Real estate musings
So it’s been over two years now since I sold and began looking for a new place with a piece of land (see previous posts under The Hunt). In that time the real estate market took a nosedive and the wild, inflated price increases of the early part of the decade are recalibrating. The prices will rise again, though probably not as quickly as homeowners would like.
Those who are selling homes now are often doing so to get out from under a mortgage that is for more than the home is currently worth. Those with mortgages on homes purchased over five or six years ago are generally okay or breaking even. To buy a home now is to enter a buyers market where the selection is decent, and better yet, you don’t have to make an offer on a house as you’re walking out to the car after viewing it, hoping to beat out the other buyers, and praying you don’t wind up in a bidding war with someone who wants it as bad as you (think you) do.
So why, with the market in the doldrums, do realtors act like all they have to do is take a few crappy photos and post them on the multiple listing services and expect the house to sell? And those photos. Honestly, some of the places I see (online) look like the photographer was seriously medicated. As a prospective buyer, I don’t want to see the seller’s decor. I’m not interested in their paint job, or their matching recliners and big screen TV. I really wish they’d clean the kitchen before they take the photo, too. Occasionally an agent will get creative, and either stands on a counter or perhaps brings in a ladder for these odd overhead, almost aerial shots of each room. I’m not sure what the point is, as only Lurch might see the room from that perspective. There are pictures of toilets (oh good, the home has an indoor loo), or a wall of photos or artwork that doesn’t appeal to me (evidently the listing agent likes it?), a dining set, or a bed (What, is it the quilt? The headboard?), or the taxidermy antlers or ungulate head, or the occasional bear skin. I see a lot of this stuff because evidently people who live on acreage trophy hunt. I have no idea if tract homes decorate the same way, but I’m thinking not. There is often a Western themed decor that the realtor/photographer seems to like, or perhaps it’s their way of upselling the “equestrian property” angle, and they take a photo of the cowboy lampshade on the side table, or the rug with the horse shape woven into the pattern. Nice, but I’d really like to see the structure.
While my appreciation for these decorating tastes may seem condescending, it’s really not my point. I don’t care if your preferred decor is apple crates and bean bags; it’s the realtors I wonder about. Just what are they trying to sell? It sure isn’t the house. Nor the property; a fuzzy photo of overgrown brush in the winter doesn’t really do much for me. A soggy pasture or unkempt landscaping isn’t doing the home any favors either, though I also realize that short of dropping a couple thousand in landscaping services, the outdoor factor is often beyond the control of the listing agent, or the seller, depending on the situation.
When I sold my home, the listing agent insisted the indoor decor be kept to an absolute minimum. Pictures came off the walls, knick knacks packed up, and kitchen utensils and small appliances put away. And the house needed to be spotless. Thankfully we listed in mid-summer, so rain and mud wasn’t a factor but living with three large dogs and two cats meant vacuuming every day (have I ever mentioned how I loathe vaccuming?). The normal clutter and detritus of life (and I am a bit of a clutterholic), had to be eliminated. I did as he recommended, and it was like living in a hotel for the six weeks it took for the house to sell, without any of my personal comforts around – books, photos, favorite decorative items were boxed and packed away. It looked stark, but it photographed well, and the outside photography was genius. We HAD hired a landscaper and completely scoured the outside too, with M amazingly coming over once a week to refresh the edging, weeding and other small, but huge, tasks.
I remember being a little put out at the time; surely this wasn’t necessary, to live like a monk on holiday just to sell a house. Now that I’m on the other side of the fence, I see the brilliance in the plan. No one would be interested in my collection of small framed photos and artwork (but it was so artfully done!), or my idea of what looks great on a bookshelf (maybe not that one sentimental Rottweiler figurine, and surely not the stuffed toy Rottweiler puppy).
I just wonder what some of these listing agents are smoking, and feel bad for the homeowners trying to sell a home with this handicap of bad photography and clutter. Of course, it’s entirely possible the agent recommended all the things my agent had and they just disagreed. In which case, the home won’t sell for a long time, and it won’t be for the price they want.