Thursday, June 26, 2008

An Open Letter to Real Estate Agents

Dear Real Estate Agents (Sir or Madam),

My husband and I recently bought a home. We looked at a dozen or so homes before making our decision. During the course of our search, I learned what it means to "stage a house" when trying to sell it. I had a range of reactions to different staged houses from "Oh, these people have a wine rack and drink Merlot. Would I drink Merlot if I lived in this house? I hope not. Red wine makes me sleepy" to "These people have no pictures on the walls and only two blue suits in the closet. This is really creepy. Would I only wear blue suits if I lived in this house?"

In fact, the house we ended up buying was entirely empty save the foam pillow-type-thing on one of the built in beds, a few random unused (as far as we know) lightbulbs, and this pin.

The second floor of the house was bought was only partially finished. When I say partially finished I mean there was some carpet thrown over two layers of linoleum, some drywall slopshoddily put up and painted what can only be described as the color a lilac bush might vomit if it vomited in technicolor, and a mass of electrical wires left to form a nest in the crawlspace. This is not to mention the built-in beds (of which there were two).

Needless to say, the decision to buy this house required the use of a very vivid and confident imagination. My husband and I had to imagine away all of the unwanted walls, the gross carpet, the tangle of wires. We had to imagine our way through months of blood, sweat, tears, and depleted bank accounts. We had to imagine a beautiful master suite and cozy second floor sitting area where my husband can study and I can write.

In fact, you, Mr or Ms Real Estate Agent, you were counting on a buyer like us to come along and imagine ourselves into this house. You, Mr or Ms Real Estate Agent, often count on having a buyer come along who's willing to see past the flaws and shortcomings and is willing and even hoping to buy a home where they can put their own elbow grease and vision.

Why on earth then, Sir or Madam, do you, when getting the house ready for sale, suggest to your client that all their house needs to see is just a "fresh coat of paint?"

Sure, you also advised them to pull up the carpet on the first floor and have the floors redone and we appreciate that. We might not have bought the house had we not known what condition the wood floors were in and re-doing floors is a serious investment of time and money.

The problem is that when you suggested that the owners just throw on a fresh coat of paint, that's exactly what they did. They went out and bought the cheapest thing they could find: giant barrels of white-out. They painted before they pulled up the carpet, meaning that all along the trim there are little flecks of carpet fuzz stuck in the paint. They painted high traffic friction areas like kitchen cabinets with the same cheap stuff so that now it peels off in giant swaths. They did such a haphazard job that now portions of our beautiful wood trim have drops of paint or even entire paintbrush marks on them. They did not sand. They did not strip. I do not think they even primed. They did not paint a second coat.

We're getting rid of or painting over most of it.

All the while, when we're picking carpet lint out of paint, when we're sanding off old cheap painting, when we're painstakingly removing the paint drips, we're cursing you, Mr or Ms Real Estate Agent. We're imagining all the things we hope go horribly wrong with your next home purchase. We're imagining you being attacked my a nest of hornets or, better yet, a nest of electrical wires. We're imagining you getting a technicolor stomach virus that makes you vomit lilac.

And we have pretty good imaginations.


PS Thank you for leaving these scenic vistas. They bring Glacier National Park right into our basement and allow us to give our overactive imaginations a break.

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