Buying a house? Where’s your imagination?

My wife and I are preparing the house we’re selling for buyers and an open house in a month or so.

We fell in love with the house almost immediately. It’s on a beautiful piece of ground in a nice part of our town. It’s big but 100 years old, with personality. It has four fireplaces. And when you walk in the front door, the staircase knocks your socks off.

That was all true back in 2000 when we bought the place, but even so, it was a terrible mess. The kitchen was a tiny, ill-proportioned wreck from the 80s. The bathrooms were ugly and barely working. The paint was beat up. And it needed a new roof, new plumbing, and various other upgrades to be workable.

We put our mark on it. The systems, the kitchens, and the bathrooms are up to date. We invested a lot in things you can see and some important things you can’t. We painted it in bold colors, landscaped it, and, with our children, lived the hell out of those 21 years.

Now they are telling us to paint it neutral colors, get rid of half the furniture, and remove the personal touches. Just leave a few of our thousands of books on the bookcases. People need to be able to imagine themselves in the home, they tell us. So take away anything that might interfere with people imagining their own ideas and tastes as they live in the house.

Somebody is going to pay a lot of money for this house. And I have one question.

If you have enough resources to buy a house like this, shouldn’t you have enough imagination to see what it could be? Do we really have to neuter it for you?

Just wondering . . .

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  1. As a Realtor, I have to agree with your assessment… I never encourage my sellers to “stage” their home… My opinion is the buyer should be able to figure it out for themselves exactly like you point out in your last sentence… You’re selling your home that you live in right now, like it is, not what you think the buyers want to see to make an offer.

  2. We just bought a house with five chandeliers and busy wallpaper in a couple of the rooms — not my style. But “the bones” of the house are good, and it checked many of our other boxes. And once I met the matriarch (95) who had it built, I can appreciate her choices. There’s a story, and we’re writing the next chapter.

  3. I guess it all depends. But, it’s curious. I believe you’re usually telling readers to work with professionals – the people who know what they’re talking about. So I assume you’re working with a realtor that you feel is a professional and knows their business. If that’s the case, then that person should be able to tell you, in dollars, what the impact of doing those things may be. With that information, you should be able to make an informed decision about what actions you are willing to take in order to get the best price for your house, right? (And you’re going to be moving the books anyway, so….?)

    1. I appreciate all these comments. Selling a historic home is different than selling a tract home in the suburbs.
      Each situation is so different. I also know now that once put a property on the market, it is no longer yours, in a sense. We sold my parents home as is. It’s a unique property, built in 1776, and my parents joyfully continued amending over the next 25 years. The new buyer sees it as her turn. I have learned to be judicious about assuming what a new buyer will think. We have invested in costly updates only to have the new buyers tear them out. So be open and aware of your situation, you are about to let go of your beloved property.

  4. As a realtor, I usually advise my sellers to have the property look a bit ‘barren’ for the photos, video and mattaport tours. Your average buyer sadly does not have much in the imagination department. For an inexperienced buyer, beautiful personal belongings can often be quite distracting from the ‘bones’ of the house. I also don’t like to spend money on something that the seller is no longer going to enjoy. With that in mind I take my time to go through the home with the seller to make sure that there are no red flags that would frighten a buyer, or even more importantly, give a dramatic home inspector to make a fuss over nothing (ie: old stains on ceiling, walls or floors, large cracks in same) My best advice to you is this. If you have confidence in your realtor then you have hired the right professional. If you are questioning that decision, then seek an alternative right away.

  5. I’ve read that the most cost-effective way to make your home sellable is … make sure your lawn is trimmed and well-manicured! Irrational, I know. But so are people. Branding experts know this.

  6. 100% agree Josh. We’re in the process of looking for a house to buy and the first cosmetic turn-off for my wife and I, is the ‘take out all of the furniture to make the place look bigger, a put a small table + 2 chairs against a beige/white wall’ style of house staging. We want to imagine living in a home — as is. Understanding how the current inhabitants use a space allows us to see possibilities but also reimagine its functional opportunity. Hope you find a buyer with a big wallet. And good luck with the next phase.