What’s the use? – finding purpose for each room

Imagine that you are a young family (Mum, Dad and 3 kids aged 5-11) and are looking for a new house.  Today you are viewing 2 houses. Both have 4 bedrooms, 3 living areas and a study.  They are a similar price and on a similar sized block

The First house you see is owned by an older couple. You start with the bedrooms. The master looks good but there are 2 single beds in it – is this the master then? Bedroom 2 is set up as an office, bedroom 3 is a sewing room – could we fit Ben’s bed in here?  and bedroom 4 has a sofa in it so you’re assuming a guest room? Downstairs, the study room has boxes in it ready for the move – this room feels small, what could we use it for? The dining room is set up as a snooker room, the main living area is full of furniture and the second living area is empty but for a grand piano – would this be best as a family room or the dining room?  You’re confused and left with the feeling that the house isn’t for you and your family.

You move on to the second house. The bedrooms are set up as a master and 2 kids rooms and a kids room that could also be used a guest room. The dining room is shown with a dining table, chairs and a buffet cupboard. The larger living room is shown as a family room. There is a good sized seating area around a TV with a separate seating area for games, craft or computer. The smaller living room is a relaxed and more grown up no TV zone for the adults.  The small room is shown as a study and homework space. This house feels right for you and your family and what you are looking for. You can imagine the kids in their bedrooms, you working in the study and the family relaxing together in the family room.

Which house are you more likely to buy?

The first house seems like an exaggeration. It is to the extent that I have seen all these things – just not all in the same house!  The truth is that most people find it very difficult to visualise the purpose of a room unless it’s staring at them. Getting your potential buyers to do all the thinking and decision making is too much work. It is far better if you give them what they are looking for in the first place. Then all they need to do is fall in love with the idea of living in your house because it’s perfect for them and their family.

Here are some pointers to think about when finding a room’s purpose.

  • This is NOT about you and how you’ve lived in the house, this is about your potential buyers and what they want from the house
  • Think very carefully about the most likely buyer of your house and purpose the rooms to suit them. e.g. if they have 2 kids then you need to have 2 kid’s bedrooms even if your kids are long gone.
  • Get rid of any preconceived notions of what a room is for. Ask a friend or a home stager to help as they can be more objective
  • You don’t need much to give the impression of a room’s purpose. For example for a bedroom you need a bed (pick the size to match your target buyer), bedside table(s) and lamp(s) some art above the bed – that’s it!  For a dining room you need a table and chairs, one other piece of furniture (e.g. china cupboard), artwork and a couple of accessories. Use furniture from other rooms, borrow or hire if required. I can help you with this.
  • All properties need a dining area – Either a dining room, dining area in an open plan room or at the very least barstools up at a counter
  • Family rooms need a central gathering space around the TV but also 1 or 2 seating areas so that the family can all be together but doing their own thing.
In this family room, I moved a chair and bookcase to the corner opposite the sofa and TV to show an extra seating area for quieter activities
  • If you have 2 living spaces, show one as a family room and 1 as a more formal adults relaxation room
  • Bedrooms are for relaxing, sleeping and ‘playing’ they are not for watching TV, exercising, working or ironing
  • Basements or under the house also benefit from a purpose. The idea here is to show the flexibility of the space e.g. in a basement, set up zones such as a rumpus zone, an ironing zone, a craft zone so that people can imagine the possibilities of the space
  • Find a purpose for outdoor spaces too.  Set up an entertainment area or quieter reading spots or a shady place for kids to play
  • Garages are for storing cars and for tools. They are not a pre-sale storage box area or a hardware shop
  • Not only do you need to find a purpose for each room but each area of the room (especially those awkward spaces) needs a purpose. For example a spare space could be turned into a study nook or a reading corner or a storage spot. In the space below I didn’t keep buyers guessing as to how to use the window area, I showed them what was possible – a study area within the large main living room
  • Get creative. Finding a purpose for each room doesn’t need to cost a thing. Think of your house a a giant jigsaw. Go looking round the house for pieces that can be used in different rooms and in different ways
  • Set up little vignettes to lure your buyers in. e.g A reading area with a couple of latest magazines (think about what your target would read), a study area with a nice notebook and a pot of matching pencils, a table set up in the family room with a board game, a cookery book open on the kitchen counter, fresh flowers on the bedside table,  Make it look natural – not overly staged
I hope this post has been useful. Remember the 2 main things and you won’t go far wrong. 1. Get clear on the most likely buyer of your house  and 2. Give each room a clear purpose to suit that target. Good luck!

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