“Never judge a book by its cover” is an invaluable old adage— except when it comes to selling a property.
When a prospective buyer walks through the front door for a first showing, it’s an agent’s singular opportunity to make a meaningful first impression. Upon entry, a value perception is immediately formed and most importantly, the idea of whether or not the buyer can picture themselves actually living there.
That first showing has a lot of impact – once you scratch below the surface (number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, square footage, etc.), buyers subconsciously search for emotional appeal, seeking out a feel for the home. Buyers do this by gathering a large amount of superficial information in a short amount of time—known as a “thin slice” as coined by Malcom Gladwell in the book, Blink.
In addition to making the home feel comfortable to the buyer, staging can also provide aspirational cues, showing buyers what sort of lifestyle they could have in the home. In the Roaring Fork Valley, buyers very well choose to move here or purchase a home here, because of the kinds of lifestyle and outdoor activities that surround us. That is where the art of home staging comes in.
For longtime local and Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s International Realty broker Laurie Laing, “It is a game changer when done right.”
Last year, Laing took over an unsuccessful, stale listing in the Aspen Highlands area, customized an interior refresh and had new photography shot, which enabled her to sell the property within a couple of months for $5.3 million.
The property was previously a rental, “So when I took it over and walked through it for the first time, it really felt like a rental. There was no personality, no charm. It just didn’t pop,” she explains.
With a goal to “appeal to the widest range of people possible” Laing worked with the seller to determine a staging budget, which varies from listing to listing and typically lands anywhere between $5,000 and $20,000. Her staging style is subtle, focusing on main pieces that anchor a room. Working with local design resources like Cathers Home in Basalt, she curates furniture and accessories “to bring out the great qualities of a home that have always been there, but make them shine.”
Laing believes that at least 25% of the homes in the Roaring Fork Valley market need staging. “There is always something to enhance and improve with any property, which is how to gain a competitive advantage to set your home apart from the rest.”
The main challenge can be the expense. Many sellers may be reluctant to agree to the additional investment and it also requires a further detachment from any emotional connection to their home.
In such a competitive market, staging is also an essential tool for selling spec and rebuilt homes. Garrett Reuss, who specializes in new construction projects, thinks about the end result from the beginning. For a recent full-scale renovation of 955 Fox Run Drive in Snowmass Village (under contract), Reuss enlisted locally-based interior designer Barbara Goldman to collaborate on creating a complete lifestyle within the home.
Principal of her eponymous firm, which offers upscale residential design in New England, Florida and Colorado, Goldman says, “ In staging, you want to appeal to the masses, rather than just one particular style. Leaving the palette clean enough is essential so that the future owner can have the flexibility to further customize things to their specific taste.”
Goldman, who relocated permanently from Boston to Snowmass Village in 2016 after living here part-time over the years, calls out the area as a completely unique, concentrated market.
“The spec house business in Boston is nowhere near the level it is here. Sellers just aren’t willing to put in the kind of money for updates that we see done here in order to sell a property. Here, it’s all about selling an idea of what life can be like in the mountains.”
Mountain-town-specific design elements like a perfectly positioned hot tub, extra garage space for gear, a mudroom with boot-heater capabilities and fireplaces in multiple rooms matched with using a neutral color scheme and incorporating views of the outdoors as much as possible are Goldman’s secrets to staging success, to which she says “can quickly flip a switch in a buyer’s mind.”
But her biggest piece of advice? “Don’t be so attached to your past and don’t ever take suggested aesthetic changes personally. You’ve already moved on by deciding to sell.”
Learn more about Laurie, Garrett and Barbara here: