Friday Farm Functionals: Unloading the Town House

I know we need to sell the town house. I just have questions about the methodology. Specifically, I wonder, do you think one needs to rent a few choice pieces of nice furniture and tasteful artwork to "stage" a house for sale? I know that, five years ago, the answer would have been, "Hell, no! Just vacuum real well and put a sign out front." The times, though, they are a changin'.

We've hired this real estate agent. She's really hard core. She does everything in the world to make a sale. Also, I like her. That goes a ways, too, I think.

So, she suggested this "stager".

"You don't have to go with her, necessarily, but I think it would be in your best interest to at least have her go in and take a look, see what suggestions she might have." Well, okay.

We met at the house this morning. Oh my god. I have the worst taste in the world, I've found. At least, I have the least generic taste possible. Non-salable taste in home furnishings. That's me. About halfway through our hour and a half walk through our home, as The Stager was giving more hints and tips, I just wanted to crawl into a little ball and rock a bit, you know? Or maybe deal with thirty or so really belligerent teens or participate in a car wreck or, you know, something more pleasant that discussing drape colors. The thing that really blew my mind was that, somehow, at some point in time, I just became so completely out of it. Apparently, for instance, wallpaper went out of fashion when I was still in college.

Anyway, this lady, "The Stager," doesn't do the remodeling work herself, but she has a son-in-law who does. And, also, she rents out the furniture and tasteful art, buys the paint colors oh-so-carefully, etc. And our wonderful real estate agent thinks The Stager is a miracle worker.

The Miracle Worker and the Wonderful Real Estate Agent left me in front of the house with a list of twenty or more things, feeling terribly overwhelmed.

I don't like the Miracle Worker. It's probably just my "shoot the messenger" instinct, but I don't like her. She wears so much make-up. I'm suspicious of women who wear too much make-up (but not men who do). What are they trying to hide? (Men who wear too much make-up are clearly hiding that they are men, right? So I can trust them.)

So, I went to my dear friend and neighbor who, conveniently, loves to remodel. (Dear Friend does not wear make-up, but he should! He would look so hot.) I vented a little, I asked him to help me, and he said,

"I could be a stager. I should be a stager." Truthfully, I had only called on him to beg him to remodel my kitchen. Yet I was intrigued.

"Okay. Let's go over and tell me what you would do."

He then walked through our house and, amazingly, said pretty much all of the exact same twenty odd things- the painting, the new light fixtures, the cabinets, that wall that nobody can stand- that the Miracle Worker had said, and then he added a few. But then, here's the kicker: he offered to do all of the work himself for an absurdly low price. I've seen his work, and he is every bit as good as a professional, and best of all, he apparently has taste that's really in style right now. He knew all about the horrors of wallpaper, for instance.

Wow. Friends are great, aren't they? We've hired Dear Friend to do the "updates" as people so fashionably call them in the twenty-first century. (I live in the nineteenth century, I think. You can tell from my blog.)

The only real difference between Dear Friend's ideas and Miracle Worker's ideas is that Dear Friend does not at all believe in putting pretty furniture and drapes, etc. into the house. He thinks you should leave it empty (but beautiful) and the buyers can then picture their belongings in the house easier. (I should note here that Dear Friend does have a little experience in selling homes, though not a lot.) The Miracle Worker, on the other hand, believes people can't picture themselves living there without a few "hints," as she calls them: art, furniture, flowers, drapes, etc. She offers these things for rent. She also charges for other services, which I can't quite figure out- because she seems to have given us all of her advice for free. What else is there? She charges for a written estimate, but I'm not sure what she's estimating ... it's awkward, this money issue with the Miracle Worker.

Dear readers, who is correct? Is a house better empty or a little bit full? Is the Miracle Worker just trying to rent out furniture, or is it really necessary? Is Dear Friend just being "a guy," as they say, and casting away flowers because they are flowers? I just don't know. I just don't know. Help!


  1. Dear 19th century blogger,

    Attractive wallpaper is never out of style. It must be cleaned every few years, though.

    If you rent furniture to stage the house, the buyer will have to pay more to cover that cost. As a home buyer, I would find that unacceptable - what is the benefit to me? I don't get to keep the furniture.

    The house should be clean, prepped for move-in, and empty. That's my opinion, anyway.

  2. Thanks for wading through all that writing and giving me some real advice! Just so you know, it is sparkling clean, and it is being painted neutral colors.

    You know, even if you haven't ever bought or sold a home, I think you might have some valid advice. Anyone else have anything to say?

  3. Empty is honest. Personally I'd like to see the cracks in the drywall versus an imaginative way to cover them with an over sized pot of bamboo stalks. But then again I'm a minimalist. I've never sold a house but in my many years of apartment hunting I was always weary of the places that took me on a walk through of their staged floor plans rather than the unit I would actually move into.
    The only time that I would consider staging is if you are selling a house that you are still living in. And by staging I mean give it a thorough cleaning to remove the signs that someone was currently occupying the space, sort of like a fussy auntie's sitting room that no one is actually allowed to sit in.
    On a completely different topic, I finally got around to the post office so you should be expecting a few items to "stage" in the doll house early next week.

  4. Having bought, sold, looked at houses...I can tell you I prefer empty, or very sparsely furnished.

    My mum is a Realtor and my father is an ex-Realtor...try empty first, if that doesn't work go for very lightly furnished. The important things are the things like neutral paint colours and things like that...which it sounds like you are already taking care of.

    Good luck selling the house. :)

  5. It has occurred to me that staging it with furniture would cover up the few small blemishes in the wood flooring, which are substantial at all and probably wouldn't sway anyone either way about buying it, but it's nice to leave them showing and then people might feel like we're honest. Good point.

    I can't wait to see what this dollhouse stuff is like! Grandma Ruth sent some dollhouse staging recently, too. It's funny how she knows everything, but has no computer. I suspect she has a spy.

  6. I cast my vote in favor of clean, freshly painted, but empty.
    The problem is people watch too much HGTV these days and everyone gets so fussy.
    I watch it, too and I amazed at the people who comment negativly on wall color like it's so much trouble to paint a friggin' room and outdated (perfectly fine in my humble opinion) kitchens.
    But, that said, paint is the easiest and cheapest way to spruce up the place. Best of luck!
    one of the spies

  7. Dear Spy,

    That HGTV is really addictive! I found it while visiting Dad and Jean and I just couldn't tear myself away from it! I was in a constant state of shock, mostly at how horribly petty people were. Which is why I'm obsessing over this, because man, those people were horribly petty! But then, they were also the types who like to have people with cameras follow them around. Not everyone is so dramatically self-obsessed, I hope!

  8. I say leave it empty and impeccably clean. If you stage it with art and furniture and the works, people get too hung up on those details and not the house they came to see. If you ever watch the home buying shows on tv, that's exactly what happens.

    I agree that it gives me a better idea of how to stage my own furniture. Plus, it gives me the freedom to bust out the measuring tape too, which I can't do with a sofa in the way.

    If you must stage it, I say go with fresh curtains and paint. Don't forget, this Miracle Worker is in business. She's trying to push her services because it's her job. If you have a friend who is willing and able (and cheaper), go with him.

  9. I really appreciate all of your great advice! I'm taking it, too. I told the stager (via wonderful agent) "thanks but no thanks," and my friend has already ripped off the wallpaper in the bathroom and gutted the kitchen. Yay!

  10. Empty! Absolutely! The fact that you can show your home clean and clutterless is a huge plus. When my time comes in a year or two I only hope I can market my house the same way: clean and clutterless. Chances are very, very slim.