Friday, January 16, 2015

Annals of Real Estate: Neutralizing

When you're getting your house or condo ready to go on the market, there are a number of common-sense things you should do, even if you're not going all out with renovating or staging it. First, it needs to be spotlessly clean in every nook and cranny. Second, it needs to be free of clutter, even inside closets and cabinets. Third, it needs to smell clean and nice. It shouldn't smell like, say, two-week-old kitchen garbage... although we did make an offer on just such a place last summer.

Our agent uses the term "neutralize" to describe how she prepares a property for sale, so that potential buyers can imagine themselves moving right in. She paints every room in soothing, non-descript shades and eliminates any furnishings or decorative items that have any character. In this category, I like to imagine her deep-sixing things like motorcycles in the living room (my brother has one); beer bottle collections; bead curtains; all macramé items; religious shrines and meditation teepees; wheelchairs, commodes and other hospital equipment; inflatable sex toys; posters of naked people, Michael Jackson, Barry Manilow, metal bands, etc.; taxidermy; pet snakes, rodents, and insects; and firearms. 

But in reality, if our agent found any of that stuff in a property she was listing, she'd probably faint in horror before arranging for somebody else to come in and remove the offensive objects. She combines solid business skills and experience with great sensitivity (and even a touch of squeamishness that I find endearing). Above all, she has gracious manners that never fail her, which is why we chose her out of maybe twenty contenders to be our agent. 

I happen to know that her real "removal" list is much more persnickety, including things like lace curtains, oriental rugs in bathrooms, Pottery Barn shower curtains and colored bath towels (only white will do). And my antique silver and live cat collections.

Whatever. She knows what she's doing and she's successful. She's also genuinely nice, which is the real reason we picked her. The poor woman has been stuck with us for five years now, and she's still really nice. I can't wait until she can get her hands on our apartment. I know she feels the same way.

But I digress....

Basically, before you put it on the market, your goal is to make your place resemble an elegant hotel suite. Luxurious but sparse. Tasteful but bland. This will be impossible for us to achieve until we've completely moved out. Then our agent will paint our walls white and beige and bring in rental furniture and accessories and do her magic. Personally, I have a hard time looking at such places — and many properties look like this these days — because I can't imagine myself living anywhere that's so devoid of color and character. 

Oh, well. I have no imagination. If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you already know that. 

A good agent will also insist that you put all of your personal photographs out of sight. This, too, is supposed to help potential buyers imagine themselves living in your rooms, rather than seeing them full of you and your gang. I suspect that it's really intended to keep potential buyers from laughing so hard at your wedding pictures that they get distracted from the business at hand. 

So when I spotted this photo on one of my many fruitless real-estate searches earlier this week, I had to wonder. I can only conclude that this kitchen must belong to a photogenic or narcissistic seller who felt that removing all the knobs from those lily-white cabinets had "neutralized" the place enough. I also wonder in there are more photos inside those odd little appliances. At least the sex toys are gone.

1 comment:

  1. We were in the market for a new house a few years ago and had NO idea how on earth we were going to sell the home we had with however many cats we had at the time (five? six?) and a couple of rooms full of fosters.. We beyond lucked out when we found the house we did, that it was open and available to move into, so we took out a second mortgage to pay off the closing costs, moved everyone to the new house and staged.. We would have been fried if the house took longer than a month or two to sell, but it was right before the housing bubble burst and we were able to nearly double our money on the house and it not only sold super quick but the people wanted to close and move in fast as well. Our Realtor said it was the fastest thing he ever went through..

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