The Best Baked Plans…

This is why I shouldn’t have any bright ideas in the kitchen:

I was racing around preparing for a showing on Tuesday morning when I realized I’d forgotten breakfast. Seeing Squirrel left one store bought chocolate chip cookie in the cupboard – the light bulb went on over my head. Why not warm it up, killing two birds with one stone – snack for me, warm fuzzy scent for the potential buyer?

But this is me we’re talking about. No sooner had I got the cookie in the oven than I heard someone fire up a serious sounding power washer outside.

No!!! The neighbours are not getting their roof power washed (spraying gutter gunk all over my deck and backyard) today – of all days! I hurtled out the door and launched into interrogation mode:

Me: Are you just doing the driveway?

Power Washer Guy: Yep…oh, and the roof…and the gutters…

Me: Oh, well, we’re trying to sell the house (pointing to very obvious sign) and I have someone coming to see it at 1:15. I know it’s hard, but can you PLEASE try not to spray stuff all over my yard?

Power Washer Guy: No problem. I’ll have it cleaned up by 1pm.

Me: What’s that smell?

!@#$  %^&* !@#$  %^&* !!!

I darted inside to find half my breakfast smoking blackly at me from the bottom of the oven.

Really?

I switched the fan to high and opened all the doors as Power Washer Guy revved his engine sending a mist of debris swirling past my recently washed kitchen windows.

I ate the unburnt half of the cookie anyway, standing over the kitchen sink, feeling sorry for myself.

Just then my realtor called. She told me not to worry about things I can’t control. “If they can’t look past the minor things,” she said, “they’re probably not serious anyway.”

Wise words.

Because on Wednesday the burnt cookie showing had turned into an offer!!! and by Thursday night (after a few rounds of negotiation), we accepted it.

Yippee!!!

I woke up the next morning and looked out the window to see that Power Washer Guy actually did an excellent job of cleaning up after himself, but that a bear had walked right through our back fence knocking out five planks.

Sometimes the things we can’t control end well, sometimes not. I know one thing for sure, that fence repair can wait until I’ve celebrated.

How should I celebrate this untethering from the cleaning cloth? Any suggestions?

Advertisements

Ready To Show – Again!

52 days on the market, 4 open houses, 3 scheduled showings

I think it’s obvious by now that counting is my coping mechanism. Putting a number on the last few weeks has actually cheered me up. I mean, just writing “52 days on the market” presupposes a final day, right? Whether that’s day 53 or day 153 – there will be a final day, right?

As you can imagine, I’ve soured a little on the whole staging thing. My house just looks sterile to me now. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing – in my mind, sterile is a positive in a house you’re about to move into with your family – but not for one you’re actually living in with your family. And, I can’t help but notice how EVERY house I’ve seen on the market lately has had the life staged right out of it. More on that later.

First, let’s get to the business of this post – how I’m keeping my house ready to “show.” I’ve picked up a few little tricks in the past two months.

Meet my micro fibre cloth and lint free tea towel:

Yes, this is a love story. That micro fiber cloth and I are taming the black granite one square foot at a time. I’ve tried many other things, but hot water on that cloth followed by a dry tea towel is THE answer.  Wax on, wax off!

Moving along to my other nemesis – the glass shower stall.

Notice how you can see the reflection in the glass. The spray bottle is a solution of 3/4 water and 1/4 vinegar. After a thorough first clean (see below), I now spray and squeegee the glass after every shower to maintain it. I especially like the professional squeegee move I learned on youtube, though I suppose most professionals aren’t doing it in the nude wearing a towel turban. Mercy!

I try not to use commercial cleaning products when I don’t have to, but I needed some serious help with the tubs and shower stalls on the first go round, so I turned to Scrubbing Bubbles and this:

I can’t believe this wheel brush has been hiding in the garage all my life. It’s genius for cleaning shower walls and tub floors. The pitcher is for thoroughly rinsing the tub and shower and for storing the dripping brush when you’re done.

My final tip  is to hide the “show” towels. I don’t know about you, but piles of clean towels last about 24 hours in my house before they all turn up in a damp pile – whether or not anyone has actually bathed. Here’s the stack I’ve squirrelled away for showings to prevent last minute laundry.

Now, 52 days is a long time to be practicing showmanship. And yes, I’ve grown weary of artfully draping the throws, karate chopping the pillows and planting high brow magazines in not too obvious places. I can’t help but thinking of a comment a reader from Italy made on my last post about home staging.

Apparently, staging is not practiced routinely in Italy. Perhaps the Italians are too busy having a life to obsess over making a living like we do here in North America. I’m generalizing of course, but the goal of home staging is to squeeze every last penny from your abode. And it looks like just about everyone in Vancouver got the memo.

