Details are a big part of the home selling equation

#594 in a series of true experiences in real estate
October 2009, Hills Newspapers

We’ve got house fever again. We think about this house at night and we talk about it days. We visit the house often. We want it to be the most appealing house ever.
It’s an old house, about 100 years old, wooden sided with parts shingled, lath and plaster walls with graceful coved ceilings. Two living levels and a basement.

It’s surprising to me that it has taken at least a dozen visits to see the details we have seen so far. We know we haven’t seen everything yet. When we first went there we saw and felt the comfiness of the house and some of the details – spots of peeling paint and plaster cracks were obvious, paper lanterns on hanging light bulbs, enormous old furnace with fat duct arms in the basement.

Every day we were there we saw more: beautiful wood panel doors that slide into wall pockets, pattern-faded Formica in the kitchen with shiny metal edging, a full wall of painted lattice on the back porch – real lattice constructed piece by piece on site, not stapled together at a factory.

The general inspection gave us good indicators on what basics needed addressing. We met our painter at the house and talked to him about painting and plaster repair, what it would cost, how long the work would take. And we met or sent a first rate plumber and furnace man, our trusted electrician, Angel who repairs and replaces windows, the sewer expert, the floor refinisher who also lays new flooring, and a couple of do-everything people.

Anet took lots of pictures so when we were not there and could not remember – what was on the floor of that closet, or where that off-center light was located and about how long it hangs down, or even if a washer and dryer are still in the basement – we’ve pored over the photos.

I keep making lists of things to look at when we are back at the house. One day we’d concentrate on light fixtures — where they are, if they work and have wall switches, how important to change them? And wall plugs and switches — how many, how difficult to add more?

Another day we looked carefully at windows, found 3 pieces of cracked glass and many ropes missing. “Funny,” I said to Anet, “we go and look over and over again and still we see only parts of the house, only some of the details at a time.”

On several days we stood in the kitchen looking and thinking trying to decide what would make a big difference. New counters? What would the material be – wood, stone, laminate? New sink, appliances? We talked and talked about the kitchen finally deciding to change the light fixtures and the floor, and of course paint, but to leave any enlargement and replacement to the new owner.

Using bids and in some cases our own estimates, we made a budget and the seller approved. The sewer line and furnace will be new. Painting in and out and wooden floors will also be done. Our floor people will see if the worn linoleum will easily lift off. If it does, they’ll sand and finish it, but if not, they will lay a wooden floor over the old.

Wooden floors upstairs and down will be sanded and refinished but we might leave the old, beautifully-patterned linoleum pieces in the closets. (How we wish we could find those patterns today.) Painting to be completed inside and out, leaving the shingles natural. Fence repairs and garden cleanup. Quite a lot of electrical work mostly to the outside but including new electrical boxes in some ceilings and a few wall switches where there are none now.

A tree that is leaning against the house and another that is sickly will be cut down. We’ve ordered new light fixtures for some rooms, the doorbell will be made to work, possible replacement of bathroom towel bars and sink faucets, and there’s hauling still to do.

Window washing, final cleaning and some staging will be last. With tight scheduling we expect to be on the market in another 4 weeks. Meanwhile our brains are full night and day; the fever is grand.

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