosts a real estate show on Radio 4BC and a weekly podcast at He is the host of a daily 7 to 10 minute podcast show for real estate professionals at

To hear more podcasts by Kevin Turner, click here

Disclaimer: while due care is taken, the viewpoints expressed by interviewees and/or contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Your Investment Property.