AS I WAS SAYING (five months ago)….

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Selling a house/condo/apartment takes fakery, the same kind of fakery as selling almost anything else in a market economy, including yourself.  But you read all about faking the “anything else” in my last post. ( “Faking It,” February 2, 2017.)  So let’s move on to profitable unloading of real estate.  Very few people wanting to buy seem to be really clear about what they’re looking for.  Oh, they may say it’s location — location, location, as the realtors are wont to chant ad nauseam. Or square footage.  Or number of rooms. Or a sunny kitchen. Or a good public school for the children.  And it may well be some or all of those things are what they hope for. But when the realtor shows them the location, the footage, the rooms, the sun on the breakfast table (not so easy in itself), they will still dither and waffle and toe the sand and think about it. And think about it. And think about it.  And get back you. Maybe.

For a speedy sale you’ve got to enchant them, open their minds to a fairy tale life:  the life they imagine they could have in your house/condo/ apartment. Of course they never will have that life. Nobody does.  Nobody keeps their kitchen counters immaculately empty except  for one perfect appliance (perhaps a Museum of Modern Art toaster) and a charming French pot of herbs near the window. Nobody’s stove top is free of cooking utensils, except for a little red enamel teakettle. Nobody’s rooms are junk-free, emptied of detritus, piles of this and that on the floor, children’s toys, cat trees, litter boxes. Almost nobody’s bathroom counters aren’t crammed with toothbrushes, mouthwashes, beauty aids, Kleenex boxes, deodorant, Q-tips.

But you can play let’s pretend.  You can be the fairy godmother who transports your potential buyer into never-never land. Of course, it’ll take more than just airily waving a wand to whisk away all the imperfections of real life.  You’ll have to pile the kitchen stuff in the oven, in the broom closet, in the dishwasher.  You’ll have to buy some Sterilite boxes and sweep the bathroom mess into them, for storage under the sink.  You’ll have to clear the tops of your furniture except  for one or two really good decorative objects.  You’ll have to polish those tops till they shine. Into the closets with everything else! Then up with the shades, on with the lights! Let everything be bright and cheery and uncluttered and clean! That’s what modern fairy godmothers do.

I learned about this sleight-of-hand back in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2005, when I sold a condo all by myself for the very first time. I was beginning to tell you about it in that last post  — published, alas, much too long ago. That was a post designed to set us up (in its “To be continued” promise), for an account of my second sale, which was of the condo Bill and I lived in together for ten years, until he died. That second sale would have the logical next chapter in the ongoing saga of my life after his death. However, the ongoing-ness interfered with the blog. (I won’t explain, except to say there was too much happening at once, too soon, to digest and write about it.)

And now that I’m a year past the worst of it, even selling our home last year has become stale news.  So let me summarize quickly:  The Cambridge sale in 2006 was a great success. I had bought that first condo (two bedrooms, one bath) for $200,000, lived in it for eleven years (the last four with Bill), and sold it (after learning to play fairy godmother) for between two and three times what I’d bought it for.  True, I sold in a rising market.  But still…. There was even a bidding war after the first open house.  Two potential buyers even asked if they could also buy everything in it, it looked so nice, so ready-to-move-into.  (And this “everything” was mostly my mother’s old furniture and knick-knacks, from the 1960’s). With that kind of success, “staging” (aka faking it) was a lesson I didn’t forget.

A couple of photos should give you an idea of what that Cambridge condo apartment looked like in its “wouldn’t it be nice if” fairy-tale period, until the closing:

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Looking into Cambridge dining room from living room (after staging).  Portion of living room in photo below.

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Thus, when it came time to sell the Princeton condo last year, I knew just what to do. In a way it was easier without Bill, although being without him was why I had to sell; we didn’t have to argue about where to put what where.  There was a garage and half the basement for storage (we’d turned the other half into a furnished room); we already had a lot of Sterilite boxes in multiple sizes; and I did a lot of dragging things up and down stairs on my own, to tuck them out of sight. Then the realtor brought in a professional photographer.  He put the camera on the floor. “Why is he doing that?” I asked.  “It makes for better pictures,” the realtor whispered.

