Not that I don't love Goldens and Labradors, I do, and they're all we've ever known throughout our 27-year marriage, but I am long past the age of needing a running companion (at least my knees are) and let's face it, the bigger the dog, the bigger the mess. So I set down the rules:
And I meant it . . . until Cliff and Tristan talked me into a field trip during the winter break to see a new-born littler of flat-coated retrievers (and their gorgeous parents) and I was romanced into reserving a tiny little liver colored puppy on the spot. I didn't know which one we'd receive four weeks out, but it didn't matter; they were all precious.
On Sunday, Cliff and Jill drove to Clear Lake and retrieved "Riley," and the puppy has stolen my heart. (There's a new baby in the house.) He comes, he sits, he plays - it was love at first sight. It's also sleepless nights, separation anxiety, muddy paw prints, potty training and all of the stuff you know is coming, but you've conveniently forgotten (like childbirth). In any event, the learning curve is bound to be temporary while the upside is unconditional love. I'll admit it, there's something truly magical about a wagging tale that forms an emotional connection that's undeniable.
In Real Estate, staging is akin to the "wagging tale" - it's where the magic begins to happen; it's the show; it's the production,and it's love at first sight all rolled into one pretty package. Staging creates the "emotional connection" that Buyers must have to not only bid, but to purchase in stiff competition, and what's more, to pay a premium for the home. According to industry sources, staged homes may receive as much as 23% more than their unstaged counterparts down the street. And with the vast majority of Buyers beginning their search online, good, compelling photos have never been more important!
Ironically, staging is the topic Realtors often receive the most push back from anxious Sellers. Putting aside the inconvenience (and I make no bones about how difficult that can be), or the expense (it's not chump change but it's peanuts compared to what you may ultimately realize in the sales price), it seems to be the change in environment that often throws homeowners the most; as if we're somehow stripping their memories along with the outdated wallpaper. (I promise you, those you get to keep.) Remember, this is about getting you top-dollar for your home; staging recommendations are not meant to be a personal attack on your taste or style. As we all know, taste and style are largely a matter of the times and popular advertising; nothing more.
On the flip side, I want to caution Buyers not to get romanced into a bad relationship, just because the packaging is pretty. Yes, it's part of our job as Realtors to create strong demand by curating an inviting and welcoming home, but don't get fooled into thinking that the inherent defects of a property have gone away just because the interior has been painted, OR because there's new carpeting on the floor, OR because the furniture is hip and cool. A "fixer" is still a "fixer" when the underlying conditions haven't been addressed and there's a lot that goes on behind the walls and floors of a home; namely plumbing, electrical, drainage, and framing . . . just to name a couple. Remember, the very best staging will NEVER change the fact that the home has 50 steps to the front door, sits near a freeway, or needs a new foundation!
Unfortunately, Buyers are going to have very little opportunity to conduct their due diligence in this highly-charged marketplace due to heavy competition. In short, writing a contingent offer will almost guarantee you a spot on the reject pile, thus the Seller Disclosures are more important than they have ever been. Read them carefully AND with a critical eye. And while your Realtor should certainly analyze them as well, what may seem run of the mill to us, may in fact, be breaking points for you.
At the end of the day, this is your house, your money, your risk, and your reward. So it requires you to remove the rose-colored glasses the Selling agent has provided, to look beyond the pretty pictures, to proceed well-informed, and to have a very clear understanding of the pros and cons of any property you propose to buy, especially when in competition.
While a home won't provide unconditional love (like a puppy will) it's certain to bring its own share of happiness, frustration, surprises and delight. Now, I've got a dog to walk before he has an accident. Oops, too late.
(Good thing he's really, REALLY cute!)
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Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 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.