If you browse the real estate listings, one would suspect that no one is actually living in any of the houses for sale in my neighbourhood. We’ve literally staged the life out of them. And, with the number of houses on the market these days, that’s a lot of people forgoing finger painting and fried fish in the name of commerce.

But not so in Italy – these people are clearly off having an espresso unconcerned with their dishes or their parakeet.

And, I think they just might have the right idea. An espresso would taste pretty great right now.

Just for fun: What would turn you off, if it turned up on the counter at an open house?

How To Get Your Home (Simply) Ready For Sale

First of all, I have to say I’m indebted to my realtor Tree Cleland at Sutton Realty and Andrew Barker of AJ Barker Designs for their excellent advice which I promptly ignored.

I wasted unnecessary hours, money, and ultimately tears trying to stage the house my way, only to come slinking back to their plan days later with my tail slung pretty low.

Since someone should benefit from my insubordinance, here’s how I wish did it the first time:

Step 1: Declutter

– Make a game plan. Go room to room, top to bottom, left to right, whatever tickles your fancy, but make sure you do it sequentially. If you have a yard and garage – include them. They’re easy to overlook with all the work you are about to do.

– You’re going to make three piles in each room or area (Store, Donate, Toss). At this point, your Store pile will also be a sell pile if you still have stuff you want to sell. Remember: your closets and storage spaces will still have to be presentable at the end of the exercise so donate and toss as much as you possibly can. And, make sure your sell pile is worth selling. If it takes more time than it’s worth  – donate it!

– Start with the storage space in each room. Purge as much as you can. Your goal is to make lots and lots of room. You’ll thank me at Step 2.

– Now remove everything from horizontal surfaces including the floor (except the furniture). Yes, everything!

– Is there nothing left but furniture, art, and piles of things on the floor? Good! Move on to Step 2.

Step 2: Assess Your Storage Space

– Do your closets, shelves, wardrobes, or garden shed have enough space to store the stuff in your Store piles without resembling a Japanese train during rush hour? I didn’t think so. Take a good look at each item in your Store pile and ask yourself how much time and money you’re willing to spend to store/maintain/repair it for the next five years. Is there something more in line with your priorities that you’d rather spend your time and money on? Go ahead and move it to the Donate pile. No one is judging you, but you.

– Now put away everything from your Store piles neatly and logically. Fold, stack, categorize etc. People will open closet doors at your open house.

Step 3: Donate!

– Enlist a friend or friends. Refer them to this post if you must but, for goodness sake – you need help, please don’t be shy. Plus, having a friend point out that your corduroy culottes do not belong in the Store pile is really what you need at this point.

– Try to do this as quickly as possible. This is not the time to think about finding a good home for your Grandma’s china, take it to the nearest Goodwill or thrift store. Someone will love your treasures as much as you did, at least you can tell yourself that to move the process along quickly.

– Heavy stuff? Large stuff? List it on Craigslist for a nominal sum ($20) or for free. I learned that a nominal sum helps attract people who are serious about taking your stuff. People with trucks will come out of the woodwork. Tell yourself that you would have had to pay someone to haul it away so you are the one getting a deal.

Step 4: Toss!

– It’s hard to wrap your head around it, but some stuff really is garbage. Google your local transfer station to check the fees involved and the list of things they accept.

– Bag it up, load it up and haul it off (or refer to Step 3 and list it for free on Craigslist). You’ll need a friend for this too.

– If you’re feeling a little guilty at this point, make a stop at your local recycling depot on the way. Now we’re selling a home and saving the planet!

Step 5: Clean!

– Do you have friends that will clean your house with you? I didn’t think so. If you’re cleaning a large space you should think about hiring someone to do some of the heavy or tedious labour. It’s a lot less heavy and tedious with two or three.

– This will be much easier with nothing on the horizontal surfaces. You can thank me now!

– Kitchens and bathrooms are your first priority. Make them spotless!

– Cleaning your exterior windows is important to showcase a view and/or let in more light. It makes more of a difference than you think. Use a squeegee, it’s quicker and does a much better job. Here’s a tip for getting the job done inside.

– Any job you don’t know how to do quickly and efficiently, someone has made a YouTube video about. Watch it first, before you make a mess of things or waste time better spent watching Modern Family.

– Don’t forget to wash baseboards, switch plates, vacuum bugs off window ledges, and dust or wash blinds and drapes.

Step 6: Take a Stroll

– Grab a friend (if they’re still taking your calls) and ask them to walk through the house with you. Every room should have an obvious purpose. You might like to use the basement as a skateboard park/scrapbooking studio, but will someone walking through your house for the first time know what the room is for?

