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The market is hot, it’s time to sell. Make hay while the sun shines. But wait – it’s a whole new game, and if you haven’t moved for a while, you are in for a big shock.
The moment you go to put your house on the market, you discover that 30 years of prized possessions are considered “clutter” by the professional stager whose advice and services are provided, not always for free, courtesy of your real-estate agent. Apparently no one can sell a house unless it’s been staged, so just be thankful the stager doesn’t want you to clear the entire place and rent new furniture, since yours is “somewhat dated.”
This paragon of contemporary style descends upon you early one morning, full of great cheer but also barely concealed contempt for how you live.
Your living room, which previously seated 10 people, is reduced to four pieces of furniture – two lonely chairs, a couch and a minuscule coffee table are strategically located in the centre of the room to depict a “conversation area.”
And then the bewildering purging continues throughout the entire house. Easy chairs, bureaus, bookcases – all are ordered out with unseemly abandon. You take notes to keep it all straight. Your husband develops a conspicuous red flush creeping up his neck. You hope he doesn’t say something rude.
You must remove every rug to “showcase” the hardwood floors, making the house sound like an eerie echo chamber when anyone walks around in hard-soled shoes. But never mind, everyone who comes into your house will have to remove their shoes – house-hunting etiquette. When someone slips on the polished floors and falls, whose insurance covers that?
Next, empty the china cabinet except for one ugly vase and a couple of tasteless figurines that meet her approval, and put fresh flowers on the dining-room table. It would be prudent to spend a week’s salary on real flowers for most rooms – replacing them frequently, of course. And don’t choose ones with a scent, in case potential buyers have allergies.
A basket of fresh lemons and limes must be on the kitchen counter, but nothing else. Get rid of the ancient and reliable toaster lest someone see the thick electrical cord and think there is something wrong with the wiring. Remove just about everything in the kitchen cupboards, leaving only enough plates for two – without dessert. And, by the way, paint the inside of the cupboards so they look “fresh.”
Consider removing the wallpaper, since no one likes it any more. Your 100-year-old house with its 100-year-old plaster walls have an inevitable assortment of ancient cracks and nicks that will need extensive repairs before painting.
Your husband balks at this idea, inciting more thinly disguised snorts from the stager and the suggestion that the “wallpaper situation” could knock off $50,000 from any offers you might receive.
The bedrooms are too crowded, the lamps are not right and you don’t make your beds in a way that is “inviting.”
The third-floor attic (“unspoiled loft” in real-estate jargon, but really a storage space) nearly causes a total collapse of civility. “Oh my! What a disaster!” is the uncharitable comment. Everything must go. Set it up like a sitting room so people can see the “possibilities,” and wall-to-wall carpeting up there would certainly be an asset because the floor is “rather ummm ...”
The lower level – the cellar – is another “Oh my!” Paint the floor and also the walls. Don’t paint the floor grey – too cold. Use a warmer shade because people will be down here in their stockinged (or bare) feet. Remove the auxiliary (beer) fridge.
Remove the doors on various rooms, though thankfully not the bedrooms or bathrooms. Remove your clothes from the closets to make them look bigger. Take down the curtains in every room to enhance the view (of the neighbours?) and plan to get undressed in the dark for the duration.
Get rid of the stereo because it makes the family room look small. Apparently everyone now has enormous furniture, so you need to trick them into thinking it will fit.
Have all this done in a week so the agent can start the showings.
Calm your husband down.
Rent a storage locker for all the decluttered possessions and rent a van and a strong young man to move it all. Get to be on a first-name basis with the people at the local dump and the Goodwill depot. Dip into the line of credit to make all the changes, and hope to God that you recoup the money in the sale, the wallpaper situation notwithstanding.
Prepare to be banished from your home while it is being shown – which can happen at a moment’s notice. Hide the dog dish and leave no sign behind that you live – and especially cook – there.
Hope that you don’t have a divorce before the place is “snapped up.” Alternatively, wait, because the place is now so unappealing that no-one wants to buy it. That’s the way to sell a house in the 21st century.
Catherine White sold her house and moved to Cobourg, Ont.