Friday, January 1, 2010

Vignettes or clutter? A real estate question

OK, readers, I need your opinions on this. My friend Colleen rents a cute little house in Boulder, Colorado.

A couple of days before Christmas (when she was out of town), her landlord informed her that he was putting the house on the market. Totally out of the blue, but she has a month-to-month lease, so it's all legal. Anyway, Colleen returned from her holiday travels and had about 24 hours to straighten up before the real estate agent arrived to take pictures. I think she did a great job.

Wouldn't you want to live in a house like this?

I know I'd be happy.

Check out the shelves in the kitchen. Colleen installed those this fall when she was holed up with H1N1. It set her recovery back a couple of days, but I think it was worth it, don't you?

Speaking of H1N1, you know what gives me fever? Attic bedrooms. I've mentioned it before on this blog, here. Aren't these two cute rooms?

OK, so here's where I'd like to hear opinions. Colleen's landlord (who owns the house) received an e-mail from an agent who showed the house (not the listing agent). This is what it said:

Thank you for letting me preview, I have buyers in this area in this price range.
OK, sorry to brutally honest here but the home did not show well at all.
Very cluttered and dirty/messy. Seems overpriced.
Thank you, X

First of all, I have been in her house. It's lovely, especially when you consider the fact that it's a rental. And the agent who is selling the house has been inside multiple times and has said it looks "beautiful." But "very cluttered and dirty/messy"?! Ouch. It is a small house to begin with. It will never feel big and open because it's not. But I definitely don't think it looks dirty or messy.

Colleen spent New Year's Eve day "decluttering." She moved tons of stuff to a storage locker, which is probably time well spent since she will be moving soon anyway. But tell us, please. Does the house look messy to you?

More broadly, Colleen (like me) puts time and energy into her house. It's very "her" - the artwork on the walls, the comfortable furniture, the attention to details. Do you think that the agent's criticism of the house was because the decor wasn't his style? Does a vignette that we think is lovely really look like messy clutter to someone else? Even if something is nicely decorated, it will never be in every person's taste. Is this purely a house-selling point, or does it go beyond that? No, you don't need to please everyone when it comes to decorating your house. Some people might love your style, others might not care for it at all. But "cluttered" and "messy"? Are we being too sensitive? Should we just let it go? Or should we take a closer look at our homes and maybe do some early spring cleaning?


LaurieAnna's Vintage Home said...

Ouch...fine line here. If your friend Colleen were the owner of the home, then my advice might be different. But, your friend, the tenant, is the victim here. At best, she has a place to live for a short time but without her style. At worst, the place sells immediately and she's out searching for another place to live in the next few weeks. For me, if the landlord is in agreement with the realtor's harsh analogy of the tenant's decor, then he needs to end the lease and put it on the market without the benefit of income while waiting for it to sell.

On a personal note, to me the space looks lovely, warm and inviting. In her shoes, I'd keep the space clean, as I'm sure she does, but leave my style in place. Any realtor worth their salt can guide buyers to look beyond the current decor and see the sought after features of the property. One last note, unless the "cluttered" opionion was shared by multiple realtors, I wouldn't give it much concern. I'm sorry for your friend's dilemma....that's a tough spot.

Colette's Cottage said...

Your friend is not making a cent on the sale. In fact, she doesn't have to do ANYTHING (in my opinion) to help her landlord sell it. She should ignore the real estate agent and spend her time looking for a new, fabulous place to decorate!!!!

Lisa said...

It is lovely and far from cluttered and dirty. Very simple style that would appeal to a lot of people. Good luck to her!

Valerie said...

I agree with Colette's Cottage. The tenant doesn't have to do a thing to help her landlord sell the house. In fact, for a variety of reasons, the owner would be far better off selling a home that is not currently occupied by a tenant. But I think that since 'staging' has become the #1 buzz word in real estate, we as buyers AND sellers are forgetting what is really important. To me I'd be much more concerned about the age and condition of the big ticket items such as the furnace, hot water heater, roof, etc., than simple issues that can be addressed with a mop, broom, and a bucket of paint. We are focusing way too much on the granite counters and the overly sparse decorating. Even in the most beautiful homes, we are not purchasing the furniture but what lies beneath. Some buyers can be swept away by the eye candy only to have purchased a home that turns out to be all wrong for them. The cute little cottage in Boulder will sell. The real estate agent should not have obsessed about its decorating, but should have done a service to his or her buyers by delving into deeper issues.

Julie said...

Thank you! You all raise good points. Colleen moved a lot of stuff to storage (mainly so she doesn't have to worry about people going through it while she's out), but it's nice to have reassurance that she hasn't been living in sty. Also, as an interesting side note, there ARE some maintenance issues with the house that are the result of an inattentive landlord. I bet now that some of Colleen's stuff is gone, it's more noticeable. I wonder how long it will take for the house to sell. I'll report back ...

Linda in AZ * said...

* Hi, Julie~~~

Me thinketh () the OWNER of the property was WRONG (& rude!)!! What "GOOD" did it do to show your friend the Realtor's note, and (2) he should be THANKING HIS LUCKY STARS he has a WONDERFUL, COOPERATIVE TENANT, much UNLIKE so many other folks have experienced!

I find it hard to believe your friend has ALREADY been SOOO HELPFUL, & done SOOOO MUCH in an attempt to HELP the owner, and he has not shown ONE ITOTA of appreciation!!!~~~ and, she's done it all at the cost of HER time, HER expense and HER sore bones!!! (GEEZ! Talk about an ingrate this guy is!)...

I suspect the SMARTEST, EASIEST ANNNND most "satisfactory" resolution for all would be for the owner to just wait til her renter's 30 days notice is up. When the place is empty (& by the way, it DOES look clean... just look at the shine off the refrigerator door!)he can send in his normal cleaning team & quickly get it on the MLS.

AS far as the renter, you know she COULD have reacted like a "BIG MEANIE" in the worst way, & even CREATED A MESS so it WOULDN'T SELL! He owes her a nice, sincere THANK YOU for her cooperation and the disruption to her life...

You know, "PAY IT FORWARD"...

Linda in AZ *

日月神教-任我行 said...


Annette said...

I am just starting to read you blog which is great and this is a mute point as I am sure you friend is long gone. But I am a landlord and I wouldn't dream of imposing this on my tenant! Its just wrong in so many ways. Yes the 30 days I can understand but I would wait till the tenant moved and then show the house. Asking someone to do all that work and still pay rent to boot oh please! And the house looked fine. Also I would have told that real estate agent to keep walking she/he should know better. Hope your friend found a nice place and a much nicer landlord.