On Wednesdays, Jill and I take turns visiting our mother in Sonoma to make sure she's got everything she needs. Given the limitations of social distancing, and now carless (as opposed to careless), our visits may be the only human contact Mom has all week. However, with one vaccination administered and the second scheduled for this weekend, we'll soon worry less about her ability to move around more freely. At 88, she's still got it (and then some), but none of us wants to see our loved ones fighting a Covid battle, or worse yet, losing it - especially so close to the end.
Once the errands are checked off, and lunch has been enjoyed, we'll usually sit down and work on a puzzle or two. Sometimes, it's an anacrostic or an anagram, but more often than not, it's a jigsaw puzzle. Mind you, growing up in a family that enjoyed playing games, our mother often had a puzzle set up in the corner of the living room, and all five sisters would take turns placing as many pieces as time allowed. Kathi usually hid a piece until the finish, which infuriated the rest of us, but after 50 years, I've finally let it go. Suffice it to say that all the women in my family appreciate a good jigsaw, even if some of us were downright sneaky about it. (Kathi.)
This week, my mother had begun a "Mystery puzzle;" which is a puzzle where there's no photograph on the box, and once finished, it provides clues to a question to be solved; tough enough in and of itself, but this box contained TWO puzzles, eight corners, eight sides, no dimensions, and no images. Consequently, setting up the frame was an exercise in trial and error.
"I think that side goes here . . ."
"Wait, wait, that's not right; try over there."
"Hmmm, what if we switched these two sections and moved these pieces up here . . . ahhh yes, that seems to work."
An hour and a half later, we had figured out the frame and I regrettably, took my leave.
Bringing houses to the market is a lot like these puzzles. They start out in a thousand pieces and can seem overwhelming at first. There's a fair amount of shifting and organizing that takes place while we put them together. They get easier as we get closer to the end, and after long hours of labor, a full and beautiful picture emerges. (Nobody bothers putting together an ugly puzzle.) If we're thorough, all the pieces are there and nothing is missing.
When it comes to Real Estate, we're doing our best to create images that are "Insta-worthy," and emotionally compelling; beautiful, fanciful, aspirational settings that draw Buyers out of their safe havens, into their cars, across the bridge, and over to our little corner of the world, AND in a world that's still in flux, that takes some motivating. As Sunday Opens have become a thing of the past, the only way to get eyeballs on a house is through the published photographs and videos ONLINE. If these photos have done their job, we can then convince prospective Buyers to view the properties in person (naturally, with Covid protocol in place). If the photos aren't inspiring, the Buyers will pass. (Why risk venturing out for a house that presents as mediocre?)
"But this light was here when we bought the house 20 years ago and it works fine. You don't really want to change that, do you?" (Yes, we do, and the paint, and the carpet, and . . .)
The important thing to remember when you're selling a house is that you are moving on. Notwithstanding your objections, if we were selling the house to you, we'd leave everything exactly as it is, but unless I'm wrong, I'm fairly certain that's NOT the case. Consequently, the next generation needs to be able to see themselves in a more youthful environment. In other words, we'll be wiping the slate clean and doing our best to present a fresh, hip, brighter, and trendier vibe. Just because you have "lived with it that way for years," doesn't mean that we shouldn't change it. In fact, that's probably why we should.
Like any good procrastinator, homeowners have a tendency to create workarounds for those things that perhaps were bothersome at first, but not enough to really correct, and then the years slip by and that annoyance just becomes part of the tolerated backdrop.
"We never liked that old carpeting on the stairs, but it didn't seem worth the trouble. . . "
We get it, but as we've yet to meet the home seller who doesn't want top dollar, the best way to assure you get it is to let us create an updated image. While it may be difficult to see the vision when we initially meet, give us the time and your permission to do what's necessary, and then stand back while we put it all together. We promise that our methods are both thoughtful and intentional. Moreover, we're not alone, we have skilled professionals that each takes their turns at the puzzle.
With each new piece, with each finished section, the picture begins to emerge, and when it does, just like a puzzle, it's incredibly satisfying and rewarding. But with this process, there's no mystery. Our calendar is arranged like a domino chain; one work crew follows another: repairs, paint, floors, lighting, gardening, cleaning, windows, and finally, staging to bring you a higher-end result. It's not a promise, but it's certainly our intention, and intentions count for a whole lot these days. In other words, we won't be hiding any pieces. (Kathi.)
How can we
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.