In most of the pictures of homes for sale that I had seen in recent years, all I could see was empty rooms. I kept wondering if people were still living there given how sparsely they were decorated. And if they were living there, where was their stuff?
I have seen enough HGTV network shows to know that some people have a hard time visualizing themselves in a home. And frankly, I have yelled at the TV in exasperation when buyers reject a whole house because of a paint colour or because the drapes were blue.
But I do understand that during a showing, prospective buyers aren’t interested in seeing the story of André. They need to see their own storyline, and their own needs and wants for the home to strike the right chord. For that reason, some decluttering is needed.
While I wouldn’t consider myself a pack rat, I am not a minimalist either. Like most people, I have stuff.
So the burning question: where does people’s stuff go to make the house look that empty and how much effort will it take for me to get there?
Fortunately, over the last years, I witnessed a shift in my own mindset, less focused on possessions and more focused on experiences. Along the way, I have indeed been chipping away at the stuff, shredding old papers, donating gently used belonging and tossing things that were past their prime for anyone to reuse. Was that enough effort for staging purposes? Probably not.
But where it gets complicated is how much more do I need to edit out, and can I do it without throwing out my degenerating disc in between arthritic flare ups in my hands… the joys of being over 50!
That was where I needed to rely on the wisdom and experience of my agent to have a good look around the house and to offer me a prioritized to-do list to get the house ready.
The morning that my agent was coming to tour the house, I was worried that my breakfast wouldn’t stay down. I was just that nervous. And despite my pre-staging decluttering, as she wandered from room to room, I could sense that the to-do list was getting longer by the minute. Nonetheless, my clipboard was loaded with paper and ready for me to follow her around and to take note of all of her recommendations.
The moment she said, “OK, let’s go through the house together” I nearly jumped out of my skin like when a teacher says, “Pencils down!” during a surprise pop quiz and there are still some questions unanswered.
As we started going through the house room by room, she recited her suggestions and I thought to myself either “OK, that’s easy!” or “No surprise there, I expected that” to the point that when we got to the last room I thought, “Is that it?”
For some reason, I hadn’t noticed that my house was much farther along than I thought. The closets and cupboards that were meticulously reorganized over the years outnumbered the ones that weren’t there yet, so very little additional effort was required in that department.
And what I enjoyed most was that she even had a few optional suggestions that started with “if you have time…” so I wouldn’t need to sweat about those until the last moment, if indeed time and energy permitted.
The optional one that seemed the easiest to me was, “If you have time, change the plastic doorknobs to metallic ones”. Having changed the doorknob hardware in the “eyesore door” last summer, I confidently added it to the list. I agreed that this was a little detail that would go a long way.
One step that seemed daunting to me was renting a space in a self-storage facility and thinning out the amount of furniture in my place. But the rationale provided was that the rooms in question would feel bigger and would appeal better to prospective buyers.
I hoped to avoid having to do that, but if we must, we must.
The reasoning totally made sense, but how would the cat deal with her two favourite napping chairs sent into storage? Time will tell.
In some ways, it was an ambitious list, but in other ways it could have been worse. Either way, with the photographer coming in a few days to take photos for the real estate listing, there was no time to waste.
The days that followed were jam-packed. After putting in a full day at work, it was evening after evening of keeping a close eye on the clock, multi-tasking between paint touch ups, last minute fixes and tossing things into bankers’ boxes and hiding them in the basement, out of sight.
Despite fatigue starting to set in, the adrenaline was pumping hard, to the point that the short nights didn’t seem to faze me, but I knew I would pay for it later.
The best part was that the “type A” part of me that likes a neat and tidy home was completely unleashed. It was an opportunity to legitimately obsess about little details to try to maximize the appeal of the home on every level.
I was delighted that even though the night before the house was listed, I was up way past my bedtime still painting, I had reached the finish line. Not only did I complete most of the tasks my agent asked me to do to prepare for staging, but this was the end of home renovations for this house. Normal cleaning and maintenance will continue, of course, but the reno to-do list was done!
It was a very bittersweet moment to approach the shredder and to initiate the ceremonial shredding of the index cards with the never ending list of home improvements. This was also a big step in the psychological detachment from this house that had been my home for so many years.
I was too tired and too dehydrated to shed a tear by this point.
But now the sale was in the hands of the universe. It was time for a good night’s sleep and to buckle up for the requests for showings.
To return to episode 2 of “The Housing Market Roller Coaster”, click here.
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