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Why selling your home is a fine art

A tasteful collection can add to a property’s appeal, rather than put buyers off

Picture the scene. You walk into a property viewing and there is a piece of art featuring a nude body hanging on the wall. Do you firmly shake the estate agent’s hand and turn on your heel, or peer in for a closer look?

The action that you choose may depend on who you are looking at. Experts agree that if the piece depicts the seller, then a viewer is likely to be put off, but if it is a more abstract piece, then this can help with the selling process.

In property circles statement art was once considered a grave no-no, but rising numbers are coming round to the idea of using it to sell their homes.

If grown in the right way, an art collection can add as much to a home’s appeal as a designer kitchen or a garden feature. Jonas Almgren, the chief executive of Artfinder, an online resource helping to promote the work of new artists, advises letting it shine during the time that a property spends on the market.

“Art is something you live with,” he says. “You want to be comfortable with that. When we were selling our house in New York, the estate agent loved the fact that we had so much art and that it added warmth and personality. However, we did have some provocative pieces, which he suggested that we remove. In most cases it adds value, but for something very explicit it might be worth putting away.”

Malcolm Leslie, a partner at Strutt & Parker’s Edinburgh office who handles sales all over Scotland, has seen no sign that a well-curated art collection deters buying activity. “Art hanging on the walls is as much a part of someone’s home as the furniture,” he says. “It is part of what makes a house a home.”

This 13-bedroom house in Penninghame, Newton Stewart, is on sale for offers of more than £2.62 million with Knight Frank

Display can be as important as content, Leslie believes. “Presentation is key. Make sure art is well positioned and that there are no holes in the wall or bare picture hooks.

“That said, it would be advisable to put nude photography of the sellers out of sight. That might raise a few eyebrows. However, arty charcoal sketches and life drawings aren’t going to put anybody off.”

Poppy Rooney, an art adviser, agrees. “I was working with a property developer recently to help them source art and they had a very strict criteria,” she says. “They wouldn’t use anything that was political or figurative — everything had to be abstract. However, when it is a personal home it is slightly different.”

As Rooney mentions, developers are cottoning on to the idea of using art to sell homes too. No longer does the standard showhome roll out Identikit magnolia interiors. Housebuilders are increasingly looking to art to create a talking point to secure sales.

At Mactaggart and Mickel’s Red Lion development, in Newton Mearns near Glasgow, the portrait artist Gerard M Burns has helped to finish the interior specification with his artwork.

For Burns, who has painted Scotland’s glitterati, working with a developer has been a novel experience, but one that echoes his approach to displaying art in unexpected settings — for years he has chosen to eschew conventional galleries and sell his work by opening the doors of his sandstone villa in north Glasgow, using its walls as a gallery space.

“We have broken the mould in many respects,” the artist says of his home, “but nobody needs a painting. You have to connect with it and either justify it to yourself or because you have a space in the house where it would fit. Given that there is almost unlimited choice, at some point you have to make a connection with an artwork.”

Rather than worrying about longevity, think about your collection as a work-in-progress, Burns advises.

The artist Gerard M Burns

“Some paintings will stay with you forever, but some you’ll tire of,” he says. “If you’ve spent a lot of money, you’re investing in a name — if you’ve done your homework, there’s a chance to move it on, get something back for it and get something new in.”

A common issue cropping up with homeowners with large art collections is what to do with their pieces when they downsize. Experts recommend that the most expensive pieces should go to auction, to recoup cost, but that smaller works should be given away as gifts.

However, be careful when storing art while moving house. “A common mistake is that people keep their art in garages or spaces that are damp,” says Rooney. “The conditions aren’t up to scratch and it can damage the quality of the work. The nicest way to store art is to loan it to a family or friend, because they can enjoy it when it is not in your home.”

Before making a decision about getting rid of a work, consider moving it from its present location. A small shuffle can make a real difference to the living space, as well as your enjoyment of a piece.

“Rehanging art is fascinating,” says Almgren. “It is so much more than just thinking, ‘This artwork is not right any more.’ So many times I have found that I bought a new piece that I did not have space for and which forced me to move something into another room. New light and a new environment can make a piece come to life.”

Innerwick House in Murrayfield, Edinburgh, has five bedrooms and is on sale with Savills for offers of more than £3.2 million

Top framing tips

Match the art to the style of the house
Framing adds formality. In a contemporary home framing a piece might not always suit the space, but in a traditional property it can be crucial.

If possible, speak to the artist
They may have ideas about the kind of frame they believe their art will suit. Others may be able to offer guidance about colour, style or how to match it with other pieces in your collection.

Glass is not always best
Photography should always be protected from ultraviolet rays, but for many artworks glass will detract from the overall look.

Reinforcement is often unnecessary
Most accidents occur because of poorly attached hooks. If in doubt, seek professional advice.

Placement is key
Take care in rooms where high traffic is an issue. This may not marry well with expensive pieces of sculpture.