A few years ago, my wife and I were given the task of selling her parents’ home since they had moved out to enjoy the greater ease of assisted living. But Bert, my wife’s dad, wasn’t keen on the idea at first. “I don’t want to be around a bunch of old people,” he declared. He said he preferred to hang out with younger folks—around 93 years of age like himself.
But with their house empty, Bert and his wife became intent on selling—so we met with a real estate agent to get things started. The agent seemed nice enough—except for his too eager smile and sweaty upper lip. Come to think of it, the lower lip was pretty sweaty too.
The house, nice but smallish, was valued at around $250,000. Bert wanted to set the price a bit higher at, say, $1.3 million. We found a compromise and got the process underway.
“Staging” a house is very big these days in real estate circles. It’s a good way of attracting potential customers—and creating what is known as “curb appeal.” Once you’ve got the curbs looking good, it’s time to move indoors.
Most people these days have become sophisticated enough to decipher the jargon they see in real estate ads. For example, they know that “cozy” means the house is so cramped that even the family pets have to stoop over.
A “peek-a-boo view” is one you have to climb to the top of the chimney to see.
“Rustic” means dry rot has set in.
“Fixer-upper” often means that the house is actually a “tearer-downer.”
But there are also some time-honored tricks to selling a home. Experts advise people to a checklist including these suggestions:
Always make the interior of the home look clean and presentable. For example, get rid of any weeds that may be growing in your living room. Other turnoffs are bullet holes, bloodstains on the carpet—and chalk outlines of human forms on the hardwood floor.
Mow the grass regularly—both on the roof and in the yard.
A few minor problems might be overlooked, but if there is more than four or five
inches of standing water in the house, even a novice homebuyer will balk.
Remember that potential customers are often put at ease by the infusion of pleasant fragrances in the house. These comforting smells include potpourri, flowers or the wafting of fresh-baked bread. Less appealing is smoke, old eggs and feet.
But those ideas may be passé’ by now—and have gone right out the double-pane window. That’s because home sellers are discovering a more creative and even bolder staging concept. At least that’s the gist of a story I saw on TV the other day—so you know it gist must be true.
Here’s the idea: Some real estate companies have begun to hire human models and actors to augment the staging of a house. In other words, to better help house shoppers picture themselves actually living there, stand-ins are used. The actors’ jobs are pretty simple: Make the house sound, look and feel like a real household.
Such a staging plan might go like this:
You—a potential home buyer—and your real estate agent enter the house and immediately hear a woman’s voice yell loudly from a backroom: “Don’t drag your dirty shoes over the carpet! Take ‘em off! And shut that door!? Are you trying to heat the whole neighborhood?!”
Next, as you move through the family room, you might notice an older man—perhaps
Grandpa—sitting on a sofa reading the sports section of a newspaper, and shaking his head. He’s muttering something about “the #@$!!&! Mariners.”
In the far corner behind grandpa, a dog is bent over a cat litter box—intently devouring something that looks like—but is not—Almond Roca.
Then, as you pass through the kitchen, a woman (perhaps the one you heard yelling when you first entered the house) is chasing two young kids from the room—while shouting: “I don’t know why I even bother to buy food for you kids—because all you do is eat it!”
The kitchen sink is piled high with dirty dishes, apparently waiting for them to wash themselves—and there’s a cat on the counter keeping its rear end warm by sitting directly on the middle of a just-out-of-the-oven pie.
Meanwhile, an actor playing the part of Dad is sitting in the family room, holding a beer in one hand and a TV remote in the other. He may or may not be wearing pants.
OK, that’s how I would stage a home.
They say you should always go with what you know.