Friday, October 15, 2010

All that work and no sale, either

I am a sucker for most of the shows on HGTV.  It's a good thing my cable package doesn't include it, because I'd never get anything done.  I mean, I'd sit there 24/7 with toothpicks holding my eyes open.  My mother does get HGTV and darned if it isn't on when I go to visit just about every day.
Sabrina-Soto-updated-bio_al One of the shows I love to watch is GET IT SOLD.  Every episode, home staging expert Sabrina Soto (that's how she introduces herself) strips a home of any personality it has, and makes it as bland as possible so that people can (theoretically) sell their hard-to-move houses and usually does it for a grand or less.

Often, the homes do need to be stripped of all personality.  Garish paint colors, floor to ceiling clutter, crammed full of kid toys, and wall-to-wall religious pictures on the walls--those places need staging help.  But I was particularly offended on an episode yesterday where Sabrina made the homeowner pack up every single book and put them in storage.  I will admit that the bookcase was in the dining room, which is kind of an odd place to put it, but apparently the family liked to read while they ate.

Buyers hate this Some of the changes are quick fixes that make me cringe.  A kitchen had a "dated" border, so they sanded them down (ruining them forever) and painted them black.  This looked pretty good on a TV screen, but I'll bet in person it looked like what it was:  a cheap fix that did more harm than good. The new homeowner is going to have to do something about that, and it won't be a cheap fix to undo.  (I've taken off a tile backsplash before and it destroyed the plasterboard behind it.)

What's worse, in nearly all cases, they check back with the family between two and four weeks after the staging and the house still hasn't sold.  What does that tell me?  Well, this is a tough market, but that most people don't give a hoot what the furniture looks like.

Before we bought our house, we looked at 84 houses.  We'd make the rounds every Sunday week after week, month after month.  We told our agent we wanted a ranch, she showed us everything BUT ranch homes.  In fact, we asked her to take us through the house we bought, and she wouldn't.  "It's only got a bath and a half."  So I waited until they had an open house.  The house was perfect for us.

John Denver Today, it wouldn't have passed muster.  You see, the homeowner's personalities were right on show.  The lady of the house quilted.  The man wasn't a professional photographer, but took portraits as a hobby.  John Denver came to town and darned if he didn't talk him into posing for him.  (There were a couple of other celebrity photographs on the wall, but 17 years later, I've forgotten who they were.)

One thing that really struck me was the blend of antiques and contemporary furniture.  They had a marble topped commode.  For the past 17 years I've pined for something with a marble top (just never found anything I liked enough).  Of course, after 17 years, there's very little of their personalities left in the house.  We've changed the landscaping (back and front), we've totally redone the entryway and the bathroom, and our decorating taste is totally different.  This is our house now.

HGTV So maybe those shows do have it right.  Maybe the buyers need to see a bland backdrop and try to imagine where they'll put their chairs and tables and bookcases (if they have any).  But I'm still not convinced staging sells homes.  Not when every show seems to end with the words, "They have confidence they'll get an offer soon."  Funny.  Those homeowners don't look very confident.

What's your favorite HGTV program?

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