"Your paint is ready," said the salesman on the other end of the line. "You can pick it up whenever you like." I put down the cover stick and eyeliner (my personal paint) and headed over to Dunn Edward's on Broadway so that I could finish rolling the dining room, having just run shy on the last few feet of wall space. I stood in a sea of largely Hispanic men in dungarees and overalls waiting for my turn at the counter; the lone lady in high heels and a suit.
Painting isn't foreign to me, nor are paint stores. My sisters and I grew up cleaning and painting nearly every weekend. A Realtor & Broker by trade, my father had a penchant for the "fixer" and a slew of children to employ (he paid $1 per hour) and each of us mastered the art of edging and rolling as we grew, until we could take the lead - or run away from home!
A good paint job is a skill that requires more than meets the eye - it demands tons of elbow grease (preparation is everything) and more patience than I personally ever developed. So there's an easy argument - in my mind anyway - to be made for hiring a professional. And happily, I now know many dependable and skillful painters I can call upon (and do).
Don't tell anybody, but I hate painting. After 40-plus years of it, and five major renovation projects, I believe I've reached my quota - and then some. As for Cliff, our marriage stands a much better chance when I DON'T put a paint brush in my husband's hands and ask him to do the impossible. (Clearly, his parents had higher ambitions for him.)
Still, painting is a topic that comes up almost immediately whenever I am invited to tour and potentially, list a home.
"How do you feel about painting out a few rooms?" I will casually ask, trying to get a read on the emotional attachment the homeowner has to their house.
To which they often reply, "Our decorator carefully picked these colors to match our home specifically. It'd be a shame to paint it out." (Okay, here we go. I'm already swimming upstream.)
No, it wouldn't and here's why . . .
Today, my colleagues and I toured a home that would have fared better in Florida (or the 70s). With its too-bright palette, busy walls, and a ton of bric-a-brac, I honestly couldn't see the forest for the trees (and I'm used to looking past the personal items to the bones beneath). Once the packing gets underway and the pictures come off the walls, there are likely to be nail holes and fade marks in place of family photos and the artwork that previously hung there. Imagine how the average home buyer views such a property? (NOT favorably!)
In its current condition, this over-stimulating house is likely to get 20-30% less than the newly painted and staged house down the street. And in our affluent marketplace, that's not exactly chump change.
This may not accurately describe your beautiful home (and probably doesn't) but if you have lived in a house for even a few short years, your walls (and floors) will bear witness to fingerprints, chipped woodwork, and furniture marks. AND if you've ever lived with teens (as I have) you know that their rooms can be officially classified as archaeology digs, with their floor-to-ceiling boy band posters, Sports Illustrated pictorials, and clothes that quite literally, have never met a hanger. This might just describe my kids, but teenagers are harder on a house than cats and dogs - or earthquakes for that matter . . .
More to the point, getting top dollar for a house (that is the goal, correct?) demands a fresh face, gleaming floors, professional staging, and yes, a neutral palette so that the new Buyer can begin to place themselves in the house, as opposed to focusing on your life in it.
Finally, as preparations go, painting is a relatively inexpensive fix that offers a potentially much larger return on your investment. Short of getting rid of your children, your pets, and your things (no, I'm not actually advocating that, EXCEPT when you decide to sell) OR, living like a monk, none of us live in a pristine house (nor should we; that would just be sad and lonely).
So get out the roller and paint brush, or better yet, hire a professional to quickly get the job done for you. These skillful trades people are well worth their weight in gold.
Hugo, can you come finish my dining room, please?
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.