That was a heck of a wind that whipped up on Monday night which meant that there was a fair amount of clean-up on Tuesday morning at the properties we represent. At 8 AM, I was at Mountain Avenue deactivating the alarm, sweeping the front steps, watering the pots, and turning the lights on when I was gratefully joined by Sarah's husband, John, a few moments later - electric blower in hand (Cliff was conveniently engaged), which freed me to meet Jill and Sarah for a color consultation at our next listing that's set to debut in a few weeks. Such is the life of real estate; it's always full of surprises . . .
Not that we're complaining, mind you; problem-solving comes with the territory, as does good old-fashioned elbow grease.
The truth is that a successful real estate practice requires not only a systematic approach combined with current technology, it also requires flexibility, anticipation, quick responses, teamwork, creativity, collaboration, service, and sometimes a good broom.
Years ago, a colleague called to complain that her Seller was upset that she hadn't swept up after a Sunday Open House.
"I'm happy to hire back the housekeeper," she explained, "but it seems unfair to expect me to clean her home come Monday morning."
Fair enough, but caring for the physical presentation of a property in what amounts to a very short period of time, doesn't seem to be beyond the call of duty. In fact, Jill, Sarah, and I make it a habit to leave a broom, mop, and vacuum at every house we represent, along with a tall kitchen trash can, a roll of paper towels, toilet paper in the bathrooms, and a bottle of Windex for the inevitable finger marks on the glass. Whether it's technically in the job description (or not) matters very little to the clients. If there are muddy footprints in the hallway, they matter every bit as much as negotiating the contracts in terms of what we do. And if we're gunning for top dollar (and we should be), shouldn't the place look as fresh for every showing appointment as the day it was photographed? (Yes, it should.)
In fact, Jill, Sarah, and I can frequently be found at Home Depot, Ace Hardware, and Devil Mountain Nursery. We understand we'll be pruning, potting, watering, dusting, sweeping, and mopping before a house is "camera ready." At times, we've also stenciled front porches, wallpapered entry halls and offices, touched up paint, planted beds, and waded through years of accumulated possessions while gently nudging a client towards the exit door (Okay, sometimes it's not so gentle, but we can't do our jobs with you there.) No worries, we'll check on the property daily, replace flowers as needed, change light bulbs, and do whatever else comes up (like HUGE winds!), because if you're signing a listing agreement that offers "full service," that's precisely what we mean. (We got this; you can focus on what's next.)
Of course, it doesn't hurt that Sarah and I have Jill as our full-time wingman (wingwoman) and concierge to oversee the vendors, drop off donuts, meet with stagers, coordinate the gardeners, organize the calendar, and keep track of the invoices. Jill is our not-so-secret weapon and frankly, we couldn't do the amount of work we do without her (and no, she's not available for hire - sorry.)
Nor could we do without the contractors, handymen, haulers, stagers, photographers, painters, floor refinishers, carpet cleaners, marketers, advertisers, web designers, drafters, window washers, house cleaners, etc. that we've curated throughout the years who help us make our homes not only shine but stand out from the pack. (It truly takes a village.) It's no accident that a staged home will never look better than when it's presented for sale. Without mail, catalogs, stacks of papers, clothes on the floor, toys strewn about, posters on the walls, shoes in the entry hall, or accumulated pet hair, dust bunnies, or weeds in the garden . . . we can better create the aspirational ideal of "home" that today's Buyers seek. (Once they move in, the narrative will undoubtedly change.)
When it comes to our homes, they've never been more important than they are right now, but they've also never been more "lived in," which means we have to replace the story of a chaotic household with one that presents as serene, inviting, and above all else, FRESH. If this sleight of hand involves a little - or A LOT - of sweeping, so be it. We know how to work a broom.
How can we 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.