Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Man’s Home is his Castle

     A man’s home is his castle.
     Until he puts it on the real estate market to sell it.
     Then it’s an open house for total strangers to come in, walk around, peek and probe, ridicule and criticize.
     The internet has dramatically changed how homes are marketed these days. Now, potential buyers can go on-line to a 360-degree camera view of your entire house, room by room, including the outside. The camera lens would make even a closet look like a cavernous gymnasium, every edge rounded and extended. When I first saw our house this way, I thought they shot the wrong house! Add the soothing music that accompanies the video, if you lean in close enough, you can just catch the faintest wisp of a home-made apple pie cooking in the oven.

     But before you even get to the pretty pictures and marketing, you’ll need to remove the clutter in your house. What is clutter? Pretty much anything and everything in your house that you treasure, and make the house feel distinctly like your home. Gone are the precious family photos hanging on the walls. Hide those knick-knacks, candles, and plants. Box up your movies, CDs, and books. And for God’s sake, make your bathrooms spotless---re-caulk every nook and cranny, put the shampoo, conditioner and soap under the sink. No towels should hang anywhere. Kitchens ought to look as sterile as an operating room.
       The barer the house, the better. If your house looks like no one has ever lived there, let alone lives there now, you get the idea.

     Now it’s time for the showings. That’s the time when every realtor who’s ever gotten a license can make an appointment to come to your house any day or night of the week with strangers who may or may not have the money to buy your house. Like the cable company, they make appointments in two or three hour blocks. At first, we’d all high-tail it out of there for two hours. Then as we got more used to the process, we’d wait until they’d ring the doorbell and then rush out the back door, dog in tow, to lurk across the street in the park or park up the street in the car. From both vantage points, we’d watch the front door, waiting for them to leave, so we could go home. If they stayed too long, we were mad, because we were inconvenienced. If they stayed too short, we were insulted because we figured they didn’t like what they saw.
     One Sunday night, 20 minutes after the showing window closed, and just after I opened a cold beer and started the barbecue, a realtor showed up with a whole family including 3 kids. I hate to admit it but as I backed out of the drive-way, I caught the realtor’s eye and tapped my wrist-watch menacingly. By the time I got back, my beer was warm.
     The dog, however, loved the whole process for all the walks he got.
     These days, almost immediately after the showings, you can go on-line to view the potential buyers and realtor comments about your house. But be prepared to be insulted!
      “The yard was too big.”
      “The yard is too small.”
      “Oh, I didn’t like the pre-fab cabinets.”
      “Loved the two-story windows that opened to the backyard.”
      “Hated those high windows—where are the blinds?”

     After failing to sell my house for 6 months, and about 150 showings, and investing about $10,000 in upgrades, I called our realtor up and told him to yank the sign out of the yard. Immediately after that, I grabbed a hammer and hung back the family portrait over the mantle, grabbed a cold beer and fired up the barbecue, because after all, a man’s home is his castle.



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