It sure did. I may have played the role of fairy godmother to my property; the photographer played fairy godfather.  His camera placement and wide-angled lens turned a modest, nicely furnished condo, now “staged,” into a magical dream.  Who wouldn’t want to live there? Even though I knew how much trickery had gone into what we produced together, I loved his pictures so much I bought a set, to keep forever and forever after they vanished from the internet, post-sale.  Although it never really looked like this when Bill and I lived there with our two British Blue cats (their grey hairs over everything, their litter scattered on the bathroom floors), I could imagine, couldn’t I?  For one shining moment (e.g., ten days), this beautifully spacious sunlit dream house was mine.

There was another bidding war.  I don’t know what the successful buyer was thinking when she offered the slightly inflated asking price. But I didn’t ask. I needed her money to buy myself and the cats a much smaller apartment — one bedroom with “den” (a separate room, although minus a closet) — in an over-55 community, and then fix it up to my liking. (Wood floors, white walls, more lights, etc.) So I busied myself with that.  It’s where I’m living now.  A very different kind of place, and a different kind of life. I’m sure you’ll be hearing at least something about it in future posts.

But I still have the photos of what 35 McComb looked like through the photographer’s camera eye just before its sale. And although I know it’s not really a good idea to keep looking back — I might turn into a pillar of salt  — I do take those photos out from time to time.  So you’ll have to see them too, to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s. The front door is at the top of the post.  You can leave whenever you like.  I left out photos of the three bathrooms and the laundry room, so as not to overtax your indulgence. But if you do stay till the end of the tour, just remember — this is what “faking it” looks like:

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fullsizeoutput_9c6fullsizeoutput_9c2fullsizeoutput_9bdfullsizeoutput_9b9fullsizeoutput_9b7fullsizeoutput_9b6fullsizeoutput_9b5All the same, and even when you’re too old for fairy tales, a little make believe is nice….. (Sigh.)

 

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21 thoughts on “AS I WAS SAYING (five months ago)….

  1. Nina, I’ve thought about you and wondered how you were doing? Now I know! Nice to read news! Love the fairy godmother humor. Spot on with faking it, make believe staging to sell. Gorgeous photos. Thought I’d have to declutter books, but see you kept the bookshelves full. Planning to sell in two years. Photography tricks the key! Look forward to more posts. 🌺🌷🌸 Christine

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clear the floors of books, Christine. (Bill had piles of them all around his favorite places to sit). But do leave them arranged nicely on the shelves. The trick is to make what you’re selling look “lived in” — although by scrupulously, inhumanly, neat people. Thank you, too, for the “welcome back” bouquet of emojis!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Just yesterday I visited your blog to see if you were posting and it wasn’t showing up for me and I saw the “to be continued” with no further posts. Glad you’re ok. Your old condo was beautiful. I love the pops of red color throughout. I have been very successful selling houses because I believe what you say. You have to play to their fantasies. One of my houses (I sold myself for 30% more than a realtor said I’d ever get for it) had a kitchen that was sort of French country (when that was the thing). There was a wall of baskets and it was lovely. Fast forward. Sold the house. Stopped by after they moved in and saw that she had put baskets on my wall but without any sense of style or proportion. I didn’t care. I had my money and was on with my life. I hate selling houses because I don’t like the intrusion on my life. I also hate cleaning the kitty litter twice a day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s lots to hate about the selling process, Kate, including having to run away and hide whenever your property is being shown. On the other hand, as you know, no pain, no gain. Yes, our condo was beautiful — even in its messy, more lived-in incarnation — and we were happy in it. Its look was the result of both of us living there. I loved red, he loved orange and yellow (and sunflowers), we bought the modern furniture together — and whenever I drive by now and see an ugly standing lamp in front of the living room window, plus two unfamiliar big SUVs in the driveway, I have to shudder a little. I guess everything is ephemeral in the end, even us. That’s where the photos (and blog) can help ease us along down the road to wherever.

