The 5 Stages of Grief were identified by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross to help us cope with the loss of a loved one. However, I have often discovered that same emotional whirlwind is very present in many sellers when the recommendation of staging is first broached. I have come to the conclusion that there is a very fine line between grief and interior decorating for a timely sale.
In both cases, Stage 1 is DENIAL: what? the mounted and stuffed fish and other wild game animals in our family room is not captivating to prospective home buyers?
Then comes Stage 2, ANGER: Are you kidding me? We just had the living and dining room painted aubergine last year!
Followed closely by Stage 3 which is BARGAINING: OK fine, but if we strip the Laura Ashley wallpaper in the master bedroom, can we at least keep the peach walls?
DEPRESSION is Stage 4: My whole life in this house as been a sham, so full of colour and important knick knacks.
Finally, Stage 5 sets in, ACCEPTANCE: Reality becomes clear, you roll up your Real Estate sleeves and SWEAT EQUITY kicks in!
Sentiment aside, as with most people, our house is our biggest asset, our biggest investment. My clients tell me time and again, one of the characteristics they appreciate most about me is my “extreme empathy”. One of the reasons that is so easy for me is I’ve been in their shoes!! I was not yet in the Real Estate industry, rather an executive in the Fashion Business. Our house had been on the market for several weeks and time was running out. My husband and I needed to sell our family home as we were re-locating and had to move forward quickly. Having lived in our favourite house for over 15 years, we were new to the “not so gentle” art of primping your house for the real estate market. We quickly learned there is a simple formula to the task of beautifying our “grande dame”.
First, your house is dehumanized (family pics packed up), decluttered and vigorously cleaned. Then it must be polished to a hard, minimalist shine with the walls painted, wallpaper stripped and furniture removed to reveal hardwood floors. Only then can the FOR SALE sign be permitted to penetrate the lawn.
This is what the magazines reported and it’s what the Real Estate professionals told us. We might be perfectly happy living in our crowded, over accessorized nest, but if we wanted top dollar, in a timely fashion, we had better get out the rubber gloves because the spiders on the windowsills and the clutter in the closets must go!
Clearly, our home stager had a practical eye. she waltzed through our home and suggested we paint every room, strip the wallpaper and ship out half our worldly goods to parts unknown!
“You want prospective buyers to imagine their own stuff in the rooms” she said and prescribed neutral tones with names like Tawny Taupe, Trendy Biscotti or Grey Mist for the walls.
So the mop and the paintbrush came out, and a series of difficult choices reared its ugly head: What goes into storage and what goes to 1 800 JUNK? Soul-destroying hardly covers it.
Even at Stage 5 (ACCEPTANCE), after 16 years in this house, feelings were bound to run deep. Would you throw away a pair of slippers just when they got comfortable? We grew to love our house with it’s navy wallpaper and Montclair Pink and green bathrooms!
16 years is a long time to inhabit any dwelling in this transient world, but I never dreamed it would be to difficult to entrust our house to professionals who must focus on the imperfections, not the context. Instead of a cozy family home, they saw dated wallpaper and too much “stuff” and towering trees in the back garden needing pruning…trees which I planted myself.
But this was no time to get maudlin. We needed to move forward with our lives. There will be more opportunities to paint, paper and over decorate to our hearts content in the next home and hopefully a few years to get over the 5 Stages before we have to call a home stager again.
Is this how you feel too? Welcome to the club, if so. But at least you know, I know how you feel and you know that I care. Staging does work and you will be financially rewarded for your successful journey through the 5 Stages. I promise.
If you (or someone you know), are looking for a Realtor who cares MORE about focusing on you, your concerns, goals and the successful purchase or sale of YOUR unique home, than they care about their volume of transactions and awards, please let me know the best way for me to connect, as I would love to offer my highly personal service. Contrary to that old expression, not only IS this business, but it IS personal! And, please, I encourage you to ask me any questions you may have about this post. I value your input and appreciate the time you took to read it.