It is important to be thorough when preparing a home for sale #719

#719 in a series of true experiences in real estate

What if you were the listing agent for a house in this hot market? Does it matter how thoroughly, how kindly you prepare for sale? Read this account and see what changes you might make.

One day when we were on agent tour we drove up to a small wood-sided house painted a pretty pale yellow. We were a few minutes past closing time and a woman was just locking the door.

“Hi,” I called to her. “Sorry, we’re late. But it’s vacant, right?”

“Yes, she said. “You can get keys from the lockbox.”

We joined her as she got to her car and asked if she had information about inspection reports on the house and when offers would be heard.

“I’m not the agent,” she told us. “I was just holding the house open for her. I think she’s having a termite report next week, but I’m not sure. And offers are probably next week, too.”

The outside of the house had been painted not long before, but the short front walkway paint was chipped showing earlier coats of other colors.

Immediately inside, the living room was clean, newly painted and plain without architectural ornamentation of any kind. In contrast, the furniture seemed sumptuous. A beautiful upholstered sofa in a rich melon colored fabric and matching double, or maybe triple, layers of pillows took up a sizeable portion of the room. Two leather armchairs stood opposite, plus a floor lamp and two tables. The wood floor was bare.

“Pretty couch,” I said, and Anet nodded. To the side of one chair I then noticed, was a leafy tree, 4 or 5 feet tall. A number of its leaves had fallen onto the floor. Instinctively, I walked over and felt the soil with my finger. The plant was bone dry.

“Oh, no,” I said, which caused Anet, already in the dining room to call anxiously, “What?”

“Nothing,” I assured her. “It’s just that this tree needs water. I’ve got to find some sort of container,” and I began to look for a teakettle or watering can, anything that might work.

Under the kitchen sink was an empty paper cup with a Starbucks label. Someone must have brought coffee to the house, then wanted to throw the cup away. But there was no garbage bag so the cup had been left where I found it.

I popped the lid off and began carrying cups of water to the tree. Then, wondering what was the matter with me, I gathered up the fallen leaves putting them into the cup, which I returned to the under-sink area.

Anet had walked through the small house by now and was in the dining room reading reports which, it turned out, had been done. We were alone in the house so I thought it would be ok to use the bathroom, but when I got there, there was no toilet paper, not in the holder, not in the cupboard. As agents almost invariably travel with extra toilet paper in their car trunks, I found this odd, but as long as I was there, I looked around at the bathroom.

It was close quarters but clean with a newer tub and tile, a vanity piled with fluffy towels, and one blooming orchid. The metal, wall-mounted medicine cabinet looked out of place though, mirror edges blackened, seams rusty.

Into the first bedroom a few steps, I said aloud again, “Oh, no.”

“What now?” asked Anet still in the dining room, by now working to get a balky sliding glass door open.

“Another tree. Leaves all over the floor. I wonder when the stager put them in here?”

The bedroom was carpeted in white and someone had provided strips of plastic for walking on, but recent rains made the gardens muddy and bits of mud had scattered from shoes onto the carpeting. This room had a door to the backyard, making the situation worse, and there was no doormat for wiping feet.

I retrieved the coffee cup, dumped the leaves in the garden, went to the bathroom for water this time, and went back and forth several times to the tree. Finally I got to the second bedroom where (I couldn’t believe it) there was a tree exactly like the others.

Anet arrived as I was doing my cup and water routine for the third time. Did I want to look at the partial basement, because the only light was burned out? She offered to get a flashlight from the car, but I told her it was fine.

I went back to the kitchen hoping to wash my hands, but there was no soap, no paper towel. The kitchen was pleasant however, not updated, but long and wide, with windows over the sink and light coming in. Adjacent was the dining room furnished with table and chairs and an orchid.

We were done. We passed through the lavishly appointed living room noting the couch again. As we left, I saw for the first time newly planted primroses by the walkway, beautiful and fully in bloom, maybe 8 of them.

They were badly in need of water. I groaned, looking around for a hose.

No such luck.

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