Join the exceptional and become a Sotheby's International Realty agent.
Of all the factors that influence a buyer’s decision to put in an offer on a home, there’s only one that sellers can fully control: how the home looks at first viewing. While clients may be used to hearing that they need to declutter and repaint rooms, they may not be fully aware of the impression their décor makes on a potential buyer — especially if they’ve already invested money in a specific look.
“In our area, everyone went crazy for the heavy ‘Tuscan-inspired’ style with lots of browns, golds, blacks, and speckled granites for about a decade in the early 2000s,” says Haley Rodriguez, REALTORⓇ and Luxury Home Specialist with Kuper Sotheby’s International Realty in San Antonio, Texas. “When these houses hit the market now, buyers comment on how dated they are.”
Though you can’t go back in time, you can encourage sellers to make strategic changes that will create a more current feel that resonates with buyers. And the sooner they know, the better.
“Whenever you have a gut feeling that the décor is outdated or overwhelming, or if something strikes you as very personal, custom, or is crowding or compromising a space, replace it,” advises Corey Crawford, Real Estate Professional with Summit Sotheby’s International Realty in Park City, Utah. “Your seller is going to need to mobilize everything anyway, so why not get ahead of the curve?”
Whether working with a seller to make improvements or recommending staging, get acquainted with the décor styles that will stop buyers in their tracks.
Calm and classic
When it comes to selling homes, it’s hard to go wrong by sticking to the trends that resurface over seasons. “I’m seeing buyers getting excited about classics,” says Rodriguez. “Shapes that have stood the test of time: Barcelona chairs, Eames Lounge Chairs.”
Even the recently beloved gray walls are already out of style. Instead, buyers are responding to wall colors and décor that cultivate a light and bright feeling in a home. “White walls, simple countertops, neutral drapes and furnishings, neutral art — these traits always sell a house,” notes Rodriguez.
The only risk? Simplicity can read as uninviting when overdone. Rodriguez advises her clients to avoid cold rooms by adding soft lighting throughout and bringing in blacks and aged brass as complements. Simple lines, flat-front style sliding doors, accent pillows, and tall, modern baseboards can support more classic design. “Less is always more,” she says. And when in doubt, add greenery. “Interesting houseplants are so on trend, and they make the home feel alive.”
Mountain contemporary and industrial chic
“The best aesthetics I’ve seen have been the blend of mountain rustic with proper modern,” says Crawford of homes in Park City. “A style that is more timeless, with vintage and organic elements that present warmth. Handcrafted tiles that feel fully custom. Bespoke lighting that lends a low volt wash to a wall.”
He taps into the expertise of designers in his market to get a sense of what’s happening from a style perspective. “I’ve learned a lot from the designers I work with on a regular basis. They’re adept at creating a sense of authentic spaciousness — that juxtaposition of clean architectural lines, the use of metals and stone with a simple edge detail, organic textiles and finishes, and items that have a patina.”
Crawford is also seeing his clients gravitate towards industrial trends. The hallmarks of industrial chic include concrete floors, wood cladding, and solid timbers. Stacked stone, ultra-luxury kitchens and cabinetry by Poliform, and solid slabs in bathrooms and kitchen backsplashes ensure that homes in this style strike a balance of natural elements and contemporary finishes.
Art Deco and mid-century
Rodriguez says that the shift back to white walls also points to another trend: fixtures, hardware and architectural elements that make a statement.
Bold accents blend well with the classics. “Mid-century elements have only continued to grow in popularity,” notes Rodriguez. Crawford, too, makes the case with his clients for “mid-century and Danish pieces that wow.”
There is also a growing affinity for Art Deco pieces amongst Rogriguez’s clientele. “Think long lines, dark velvets for upholstery, and colors like navy, blush pink, and minty green.”
Problem-solving and staging
For homes that require a bit of work to show at their best, Rodriguez advocates for gradual style updates, even if a homeowner isn’t intending to sell right away.
“Someone once told me to give your house a big gift every four years,” says Rodriguez. “What they meant was: update the kitchen, then update a bathroom a few years later, and so on. The thought process is that if you’re always updating your house, it won’t break the bank all at once, and you’re never going to be fully outdated. I have always passed this gem along to my clients.”
Crawford stays on top of trends by asking questions of interior experts. “My wife keeps me current,” he says. “She owns a dwell shop on Main Street here called Park City Mercantile. We talk aesthetics all the time and share what we see in our fields.” For agents without a designer in the family, Crawford calls out local design shows and designers’ social media accounts as being important founts of inspiration. “It’s a pretty tight real estate community here in Park City: it’s easy to network and loop in designers and stagers when needed. Building those relationships in your market can be incredibly valuable.”
Both agents lean on staging for addressing the homes that need an immediate fix. “Having staging, real or virtual, helps buyers have an understanding of scale and size,” Rodriguez says. “Rooms always look smaller when empty, so to see that a king-size bed fits well in a room helps people visualize themselves living there.” She observes that virtual staging has made a significant impact on the marketing of vacant homes, with an increased number of buyers interested in these listings.
Overall, incorporating a few on-trend elements might be necessary for listings to stand out in the market. “It’s hard news to deliver, but it’s really important that we do,” Rodriguez says. “Sellers need to hear from the very beginning that they are selling a dated product. We’ve been riding a wave of soaring prices, but the market is correcting and buyers aren’t interested in paying full price for dated houses anymore.”
About Sotheby’s International Realty
Sotheby’s International Realty was founded in 1976 as a real estate service for discerning clients of Sotheby’s auction house. Today, the company’s global footprint spans 990 offices located in 72 countries and territories worldwide, including 43 company-owned brokerage offices in key metropolitan and resort markets. In February 2004, Realogy entered into a long-term strategic alliance with Sotheby’s, the operator of the auction house. The agreement provided for the licensing of the Sotheby’s International Realty name and the development of a franchise system. The franchise system is comprised of an affiliate network, where each office is independently owned and operated. Sotheby’s International Realty supports its affiliates and agents with a host of operational, marketing, recruiting, educational and business development resources. Affiliates and agents also benefit from an association with the venerable Sotheby’s auction house, established in 1744. For more information, visit www.sothebysrealty.com.
The affiliate network is operated by Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC, and the company owned brokerages are operated by Sotheby’s International Realty, Inc. Both entities are subsidiaries of Realogy Holdings Corp. (NYSE: RLGY) a global leader in real estate franchising and provider of real estate brokerage, relocation and settlement services. Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC and Sotheby’s International Realty Inc., both fully support the principles of the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Opportunity Act.