Home staging businesses across the ACT, tasked with styling and furnishing properties for sale, have welcomed a surprise change of restrictions that allows them to get back to work.
The ACT government amended real estate restrictions on Saturday permitting up to two property stylists to attend and style an unoccupied residence prior to sale.
It comes as the sector, which is predominately made up of small businesses run by women, joined forces to propose a COVID-safe plan that would enable them to operate under strict guidelines.
Representing 25 home staging businesses, Wendy Osborne of Magenta Home Staging and Samantha Mallinson of Adorn Home Staging said all income had dried up prior to the rules changing.
"It's rare that we have all of our stock back in our warehouse or storage facility at the one time ... most of us have had to go and get extra storage and pay extra storage fees on top of what we might already be paying," said Ms Osborne.
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Ms Osborne and Ms Mallinson were concerned for their industry, particularly as it employs so many women.
"The impact on women is significant, I would say 90 per cent of these businesses that we are aware of are all owned and operated by women," said Ms Mallinson.
"This is a great decision for all the businesses because financially now those who could actually get it, don't have to depend on government grants or assistance, it means that they now hopefully won't go out of business," she said.
Ms Mallinson, who co-owns her staging business with her sister and mother, said she is thrilled to be able to go back to work again.
"For us, it means much less anxiety and stress and panicking about how we're going to survive," she said.
"It means safety, security and a future for these small businesses."
Their submission to government had received strong support from the real estate industry.
Andrew Thorpe, co-principal of Solely Properties, said home staging adds "huge value" to properties, not just for aesthetics but also to demonstrate size and scale to potential buyers.
"It's a crucial part of our industry," he said.
While home staging isn't represented by a dedicated peak body, the Real Estate Institute of the ACT (REIACT) supported their COVID-safe submission and presented it to government.
"We're fully supportive of their submission to government because we understand the value of what their industry does for our industry in terms of staging and making properties more saleable," said REIACT CEO Michelle Tynan.
Ms Mallinson said the last few weeks had brought their small but passionate industry closer together.
"One of the good things that came from this lockdown is that we've all come together for the first time ever, and this has meant that we've got a really supportive group of women who are lifting each other up and really supporting each other," she said.
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