Dear Edith: As a faithful reader of your column and previous real estate agent, I thought I understood how the process would go when we put our house on the market this June. Little did I know how the process has changed since I was in the business. Now houses must be staged to appeal to people who have seen TV-beautiful homes. But I feel that's all wrong.
I know your mission is to answer questions, but I think it's worth showing another point of view on staging. You have my permission to use any or all of the attached rant in your column. Just don't use my name, as the house still isn't sold! — X. X., [email protected]
Answer: OK, here's your rant, plus a bit of advice from a book I wrote years before we ever heard the word "staging."
"Selling your home? Do you think you will live in it until it the sale closes? Well, guess what? If your home is "staged" for the sale, you won't be living in your home ever again.
"Staging means not only clearing out personal items like your toiletries or family photos but also stripping the house of all personality in order to create an echo-y, barnlike blank slate for potential buyers to be able to "see themselves living there."
"After staging, the functionality of your home is gone, half your furniture is gone (to make it seem more "spacious") and what's left of your furniture is so rearranged that you can't find anything at first. It doesn't make any sense for the people still living there.
"If you have loved this home for a long time and are really sorry to be leaving it, you will experience the feeling of loss way before you actually move out. You'll have to live with this grief for weeks until the sale closes, rather than living in your home as you've loved it until right before the move.
"The question for all home sellers and the agents advising them is, are potential buyers actually attracted to an empty-feeling, barnlike home? Or are they more intrigued by a setup that displays the joy of those living in it, even though shows their particular way of life? This is especially considering those cases where a home is in a unique setting or has unique architecture that make it special, and the current occupants have tried different ways of arranging it and finally settled on one arrangement that works very well. Perhaps, even though the buyer would change some things, it is actually easier for them to think about changing what exists than visualize filling in a lot of blank space. Perhaps fewer furnishings would make it seem like their furniture wouldn't fit.
Is this food for thought, or just an expression of immense grief felt by two people who are imprisoned in a home that is totally strange, nonfunctional and alien until a sale goes through?"
OK, it's Edith again. It's too bad you feel so unsettled, considering this is always a nerve-wracking time for home sellers.
The term staging seems to have emerged around the beginning of 21st century. However, in a book I wrote back in 1988 I recommended removing "trophies, family pictures, artificial flowers, political and religious items," anything that would be distracting. I also said, "You want a room that buyers can try on for size, with plenty of space for their own personal items ... (so) remove large or crowded pieces of furniture if possible."
Perhaps we'll hear other sellers' and buyers' opinions on this.
Can't Locate the Owner
Ms. Lank: The lot adjoining my property was going to be sold due to nonpayment of property taxes. The owners' whereabouts are unknown, and attempts to locate them have been unsuccessful. I have paid the tax for 15-plus years. Can I claim the title to the lot? — B., askedith.com
Answer: You may be able to gain ownership of that lot through the legal process known as "adverse possession." In your state the property must have been abandoned at least 20 years. (It's a shorter period elsewhere.) But there are additional requirements, so it's time to contact a lawyer who specializes in real estate. There may be steps you should take now to make your claim stronger.
Contact Edith Lank at www.askedith.com, at [email protected] or at 240 Hemingway Drive, Rochester NY 14620.
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