Those home-search TV shows are my last-resort shows to watch when I can find nothing else (which is happening more frequently lately). These are the ones where a couple is looking to move to a new location, often a vacation place where they have stayed before, so they are at least a little familiar with the new area. They are given three choices and have to pick one. And pick, they do. No one says all three choices stink—they would rather live in their car. There have been scandals that many contestants have already bought one of the choices, and their selection process is only for show, but I don’t care. It’s all show-biz.
I cut the contestants some slack because they are generally looking for a vacation home and expecting their friends and extended family will often visit. Ha! Good luck with that. We all get bored quickly with someone else’s preferences. Plus, the owners will soon regret inviting them. Who once said house guests are like old fish? They both stink after a few days.
The buyers ask no questions about taxes, schools, or nearby shopping centers with grocery stores and hardware stores. One did ask about condo fees, which were horrendous, but quickly skimmed over. They will talk about vibrant downtown areas offering interesting art galleries and book stores and exotic restaurants—yuppie things that will get old quickly.
Scoff if you will, but I have learned from these shows, such as:
Wallpaper is out, paint is in. If you expect to sell your house, strip off all the wallpaper and paint the walls a pale pastel color. You may add a dark, vivid color for an accent, but best leave that up to the new owners. I think pale colors make the rooms feel larger to prospective buyers. Add crown molding that now comes in lightweight foam that can be stuck on yourself with quick-grab adhesive, but many people still consider crown molding the standard for quality construction.
Tear out walls to create an open floor plan. Build huge closets. This will take space away from the room, but the buyers will be more impressed with closets.
“Stage” the house by taking out all of your own crappy furniture and replacing it with fewer, newer items supplied by the staging company. Fewer and newer furniture will also make the rooms appear larger. Don’t worry if the staged furniture is totally impractical—it’s not yours.
Fix up the kitchen. Install beautiful granite countertops with interesting detail that no one will notice once they own it. (Ours are Formica that still look good after many years, but a new buyer would rip them out without even looking at them.) No point in replacing the appliances, because whatever you pick will look dated by settlement time. Instead, raise the selling price $10,000, then offer to cut it back to allow for new appliances. The buyers will think they outsmarted you.
Buyers are most impressed by a view. Look for their cries of, “Oh, wow!” That is common on the TV shows and would make a good drinking game, but since my wife and I are non-drinkers, we only shout out, “OH WOW!” back at the TV when we hear these exclamations. Within weeks, they will not notice even the most magnificent view. I’ve seen it over and over on my Florida vacations.
If they are in Florida, they will want a pool in their backyard. EVERY buyer thinks they will change their lifestyle and swim everyday before breakfast. And some will—for a week or two.
They love a view of the water, even the most mundane view. I have seen a husband exclaim, “Oh, wow—what a great view!” as he looked out across a narrow canal into the trashy backyard of a neighbor. Perhaps that was what he was told to say for the camera. Wait until he sees a rat and all the cockroaches scurrying over the rocks along the water’s edge. They love water, too, and are always hiding there. Stamp your foot and watch the show.
Speaking of cameras, Last year I was interviewed for about a half an hour on camera at Longwood Gardens for a film on volunteering. Nothing from the interview was used. The clips were all taken after the interview when I was unaware I was being filmed.
That was fine with me. I was not caught picking my nose or scratching my butt. My fly was not hanging open. I was presented with dignity, more dignity than I really have, I kid you not.