Tuesday, January 22, 2013


This house selling process is going to give me an ulcer. Or, since I already have an ulcer, is going to make it misbehave.

Y'all have seen our house. It's a beautiful, nearly 100 year old lady. It's aged, gracefully, but yes, it's showing lines, and wrinkles, and all the signs of a house that has stood the test of time. It is a craftsman that over the years has had other designs laid over it in an attempt to modernize, unfortunately many of those attempts in the mid-80s. We've rectified those errors in judgement where we could - new windows, coats or paint, new systems (electric and water). We've loved this home and cared for it, but we've never tried to make it something it's not.

And because I'm a bit of a real estate junky, especially in Oakland and Berkeley, I know what our house is worth, and what it's not worth. I know the type of person that will want to buy our house. I know what we need to sell at to walk away breaking even. To get that offer, we need to put some money in. We have to fix the deck, we know this. It was a death trap. And work is currently commencing to make it a bad ass deck that I wish we had had years ago.

But our Realtor, and our stager, they want us to spend a lot more money to make this place a show piece house. This is NOT a show piece. This is someone's first home. Or, their second after leaving condo life behind. This is a place for a young family that wants larger rooms for their kids, a bigger kitchen, and a yard to play in and have a dog. This is not the house a couple of empty nesters with money to burn buy. This is not a million dollar listing. This is not Rockridge. Sure, Temescal wants to be Rockridge but it's not. But to hear our Realtor and the staging company, they seem to be confused. They seem to think they're working with a house in Rockridge, that will go for well over $800,000. I feel like they're not being realistic. Yes, we want a "good offer" and we're realistic enough to know that we'll never get a "great offer." But what good is a "good offer" if we had to put $30,000 of our money to get it?

{Edited to clarify: They don't think our house will go for $800,000. In fact, they've said it'll likely go for $625,000. The problem is that they're asking us to do things as if this was an $800,000 house.}

I'm going to ask Alan today to figure out how much money we're willing to spend, all told, so that we don't go in the whole to get out of this house and then give that number to our Realtor and the stager and say, "this is what we have to spend - make it work." I'm not going to argue with them. I'm not going to cajole. I'm not going to be bullied, and I'm not going to be brow beaten and coerced to spend more money in the hopes that an outlier comes in and falls instantly in love with the place and overspends dramatically. It's just not going to happen.


  1. I always hear on shows that you get like 75% back on a kitchen reno, but then people reno their kitchens to sell the house! dont you lose 25%? the math makes no sense. The only upside to losing a bit of return on investment is that your house may sell quicker (but not for more moola).

    I dont know. ive never sold and I am kind of afraid to.

    good luck?!

  2. In this market, houses that needed to be gutted entirely are going in two weeks if priced correctly. That's why I'm not buying their arguments about how we need it to shine. Someone is going to buy this house regardless of how much money we dump into it beforehand. It doesn't need to look like a brand new build.

  3. One big question to ask might be, "How are the agent/stager getting paid?" That is, what are their financial incentives, and are they aligned with yours? If I recall correctly, you're working with an agent you know, but the issue may be that while they're your friend, they still have a strong financial incentive to get you to do things in a way that's not aligned with what you want. If it's YOUR $50K, for instance, your agent doesn't give a fuck - they want you to spend the money. Their profit goes up, and it's your money, not theirs.

    Find a way to structure the incentive so that they do what you want.

  4. That is absolutely absurd. It kind of sounds like your realtor/stager team just want to have something "better" suited to beef up their portfolios.

    Every house needs a little spit and polish before sale, but $50,000 is more than a "little", even in locations with astronomical property values.

    Considering that it is a 100year old Craftsman, potential buyers shouldn't even be expecting it to be anywhere near modern, unless listed as such. It is what it is, and as with all period houses, the listing is going to draw individuals interested in that specific type of building. Like you said, someone looking for an ultra-modern new build certainly isn't going to be looking at 100 year old houses.

    Good luck coming to a solution that works for you and Alan.

  5. I've never sold a house so I only have a one-sided view of this, but since we are the buyers you're describing (and we have a similar 100-year-old house, so know the ins and outs of this now), I will say that the two best things the sellers of our home did, by far, were to have the interior professionally painted and to provide inspection reports with big ticket items either addressed or accompanied by reasonable bids so that everything felt very manageable. The very worst thing they did was to do a superficial "kitchen upgrade" on an old kitchen that needed a full overhaul so that they could list it as "updated with granite counters." Total waste of money (theirs and ours!) In case this is a direction you're being pushed--resist! Leave anything bigger than paint and hardware to a new owner, who might have another vision all together. The sellers of our place also did a bunch of things that were nice, but didn't really need to be done from a selling perspective (automatic garage door, new drainage, etc.)--we appreciate them now but they didn't affect our offer one way or the other (though arguably they should have!) At the end of the day, it was really the high-quality paint job plus some thoughtful staging and landscaping that convinced us we wanted the place, and the inspection reports and estimates that convinced us to actually buy it. In hindsight we probably should have looked a little more closely at a lot of things, but we were first-timers, and that's a lesson you learn for your second house. Good luck!!

  6. Alan Caudill2:02 PM

    What a great idea. I doubt we could structure such a contract unless we had an agent who really needed the work. And like they say, you want to be cautious hiring people who need work because there's a reason they can't find it easily.

  7. I like to think I'm pretty savvy when it comes to what looks good in a house, and a lot of these requests are things that as a buyer I wouldn't be interested in either. I strongly feel that new lighting fixtures, or a different white on our trim & cabinets, or a different black on our front door, is not going to make or break any deals. We're replacing the deck because it needed to be replaced. We've replaced windows, water heater, electrical systems, and appliances because all of that stuff needed to be replaced. We've had a structural engineer tell us our house didn't need a retrofit and that it was "fine." Our house is a good, solid house.

    I know buying/selling is a very emotional process, and I'm trying not to be too emo about this house because I do love it, but I just feel like this is all a scam. Yes, the walls need to be painted because our color choices are not for everyone. But how is painting trim that is antique white to another shade of white going to make any difference whatsoever? It's not. Most buyers don't know there are 1000 shades of white. I just happen to know that because I'm addicted to design blogs, magazines, and Pinterest. I think it's just to make money. I feel like they're trying to scare me into spending more when I don't need to.

  8. If you don't like the designer and don't feel comfortable working with them, you should fire them. They shouldn't be hard selling you on anything.

  9. Just so long as it's not all beige... :) (But yes--I know the day will come when a realtor tells me I have to repaint my lime green kitchen...so sad, but resigned to it!) If the rest of it doesn't need repainting, skip it. I had no idea about the world of white before we remodeled our kitchen (in fact, I still have the can of "Super White" Mark's Paints sold me when I went in and told them I needed "plain white" to repaint a small chunk of trim we'd gouged...) Needs paint vs. doesn't need paint--yes, I'd have noticed that. But shades of white or black? No way would I have known the difference!

  10. Sharon9:29 PM

    The more you spend to stage it, the more they make on the sale. It's in their interest to nag you to spend more staging it. I'd find another realtor if (s)he doesn't take NO for an answer.

  11. Well, you know, "greige" is all the rage. :-)

  12. I'm starting not to believe those shows on HGTV. I just watched a real estate episode and they said a family bought a house for $549,000. I found the listing on the company's website and it's still for sale for $579,000. Different episode, same show, a family "bought" a house for $579,000, unfurnished. The house is now listed on the same real estate company's website, fully staged, and offered for significantly more.


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