"I'd love to get a little more aggressive with your skin," Irena politely said, examining my face as if it were a science experiment. There's a lot of damage here . . ." I should preface this by saying that the lovely Irena is blemish and wrinkle free. She has the kind of stunning, olive-skinned complexion reserved for those who have been blessed with terrific genes, coupled with diligent care and an avoidance of the sun, AND a lilting, Russian accent that makes her very exotic to boot. I'd hate her if I didn't like her so much.
Her age . . . is anybody's guess. Not me. I grew up in hot, hot, HOT Sacramento, where my sisters and I spent entire summers at the swimming pool and as a result, my skin has freckles I've never outgrown; more Annie Oakley than Elizabeth Taylor. What's more, my daily skin-care regiment consists of a bar of soap and if I remember, a dab of moisturizer. In short, I have the skin I deserve. I blame my mother.
"Okay, let's do it," I replied as she reved up the laser and put on the eye shields . . . And then I spent a week shedding my old skin like some hideous amphibian, waiting to emerge like a beautiful butterfly. (Don't look now, but I think I'm still in the moth stage.) Such is life (and aging). No pain, no gain.
So, here's the Real Estate tie in (I know you've been waiting) . . . Often when I'm invited over to someone's house to assess their home for purposes of resale, there's often a bit (or a lot) of aging that's taken place with the home. (Don't fret, you're not alone.) Early plans to remodel the bathroom or the kitchen invariably got put on hold or waylaid altogether in favor of things like uhhh, college tuition or paying taxes. That's simply life - and taxes.
There's no getting around some of these more expensive obligations (such as our kids). Ditto with respect to your home. Replacing the roof is never fun, but when you delay, it can lead to much more expensive repairs down the road (like extensive dry rot). In short, deferred maintenance can really penalize you in the long run.
When you finally go to sell, those items you have conveniently overlooked or learned to live with (i.e: stained carpet or peeling paint) should be addressed if receiving top dollar is your intended goal. And let's be real, I've yet to meet the Sellers where receiving TOP DOLLAR wasn't the intended goal.
"How much will I get?" every Seller earnestly asks.
To which I usually reply: "I can't guarantee you a particular outcome, but I can't begin to get close unless we do X, Y and Z . . ."
At which point, I outline an aggressive strategy for marketing and selling that almost always involves painting and staging, and some not-so-gentle persuasion. Frankly, there's no easy way to tell Sellers that their home needs an intervention. Or if there is, I haven't yet found it, but I'm certainly of little value to you if I'm not being truthful and putting your fiduciary interests front and center.
Gratefully, my Sellers usually capitulate once they weigh the possible outcomes and start checking off the "To Do" list in short order. Mind you, they are often spending a fair amount of money in the process (no pain, no gain) but it's almost always worth the extra effort and dollars - especially where photos and Internet marketing are concerned (just take a peek at: www.grubbco.com).
"Wow, I didn't even recognize my home." one Seller excitedly exclaimed recently, "I actually thought I'd walked into the wrong house!"
Indeed, my team had made some incredible changes in the space of one month, including two brand new bathrooms (Thank you, "Bath Simple") fresh paint, professional staging, power washing, and new plantings that quite literally, transformed the look of the home and elevated the gardens to an entirely different level. As a result, this lovely home is likely to sell in one week - and it should. Mr. Seller did everything I asked, was highly "coachable" and ultimately, leaned into the process, which made the journey infinitely easier on everyone involved: www.4434clarewood.com .
The moral of the story?
Why wait until you sell!?!
Thus, I've been on a mission with my own home and while the kitchen is still a dream-in-the-making, the bathrooms are finally finished; there's a new roof in place and we've just finished painting the exterior. Last week, the windows were professionally washed and the bricks are now free of moss! I'm methodically tackling each item as they come up, and no, I'm not employing my husband, Cliff, to do any of these chores (I've discovered that hiring window washers is cheaper than employing a marriage counselor.)
Happily for us both, I've a long list of vendors to fill in the gaps and they always appreciate the work, unlike my teenage son. (Please let me know if you need any referrals; they're worth their weight in gold.)
Now that Spring is here and the cherry trees are in bloom, I have to admit, the sweat equity (and the dollars) have made a noticeable difference. It's pretty darn beautiful around our place. One day, I'll finally get around to the kitchen remodel (hopefully, well before I sell) and yes, it will undoubtedly be expensive. Sigh, that's life. No pain, no gain.
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.