The holidays are upon us and whether you celebrate the Festival of Lights, Santa Claus, the birth of Christ, winter solstice, or simply logs on the fire, you've probably been invited to a gift exchange (or two) and know what's coming next.
Last Saturday, we joined our dear friends for Hanukkah at their lovely and inviting home on the peninsula, along with several other couples, for Sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), latkes (yum), and holiday cheer, and arrived with two wrapped presents, as instructed.
"Bring a White Elephant gift for each person attending" the invitation specified.
The gift exchange involved selecting numbers and when your turn arrived, you could either "steal" a present that had already been picked, or select one from the unopened pile on the center table.
Here's the problem with marrying the "white elephant" concept with a "gift exchange."
When the gifts are uniformly bad (which they were), no one wants to steal, which takes the "exchange" part out of the equation, and let's admit it, it's watching grown-ups act like children that makes the awkward process, funny. Otherwise, it's just one bad surprise after another, each participant wishing the next person would relieve them of their unfortunate selection.
Next year, I'm taking the money I would have spent on white elephant gifts and donating it to an elephant sanctuary instead.
"What's the Real Estate version of the "white elephant?'" you ask. (Thank you, I was hoping you'd bring it up.)
It's the house that's really too large, too cumbersome, or too stylized to be desired by almost ANYONE (You'll know it when you see it, because it's usually overpriced as well.)
Which isn't to say that it won't sell, because it will, (everything will sell at the right price). BUT overprice these hard-to-sell properties (these elephants), and you may find the house sitting on the market for weeks, if not months, if not years. . . .
To the extent that you can make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, try to mitigate the worst offenders: outdated wallpaper, stained carpet, poor curb appeal, overgrown gardens, stock-piled JUNK! (just to name a few). Setting aside any unfortunate intrinsic issues, such as an exceedingly challenging location or an exceptionally poor design, the strategy on these more problematic properties, is to focus on the pluses - not the minuses.
Does the property have a big backyard? Good renovation potential? Flexible living? Given that some inherent issues are NOT going to be fixable - NO MATTER WHAT(!!!) - concentrate on what can be addressed and rework the preparation and marketing to give value to hidden or overlooked assets.
As we all know (or should by now), the "value-proposition" on a property is entirely subjective. There are whole subsets of Buyers who love GIGANTIC houses (even if I'm not one of them); potential homeowners who value square footage or privacy more than aesthetics. Thus "room to grow," "spacious interiors" or "grand proportions," may justifiably describe an exceedingly large residence, while houses near a freeway offer an "easy commute," vertical living becomes "heart healthy," and the total dump may very well be the "diamond in the rough." (It may.)
In short, find the silver lining, price the home appropriately, and repackage the public's attention, and you may find a Buyer who loves what your Seller has to offer, even if it's a "white elephant," (maybe even BECAUSE it is a "white elephant???"). You never know. As my good friend and colleague, Ann Lovi, likes to say, "There's a lid for every pot."
Speaking of repackaging, I've got another "gift exchange" tonight. Hmmm . . . this may be my chance to offload a truly heinous pick, OR I might just skip it altogether and donate to The Heifer Project instead.
(Not just a Realtor, but a consultant in all things house and home, I'm here to educate, explore, examine and refer . . . In short, you may count on me to take care of your home as if it were my own and anyone who knows me, knows I take pretty darn good care of my home.)
How can I help you?
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.