Open house gathers unprecedented attention

#566 in a series of true experiences in real estate
November 2008, Hills Newspapers

It seemed to be the granddaddy of Sunday open houses. Many hundreds of people were there. We’ve never had an open house like this one.

The house is a lovely brown shingle designed by famed architect Julia Morgan so the rush wasn’t too surprising. We got there an hour before the advertised-open hours of 2 to 4, and we were still there after 5. A small crowd was waiting as we unlocked the door and there was a constant stream throughout the afternoon: friends and family of the owners, neighbors, fine-architecture fans, and at least a few buyers.

The house, which is large and has separate living and bedroom levels, was full, and the talk was respectful, kind and admiring. They liked the house, the wood paneling and casement windows, the golden-and-brown swirly patterns in the recently sanded fir floors. They talked to us and to one another and said how friendly and comfortable the house is.

Everyone loved the paint colors, especially the green in the living room that is almost a match to the original tiles around the fireplace and the warm russet in the dining room, and several said that they wouldn’t have thought to paint such dark shades in rooms with so much dark redwood, but “they give the rooms depth and life.”

At other open houses the neighbors do come and sometimes the owner’s friends and family too. But mostly we see real buyers. We can tell who they are because they ask how long the house has been on the market and if this is the first open house. And they ask about the roof and furnace, foundation and termite report.

Some ask to read the disclosures on the house and sit right down to do that because we always have them in the house. It was different at this most recent open house. No one cared about the termite report or the age of the furnace. There were no expressed concerns about the condition of the systems at all.

Every 5 minutes or so Anet slid open and closed one of the all-redwood, double-wide pocket doors that disappear on either side of the entry hall. She didn’t want anyone to miss seeing them.

A few questioned why the stove and refrigerator were missing and we answered that the last kitchen stove had been too large for the space and didn’t work very well; refrigerator, too. We were leaving it to the new owner to furnish appliances.

Instead they asked about the history of the house: “When was it built?” ” How did the owner happen to know Julia Morgan?” “Are the original plans available to see?” “What has been changed since the house was built?”

They asked about the furnishings and lavish flower arrangements the stager did herself. “Were these chairs and tables and curtains and rugs here? The owner’s own things? Because they look so right here, especially the gold Chinese rug in the living room.”

It was quite exhilarating. Then on Thursday after the Sunday open house, we had an agent open. We served sandwiches and grilled veggies and cookies that my daughter and I baked. We expected a lot of people but it was even bigger. At least 200 agents were there which was completely marvelous.

Agents loved the house too. They told us they liked how the house was presented, the plantings near the front door, how clean and fresh the house was, how unusual and great it is that the house is almost entirely as originally built.

Agents asked agent questions: “Will it be open again?” “Can I show it on Saturday?” “How do I get a disclosure package?” “When are you hearing offers?”

We’re thinking that this house will choose its own new owners quite soon. That may sound a little woo-woo but we’ve watched while it happened: houses do their own selecting.

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