"Are the new lights throwing you?" Jill asked. "I know they're big." (It's a BIG house and it called for over-scaled lighting in a few key areas.)
"Kind of," the homeowner replied, "They are just so different than what we had before."
"Wait until the staging arrives," Jill assured this lovely but slightly nervous Seller who had agreed to nearly 30 light replacements in his spacious home," and I think you'll see that it makes more sense." (Which is exactly what happened.)
"It's beautiful!" concluded our grateful client. (Thank you, we think so too.)
To be fair, we know it's upsetting to many home sellers to witness the removal of their crystal chandeliers, ceiling fans, or the wrought-iron pendants that have often been hanging in the home for years - if not decades - especially if they seem to fit the style of the house, be it a Craftsman Bungalow, Tudor Revival, or Mid-Century Modern. But unless your home is Downton Abbey or the Palace of Versailles, chances are yesterday's lighting is aging it.
"But this IS an older home," another Seller protested.
True, but there's a difference between, historic, storied, legacy, OR old, passe, and dusty . . . .
Here's the good news, lighting is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to quickly update a house no matter its age. With the advent of all things online, there have never been more affordable choices (not all of them good), which is to say, "let there be light!"
The real trick is pairing good design with reasonable prices. (Expensive lighting is easy to secure.) That's where our project manager comes in and she's honed her skills to a fine art. Jill will scan the internet for hours selecting just the right pendants to hang over the kitchen island or central staircase, hit the Serena and Lily Outlet bright and early to pick up what's on sale, or dog ear catalogs that come in the mail for inspiration. If Jill, Sarah, or I come across a bargain at the Alameda Flea Market or while on 4th Street, we'll buy it for future use. (They all find a home eventually.)
Preparing a house for sale requires a certain attention to detail and a discerning eye. It's human nature that many of the "issues" we intend on fixing ultimately become simply a part of the backdrop, i.e. stains in the carpet, failed glass in the windows, or chipped kitchen cabinets to name a few. The vast majority of us stop seeing the defects we live with every day. (No, this is not a crack about my husband.) In fact, for most people, if there are working bulbs in the fixtures, that's just fine. (Okay, that part does describe Cliff.) AND it IS fine, until you go to sell your house, at which point a Realtor steps across the threshold, sees the house as a prospective Buyer will see it (critically!), and starts creating a "To Do" list, which often includes, painting, gardening, staging, and new interior and exterior lights . . . .
Offensive? We certainly hope not.
Will these improvements net you more money when you go to sell? Count on it.
Remember, good staging, including good lighting is about so much more than just the furniture and lights; we're creating a visual and compelling narrative. (Nobody actually lives that way once they move in.) With respect to this featured scenario, the story for this listing is hip, cool, organized, inviting, and bright. For another house, we might highlight family gatherings, team parties, or movies out back, but whatever the direction, it's always improved by good lighting.
So if you love the crystal chandelier that's been passed down through the family, or the Venetian pendant you picked up while honeymooning in Italy, OR that heavily beaded lamp shade, by all means take them with you to the next property and enjoy. It's your house and what you live with is certainly up to you, BUT how we present your home to the buying public should be left to us.
If you can remember that the Buyers are likely to be from an entirely different generation with an entirely different aesthetic, it may make it easier to understand that what's cool to them, is also quite different than what you may prefer. In the grand scheme of things, and considering the prices we expect, what's the problem with a few new light fixtures?
Let there be light!
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 17 years and has published more than 650 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.