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Real Estate Advice: How To Stage A Home To Sell

Westview_1Luxury real estate in Aspen boils down to a simple fact: buyers are purchasing a lifestyle, and they’re buying a dream. Selling the Aspen dream is one of my specialties and I execute these staging strategies for every listing in my inventory. 

As soon as I win a new listing in Aspen, the real work starts. My focus immediately jumps to how I can creatively sell the dream for every new listing. I really enjoy the conversations I have with clients about creative ways to communicate the lifestyle of the listings and tactics that will bring offers to the table.

The topic of staging always comes up during this stage of the real estate sales process. Staging a home to sell is critical to success, especially in luxury real estate markets like Aspen. I’ve learned firsthand that strategically staging a property for targeted buyers will be the difference between selling a listing and watching DOM (“days on market”) climb. 

This is often a difficult conversation with clients because they have spent years, sometime generations, decorating their home, customizing their setting, and personalizing their lifestyle. And, no one likes to undo years of memories or hard work. However, buyers want and need a blank canvas in a property so they can paint their own memories.

After years of successfully selling luxury real estate from Beverly Hills to Aspen, I have compiled a few vital tips to staging high-end real estate.

Here is how you can stage a home to sell in Aspen, Colorado…

1. Be Honest

Honesty and being blunt are really important traits of every successful real estate agent. And, I take pride in always being upfront with my clients—even during the staging process. I understand that you love the antique skis above the fireplace or the china doll set in the dining room. But, if you want your listing to close quickly, I have to be upfront with feedback and pack up pieces that take away from the property.

You associate cherished memories with those antiques, but buyers will be distracted by them. Smart real estate agents and savvy sellers know that the right offers will come if the property allows for a buyer to envision their future, not documenting the seller’s past.

This feedback might be difficult to swallow for sellers, which I totally understand. But my history of selling homes speaks for itself and shows that I know what I’m talking about.

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2. Think Out Of The “Box”

Selling a home for top dollar and in a timely manner requires effort, work, and attention. Too many times, though, everything in staging focuses on art, rugs, decor. Granted, the inside of a home is really important to selling a home. But, I’ve learned the outside of a property must get staging energy, too!

Beginning the staging process outside has proved to be a major ingredient in my successful staging recipe. Why? First impressions matter, of course. Plus, in stunning locations like Aspen, the outdoors are a huge draw for qualified buyers. Focusing on panoramic views, quaking leaves on aspen trees, dense groves of pine trees, meandering wildlife, and outdoor living spaces like patios, pizza ovens, pools, and fireplaces make for a successful real estate selling strategy. 

The truth is: you might have a gorgeous kitchen or a sprawling master suite, but we need to “Wow!” buyers before they ever step foot in the property, and that is accomplished by staging the outdoor spaces.

3. Find Inspiration At Open Houses

I enjoy touring open houses of other listings with clients to find inspiration. One of the most valuable ways to show a home seller what their home needs is by walking through other listings and comps and discussing staging tactics.

Seeing how other homes are staged helps the creative juices to start flowing and it tangibly illustrates what we’re doing well and what staging changes need to be made on our own listing.  

Seeing how your home compares to others in the market gives us—my clients and I—a good benchmark about staging. Aspen real estate is a competitive market and we need to deliver a world-class product to buyers in order to get offers. 

4. Spend To Win

Last, but definitely not least, allocating a budget to staging luxury real estate is something that a lot of sellers ignore. That makes sense because spending money on a home that you’re about to leave is counter intuitive to most. But, the old adage is true, you have to spend money to make money.

If serious offers are the goal, we need to carve out a budget to sell the buyers’ dream! A small investment on staging will pay out huge when that full-ask offer comes over the table, or a bidding war ensues between buyers because multiple families can envision their Aspen dream in the property you’re selling. 

Why The Highest Real Estate Offer Doesn’t Always Get The House

Eagle_PinesThroughout my career as a real estate agent in Aspen, I’ve seen a lot of interesting scenarios play out. One lesson that I always pass along to my clients is that the highest real estate offer is not always accepted by sellers. A lot of clients are surprised by this, but it’s true—there are many factors that play pivotal roles in a seller choosing an offer.

The takeaway is empowering for buyers. It’s important to remember that as a buyer, you have control in the real estate purchasing process. While coming to the table with a respectable offer is important, you’ll be shocked by how many times sellers don’t go with the biggest number.

Here are four ways to increase the odds of having your offer accepted, even though you don’t have the highest offer.

  1. Get Personal.
    Buying a home is a big deal, it’s a personal transaction, and sellers love picturing who will plant roots and make a life in the house that they created so many last memories in. A thoughtful, sincere, and personal letter written to the seller paints a three-dimensional picture of you. This letter makes you more than just an offer, and it’s amazing how often this results in a closing—even if the letter writer’s offer isn’t the highest option for the seller.As a listing agent, one of my sellers once had three offers presented. Two buyers strictly made an offer, while the third buyer—whose offer was a bit less than the other two—wrote a heartfelt letter praising the home, illustrating why it was a perfect fit for his family, and talking about the future his family pictured in the home. My seller was actually turned off by the buyers who did not take time to craft a letter and went with the buyer who felt familiar. That short, hand-written, personal letter made the difference between getting the home and not.
  2. Come with cash.
    The odds of you getting the home of your dreams increase drastically if you come to the table with an all-cash offer. The Aspen real estate market is competitive, buyers are clammoring for homes, and sellers love cash offers. I’ve found that bringing cash to a negotiation—even if the all-cash offer is less than what other buyer’s are offering—results in a great response from Aspen sellers.Why? If you can pay in cash lenders and mortgages are ommited, escrow closes quickly, and appraisals don’t bog down the process.
  3. Craft a seller-friendly contract.
    If it’s your dream home and you are up against high offers, customizing common contingencies that give sellers headaches will ensure your lower-priced offer gets the attention of the seller.Contingencies like financing, appraisal, and inspection protect buyers, but they also make offers look weaker. Every contingency in a contract makes the deal more difficult to close, so pick wisely about the language you use in contingencies.
  4. Be flexible.
    For the most part, closings take anywhere from 30 to 90 days. Expediting a closing to suit a seller will help your lower offer get accepted. For the most part, sellers always want a quick closing (around 30 days). If you’re organized and Customizing the length of the closing to suit the seller’s needs can often help seal the deal over a higher offer. Sellers almost always want fast closings, usually 30 days. If you have all your ducks in a row, you may be able to do this.The best approach I’ve found throughout my career is having buyers be prepared for a quick closing and asking the seller what they prefer. Questions like “What do timeframe do you need?” and “Would you like this to happen quickly?” are tactics that show sellers you’re willing to do whatever it takes to close.