Fingerpaints and family photos
I love my kids. They're great kids. Honor society, sports -- my son is even about to receive his Eagle Scout ranking.
But you don't care about that, because you're hiring me to buy and/or sell real estate. My kids, their accomplishments, their artwork -- none of that is relevant to the task at hand.
So when you put your house on the market, job one has to be depersonalizing it.
It's not just the family photos or the Christmas postcards on the fridge or the framed art your child did, it's also your prized possessions and collections.
I'm an outdoor enthusiast and I love outdoorsy things, but mounted animals can be worse than distracting during a showing. In fact, they can be very off-putting to some buyers. The same with mounted fish.
It's not even a question of taste in many cases, it's just something that takes the conversation with the Realtor away from the house and puts it on something that has nothing to do with the task at hand.
I once met with a homeowner about listing their home and I used their antique lure collection to make the point. I went through the home and made notes and intentionally finished my tour with them at the several showcases of antique lures.
I said "Oh, you have a Shakespeare Swimming Mouse! That was my dad's favorite lure!"
They proceeded to tell me where they found it and how much they paid for it.
I then explained that every antique lure, antique doll, antique sign that they had was a trigger for someone. I suggested that those things needed to be out of sight prior to the home being listed. No matter how much the buyer liked or disliked those items, the problem would be that they were paying attention to them at all, rather than looking at the home and trying to picture their own possessions there. (That they were items of value also made it smart to get them out of sight.)
To paint or not to paint?
Remember the old Brady Bunch episode? "Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!"
Well, we in real estate have our own mantra: "Neutral, neutral, neutral."
The first home that my wife and I purchased was built in 1978 and it looked it. In 1978, orange, dark brown and green were considered neutral. And wallpaper was in.
In 1997, we got a great deal on that house, primarily because we were going to spend time and money removing wallpaper, painting walls and replacing carpet.
If those homeowners had spent less than $5,000 on updating, they probably would have got $10,000 more for the home. I know this because we sold that home in 2001 for $40,000 more than we paid for it. Some of that was market, but much of it was updates.
But not everyone has the time, money, patience or physical ability to make that kind of change happen. If your home is relatively new and doesn't have black-light-activated bowling alley carpet, you really are down to paint.
Believe me, I've heard dozens of buyers say "it's just paint," when they look at a home. But I've also had people back out of rooms in horror if they're too dark or too colorful.
The problem with dark paint is people start to think about having to put multiple coats of paint over it -- or pay someone else to put multiple coats of paint over it.
So if you have some really dark walls or really colorful walls, consider buying a couple cans of paint and getting to a nice neutral color.
It's not personal
Don't take this advice personally. Most homes show better furnished, but if the decor is distracting, let's get it out of sight. Let the Realtor showing the home do the job they were hired to do -- sell the home.
If you're a buyer, take all of this into account when viewing a home. Remember what you're there for -- to find a place where you can make your home. Try to picture your possessions and your own decor instead of focusing on what's there.