While I was frantically typing away last week (polishing up The Perspective - what else?) a very gracious and supportive colleague stopped by my desk and said, "You really should give up real estate and write The Great American Novel." (I'm flattered - were it only so easy.) Ha! "Forget the Great American Novel," I replied, "How about a good compelling 'beach read' instead? I'd be more interested in appealing to the masses, than in creating a great work of literary art!" (Really? The perfect sidestep for someone writing a weekly blog.)
Not that I didn't truly adore The Great Gatsby or that I don't aspire to the profound experience attributed to reading The Grapes of Wrath, it's just that when I find time to read for pure pleasure (what's that?) I am much more inclined to pick up Jodi Piccoult or Kelly Corrigan than F. Scott Fitzgerald or John Steinbeck. Literary masterpieces aside, I'm really most content with a good compelling beach read. (And I'm not ashamed to admit it. For me, it's all about an interesting story line . . .)
This same philosophy holds true for each of my listings as well. When prepping a home for sale, my intention is to appeal to the masses - not the few. As much as you love the photographs of your sun-kissed vacations, your unique Renaissance mask collection or the kid's colorful art school projects, your home really should be less a reflection of your lifestyle and more an invitation for current cultural dreams, desires and expectations. (You wouldn't wear blue jeans to a fancy dress ball - would you?)
Dress balls aside, keep in mind that your home is competing against other "staged' properties and it will be measured against them. Will it lead or follow the pack? Let me gently encourage you to pack away those stuffed animals, gymnastic trophies, avant-garde sculpture and your beloved collection of Mickey Mouse memorabilia. Perhaps you will need to change your daughter's lavender and lime green walls, take down the floral wallpaper in the bathroom, remove the swag curtains and dismantle the science projects in your son's room. (sorry kids).
Quite often, I may encourage you to paint, garden and fully stage your home so that it's barely recognizable to you or to anyone in your family (even the family dog). Let's face it - the entire home sale process is incredibly invasive and inconvenient at best.
Take heart. It's only temporary!
Once a ratified contract is in place and ALL of the contingencies have been removed, you can put your children's pen-and-ink drawings back on the walls, return the La-Z-Boy to it rightful location in the den and pull out the X-Box once again.
In short, you can resume life as you know it - after the sale is complete.
While your home has a great story to tell - it probably needs some good editing (even Hemingway had an editor). Take my word that the outcome will be much more advantageous toYOU when the story I portray relates to the open-and-airy floor plan, the lush inviting garden, the impromptu dinner parties, the close-knit community, the easy commute, the access to fine dining, the nearby running trails, and the craftsmanship and quality of your home - as opposed to your personal memoirs and the attachments you have developed to them.
When the stager and I create an inviting backdrop (the compelling beach read!) prospective buyers can begin to envision their life in your home - and that's the goal. Once they mentally move in their furniture, you are well on your way to a sale. Conversely, when buyers can't place the flat screen TV, the Queen-sized bed or the French armoire in a room, you have probably lost them. With all due respect to your history and how you have occupied the home, this mental move is more easily accomplished without your grandmother's portrait or your collection of early Americana proving to be more interesting than the house itself.
While you undoubtedly have lived the Great American Novel, the final outcome and result is typically far better when we create a compelling, page-turning story instead; the kind a buyer can't wait to finish - or put down!
Who's ready for the beach now?
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.