– Use the furniture you already have to stage each room for its show purpose. You might need to move some furniture around. (Hope you brought a strong friend.) If you don’t have all the furnishings you need, leave the room empty or, place one item that suggests a use for the room (i.e. a china cabinet in the dining room if you don’t have a table and chairs). Keep it simple.

– Once you’re finished, take your realtor on the same walk-through so they can suggest each room’s purpose to potential buyers. Buyers will want to visualize their own accoutrements in your space anyway.

Step 7: Lights! Camera! Action!

– Does your home still looks like nobody lives there? Good. Now’s the time to move back in.

– We’re going back into the closets to retrieve the things that make your home livable. While your beer pong table and Clinton/Lewinsky nesting dolls might make your home more livable for you, they’re not…ahem…universally appealing. I’m talking about things like toss cushions, throw blankets, place mats, a few presentable appliances (toaster, kettle etc.) hand soap, towels (white always works), vases (who doesn’t like flowers?) and candles (optional).

– Don’t forget the great outdoors. A few well placed planters are nice and so is a freshly moved lawn! When in doubt – plant grasses.

– Stop right now! You’re done.

– Oh, okay…you can put out a few things that you absolutely love because they are so adorable/chic/exotic that your good taste is sure to create a colossal bidding war. Go easy. Less is always best.

Step 8: For Overachievers Only

– Hire a designer. Better yet, ask your realtor if they provide a complimentary staging consultation. (I beg you not to do this before you complete at least up to Step 5. Your mind will be so full of your vision you might put off your decluttering and cleaning until the day before the open house which is downright dicey.)

– Accept that the designer knows better than you. Okay, try it your way first  – then, try it their way. Accept that the designer knows better than you.

– If their suggestions include renting furniture or art, ask them to prioritize their recommendations. Furniture is more expensive and labour intensive to rent than art. Only rent what you can afford comfortably. You’re moving for goodness sake, you’ll have plenty of other expenses.

– Shop around! There is plenty of discrepancy between prices at home staging rental outlets. Call first to see what’s in stock in your price range. You can’t afford to waste time now, silly!

Step 9: Buy Yourself Some Flowers!

– You did great! You deserve the fresh flowers you’ll buy just before the first open house. Oh, and put on some relaxing music and bake cookies before you slink off to the neighbours to spy on the masses traipsing to and from your newly perfect home. Isn’t moving fun!

(This should take a minimum of 10 days to complete depending, of course, on the size of your space and how many friends you have to help. Everything will take longer than you think.)

Have you ever staged a home for sale? What’s your hard earned advice for us?

Silk Purse From A Squirrel’s Ear

Our house went on the market Thursday. There’s no way I can possibly describe to you exactly how much work it was. I’m uncharacteristically speechless.

The biggest surprise? We still have stuff we don’t want or need.

You’re probably thinking – how is that possible Christine? You just got rid of 10,000+ things. You and me both.

We staged.

…right down to the closet shelves.

(These are the only pictures of mine that turned out – I’ll post the listing photos when I get them to prove to you that we do actually have bedrooms and a kitchen.)

It started out innocently enough, but halfway through I started to feel a little cheap about it especially when my son asked me why someone wouldn’t want to buy his room the way it was.

Our realtor had a designer do a walk through and his suggestions were labour intensive and 100% accurate.

The best advice he gave us was “nothing on the floor.” Why is it that the simplest suggestions are the most difficult to execute. It is shocking how much floor space (closet and otherwise), we were using for stuff other than the furniture.

Laundry hampers, duvets, stacks of books, stuffed animals, floor cushions! The list goes on, but the minute I removed it all, the space felt instantly cleaner and more spacious.

Squirrel’s five laundry hampers full of dirty clothes became a bone of contention.

I lie. It was more than a bone of contention. I almost lost the plot when I discovered his quintet of overflowing coffers.

Nothing on the floor? Then where do five laundry bins full of clothes go? I considered stuffing the whole mountain of it into the oven.

But it was obvious what actually needed to be done – ten loads of laundry.

If there was time to get angry about it, I would have. Turns out my only option was to wash, fold, repeat. But while my hands were busy, my mind was too.

How can I make sure this never happens again? Well, if Squirrel only had ten T-shirts (instead of 47), that would pretty much force his laundry hand, no?

I washed folded, labelled, and shelved close to forty T-shirts. The label says: “T-Shirts – Out of Rotation.” It means, I’m going to donate these in six months if you don’t miss them.

Are you wondering what the “silk purse” part of this story is? Well, when the work was done, I realized that I wasn’t mad at Squirrel anymore. That’s unprecedented.

Turns out he just has different priorities. He’s not really trying to ruin my life with a diabolical laundry plot. You aren’t, are you Squirrel?