Tuesday, September 18, 2007

House Hunting Heartburn

The search for a new house continues, now going into its 5th month. A few thoughts have struck me as we have slogged through the current housing market lo these past few months and that I wish to communicate to the many good people of Metro Boston who I am hoping will sell me their house. Consider it my Tim Gunn's Guide to House Selling Style.

1. The "downturn" has not yet reached Eastern Massachusetts. Or, at least, the memo that you can't ask $900,000 for 2,000 square feet of crap has yet to reach you, hasn't it? We have looked at so many places (by which I mean that I have sat in the car, only going in to see pre-vetted, empty homes) that have what realtors call "good bones" and "potential." Some with no central AC, some with windows from 1954, some with kitchen appliances from 1989. All in dire need of a $100,000 price reduction to be remotely saleable.

2. The three key elements of selling your property are location, condition and price. So if your house is in a great location and is in decent condition but still is not selling? You have to adjust your price. It's a sad, unjust but nonetheless accurate statement.

3. Your house is not worth what YOU think it is worth. It is worth what the market thinks it is worth. Believe me, having just sold my house in DC, I understand the feeling of "how can they offer me that 'low' price for this home? Look at all the work I put into it! My baby daughter slept in that room! We have so many great memories in this house! This house is a gem from top to bottom! I love this house and it's worth X and not a penny less." It's all true IN MY HEAD. But it's not true in the market.

4. If you really want to sell your house, remove about 2/3 of your belongings to storage. And take down the menorahs and crucifixes and family pictures. I don't come to see your house to see YOUR house; I come to see MY potential house. I can't see that if I'm seeing Jesus portraits in every single room, 42 pieces of furniture crammed into your master bedroom, or draperies that would not look out of place in Mary Tyler Moore's apartment. Just minimize, minimize, minimize so your house's charm can shine through. Oh--and if any part of your house description uses the words "wood paneling," or "chintz draperies" consider a small redecoration before listing the house.

5. And finally: there is no substitute for air freshener. No offense, but every family has a particular smell, every house has a particular smell that you don't even notice anymore because it's so intrinsically yours. Assume it contains traces of your dog, your feet, your BO, your laundry detergent, your funky fridge and your kids' belongings. Seriously. Assume your house has an odor that must be mitigated. Because if I can smell it gently through my N95 super-powerful 99% microbe-filtering mask (and I always do), you know it's punching healthy potential buyers in the face. And again, I can't picture your house as MY house if all I can smell is YOU.

Please take that in the kind, tender way in which it was intended.

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