Last weekend, Cliff and I stayed aboard The Queen Mary, now permanently moored in Long Beach, CA, in rooms once inhabited by Mrs. Wallace Simpson and the Duke of Windsor. Weren't we grand? (Not really.)
As the story goes, the newly-anointed King of England had abdicated his throne to marry the twice-divorced American and then essentially lived as an outcast from the royal family thereafter. According to our tour guide, he and the scandalous Mrs. Simpson often traveled back and forth across the Atlantic on the Queen Mary and always requested the suite of rooms Cliff, Tristan and I occupied last Friday and Saturday nights. (Tristan stayed in the maid's room, since I don't travel with a maid, and yes, he finished the marathon in good time; thanks for asking.)
In its day, The Queen Mary represented the height of elegance with star-studded ballrooms, jazzed-filled smoking salons (men only), and silver-service dining rooms where the crew hosted the likes of Fred Astaire, Spencer Tracy, Marlene Deitrich and Winston Churchill, among other glitterazzi of the day. Those who traveled in style, traveled on the Queen Mary, the largest and fastest luxury liner in the world.
But while The Queen Mary is a cool walk through history, the ship has definitely seen better days. Not that I'm complaining, mind you (Cliff gets bonus points for being romantic), but as the maiden voyage set sail in 1938, the bathrooms could certainly use an update, as could the staterooms and public spaces. Like the ship itself, it's all a little worse for wear and that's a shame; The Queen Mary deserves more attention. It not only served as a world-class luxury liner, but the ship was stripped down in the 40s to transport thousands of troops during WWII, contributing substantially to the allied victory. (Hitler's u-boats couldn't touch it.)
When we look at our own homes, we have to ask ourselves if they've fallen into similar disrepair? Are we thinking that the 1940's kitchen is fine? (It isn't, nor is the 1980's kitchen considered new any longer.) Are the faucets dripping? Have the toilets stopped working? Are there major structural issues that need to be addressed? I once interviewed for a listing with five bathrooms and each had been "decommissioned" one-by-one as the toilets broke, until the house was left with one functioning commode. (That's not good.) Not surprisingly, the heirs had no idea.
When it comes to prepping a house for market, try to look at your home CRITICALLY, the way a prospective Buyer (or my mother-in-law) would . . . . Are the hardwood floors scratched and worn? Is the carpet threadbare? Are the windows permanently closed? Is the porch sagging? Is there a tarp on the roof that's been there since The Queen Mary first set sail? (I think you get my point.)
The truth is that when it comes to our homes, ongoing maintenance is a reoccurring theme (as it is in this publication). When we stop noticing the chipped paint and the overgrown garden, it's going to be a problem come time to sell, at which point I'll arrive to tell you what needs immediate attention. And while I'm happy to make a list of repairs and point out the blemishes, it rarely makes me the most popular girl in the room. (I'm not trying to hurt your feelings, I'm trying to get you the highest price for your home.)
BTW, homes that are truly "fixers" (like the house with the non-functioning bathrooms above) should be sold "AS IS" instead of covered with paint and staged as if they're in move-in condition. They're not and shouldn't be represented as such; therein lies a budding lawsuit.
But for the vast majority of homes without major structural issues; those where Sellers have just stopped noticing, my team can usually get your home into tip-top shape in the space of 3-4 weeks. That's where having a full-time project manager and a list of vendors at my disposal comes in handy, not to mention COMPASS Concierge !
Say what? What's Compass Concierge?
ATTENTION HOME SELLERS, if the cost of prepping your house for market is holding you back, COMPASS will float the expenses until the close of escrow - NO interest, NO hidden fees, NO upfront costs - ever! Now, how's that for filling a need? (It's great. I think the Queen Mary could use COMPASS Concierge.)
So when bringing your house to market, let's set sail, but let's make sure your ship is "ship-shape" before we do. Compass has virtually made it hassle free, as has my team. At the risk of tooting my own horn, why would you work with anyone else?
How can I help you?
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 14 years and has published more than 500 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.