"Your home is lovely," my GRUBB colleagues pointed out, "but you'll need to get rid of about 50% your tchotchkes." ('Tchotchkes!?!' Really? Now that's rather insulting.)
Having decided to sell my own home this Spring, I had invited the GRUBB Co. team over to price my house after the weekly Tuesday morning meeting. (Like most homes in Piedmont, it's fairly unique which makes it tough to accurately comp.) For the record, I already had packed away every family photo, had judiciously edited my collection of white Stoneware, had removed almost every book from the bookshelves and had erased nearly every trace of my family's human imprint, and yet . . . . (I'd really only wanted a pricing consultation, yet the HITS kept on coming . . . )
"I'd take out your oriental carpets and replace them with sisal rugs instead. You'll want to 'neutralize' your home as much as possible," the stager proclaimed. (I'm beginning to hate that word.) ENOUGH ALREADY! (I'd only invited her over for a consult on the OUTSIDE gardens.)
OMG (!) the process of selling a home is so much more invasive and offensive than I remembered. From the inspections to even the most well-intentioned opinions, it all feels so incredibly tortured, doesn't it? (I promise to be kinder to my Sellers from here on out.)
"Thank you," I tersely responded, "but I don't think so. While I appreciate and understand your intention, the last thing I want to do with respect to my own home, is to 'neutralize' it," I said. "If nothing else, shouldn't a home at least be 'personal'?" (No, not really.)
Here in lies the difficulty with most of the homes we bring to market these days. Having set the expectation of a fully-staged home, we have developed a tendency to liberally criticize those properties that aren't or don't look catalog ready - and with good reason.
Statistically, STAGED properties sell for much higher and create the public perception we want to convey: serene, uncluttered, elegant . . . (you get the picture) AND, more importantly, they allow the prospective Buyers to move themselves in and you out. In short, we want the Buyers focused on the house - not on the lovely things in it! True, a home should be 'personal' when we live in it. It should absolutely convey who we are, what we love, and how we live, BUT it should be much less 'personal' when we go to sell.
This is, after all, a BUSINESS TRANSACTION first and foremost. (It just doesn't feel like one.) Still, have we sacrificed the soul of the house to beige and blue? (Excuse me, I meant "Sahara Sand" and "Sea Glass." ) Are we to believe that no one reads anymore and that shelves should carry little more than a well placed piece of corral?
And what of those who aren't in a position to afford moving out prior to the sale and then incurring additional expenses for staging, painting, gardening, and carpet and window cleaning? Staging costs aren't insignificant, starting at about $5000 and quickly escalating from there, depending on the size of your home and the amount of furniture, art, and accessories that will need to be brought in.
Is there no reasonable middle ground? (Yes, there is.)
While some houses truly require a full-on intervention, others will only need some modest rearranging and some good editing to get the job done. My current listing on Alta Avenue in Piedmont used Edit/Style/Shoot for their staging and in the space of two days this dynamic team came in and did a remarkable job rearranging what was already there, editing what didn't fit, and bringing in new bedding, pillows, towels and a perfect chandelier to replace the over scaled one that had previously hung there. While the bones haven't been changed much, the experience in the home is dramatically different now and it photographed just beautifully. (Thank you ladies.)
So what's the moral of the story?
Knowing that doctors make the worst patients, lawyers, the worst clients, and Realtors, the worst, Sellers; I may have to follow my own advice which is to step back, emotionally disconnect, and get out of my own way. (There may be hope for me yet.) Most importantly, I have co-listed my home with my colleague, Jane Anderson, and I am going to let her hold my house open to the public - it's time to turn it over to the professionals. (Time take a dose of my own medicine . . .)
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 12 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.