McLaughlin: Staging is everything in real estate |

McLaughlin: Staging is everything in real estate

Tracy McLaughlin

I loved the omnipresent antler chandeliers that adorned many dining rooms in Aspen for the better part of the past few decades. But, if you are considering selling your home and want to maximize your equity, it’s time to toss the taxidermy. While you are at it, donate the paisley floral Ralph Lauren Sofa from that same era. 

During the meteoric rise in Aspen home prices from Q3 2020 through Q2 2022, mostly due to the pandemic, it was easy for your realtor to stick a For Sale sign in your front yard, enter the listing into MLS, conduct a few showings, and sit back and wait for the multiple offers to roll in.

And, boy, did they roll in! In fact, many homes never made it to the broader-reaching, multiple-listing service during this last boom with the demand creating a surge in off-market, private deals that happened well before most buyers could even learn about a home. 

Those days are over. At least, for now. 

While we have seen continued record-breaking prices occurring for some homes in the luxury market (defined as homes over 8,781 square feet), Aspen and surrounding sub-market volume of sales have slowed substantially since the Fed’s seven (yes, seven) successive rate hikes in 2022. 

We are now seeing accumulating days on the market for homes, condos, and ranches that are either not priced right or are not well-presented for the market, with price reductions for the first time in as many years.  

Buyers pay a premium for finishes that are current. Check out Pinterest, the latest issue of Elle Décor, or walk into a Restoration Hardware showroom to familiarize yourself with what is trending in home design.  

Design trends pendulum swing every 10-12 years, so chances are that tumbled stone you selected in 2008 for your kitchen backsplash and bathrooms has been out of favor since 2018. 

Your potential buyer is likely a Millennial who grew up with a more minimalistic aesthetic reflected in their embrace of all things Apple and tech-dominated work environment. Updating and staging to appeal to that subset of buyers is critical for your home’s return on investment.

While your home may intrinsically have incredible scale and light, a desirable floor plan, and an A1 location, the indelible imprint of outdated design will be what the buyer remembers when they leave their first viewing. And, it will cost you. 

In studies, and in my personal experience of prepping more than 600 homes for sale over the course of my 24-year career, the math on pre-listing prep and staging is undisputed. For every dollar invested, there is a $3 to $4 or more return. 

The prototypical list of improvements to maximize your equity includes a mostly neutral palette for your interior and exterior walls, current marble/tile for kitchen and bathrooms, bespoke lighting, wide-plank oak hardwoods, chic wallpaper, and beautiful staging with contemporary, abstract art and “cool” photos. Think black-and-white, iconic rock ‘n’ roll photos or moody black-and-white cowboy photos to give your hallways a lift! 

Relative to your asset, the prep investment to sell is miniscule, and your efforts will pay you handsomely in any market.

Tracy McLaughlin is ranked No. 24 in the United States for real estate agents by the Wall Street Journal/Real Trends and is the author of Real Estate Rescue: How America Leaves Billions Behind In Residential Real Estate And How To Maximize Your Home’s Value (Amazon). She is a resident of Aspen and leads the Tracy McLaughlin Team at Engel & Volkers with offices in both Aspen and Marin County, California.