      Four cats, and you only clean the litter box(es) once a day? I have only two, and I scoop up every time I sit on the john, even when I’m not selling anything!

      Liked by 1 person

      • One is in the basement and it’s not a traditional one. It’s quite large. Bigger than 4 standard ones. It’s in a small room with an exhaust fan. There is also one in the upstairs cat room which get’s scooped at least twice a day. Sometimes more often when they go upstairs instead of in the basement.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I occasionally walked past your blog still in my list of ‘favourites,’ wondering how you were going, yet did not delete…, in the hope of your return. And now you did.
    Yes, those real estate agents are masters in making places look palatial with their large lenses and beady moneyed eyes. Glad you sold so well.
    You have beautiful paintings and did I see etchings as well? ‘Come in and look at my etchings,’ is a cliché but it would be nice.

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    • Oh Gerard, you always did know how to say the nicest things, and you still do! Paintings yes, etchings no (alas), but three charcoal drawings of nudes that might appeal. “Come in and look” would indeed be nice, but hardly practicable, all things considered, including that most of them are in storage for my sons and there’s not so much left on my many fewer walls. Still……:)

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  4. Rita Stewart

    Hi Nina: I loved this piece! A couple of years ago, I wanted to
    sell my house, thinking I would “downsize:, like a lot of oldies
    think they want to do. I actually put my house on the market,
    and also had it “staged”…when I saw the brochure, I too thought…wow what a delightful house and it looked like that
    fairy tale image of the house “in the country” that can
    fill all of our dreams. When we looked at condos, (and they
    were outrageously expensive, with less space, those fairy
    tale pictures of my house looked better and better!!
    So I took it off the market and am now living again in a slightly
    used, messy fairy tale!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Like old friends, all of us can pick up right where you left off without skipping a beat. I love the photos and can see why you would want to have them as mementoes. I imagine your new nest is warm and comfortable too.

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    • I hope we’re all old friends by now, Janet. Picking up where I left off is harder. I’m still figuring out who I am, minus the other half of me, and what I’m doing in this community of what Rita calls “oldies”, where I now live. So we’ll have to see where the blog will take me from here. Even I don’t know!

      Liked by 1 person

    • That was over a year ago now, Maggie. I’m well over the surface shock, but privately missing him when I’m by myself with the cats in the apartment doesn’t really go away, and perhaps never will. So I gladly accept your condolences, however belated…..

      P.S. If you’re interested, there’s a four or five-post account of it all beginning about eight posts back, with “My Darling Bill Is Dead.”

      Liked by 1 person

    • And good to hear from you again, Shimon. The “apartment” in the photos you so kindly compliment was (is) actually a three floor condo, called a “town house” over here. A Chinese-American woman and her four-year-old daughter live in it now, without all the furniture, pictures and rugs with which Bill and I decorated it, so I have no idea whether or not it still qualifies as beautiful. I suspect not. (She had planned not to repaint, and was upset about the number of holes in the wall after all our pictures came down. What did she think was holding them up? Also, judging from the big ugly lamp in the front window, which is all I can see of her decor when I drive by, her taste is (pardon the vernacular) up her tuchas (sp.?). But I am admittedly biased. She gave me a hard time between going into contract and the closing.).

      The second-floor apartment where I’ve lived since last September is a true apartment (in a large five-story building) and it is indeed comfortable. I shall have to take some photos for the blog. The apartment was probably a better choice for me than the cats, but they have adjusted. They still eat very expensive cat food, enjoy a small outdoor porch with a large tree in front of it, and all their familiar cat furniture (scratching posts, cat tree, tunnel, etc. etc.) They also still have each other and me. We could learn a lot from the resilience of cats. Perhaps that’s another blog post. So I guess you will indeed be reading more, although, as I mentioned in reply to another reader’s comment, I shall now have to invent what to write as I go.

      I hope you too are well.

      Liked by 1 person

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