Monday, December 1, 2008

Selling a Home

Over the past week I have used my time efficiently and prepared holiday cards for my clients and friends. I bought them at Chestnut Cottage this year. Usually we go up to the Adirondacks in September to the Great Camp Sagamore and I find cards in the Old Forge Hardware Store, but this year the family went to the Poconos and I stayed back to sell and list that weekend.

I digress. The point about the holiday cards is that it takes all day because I want to write something personal in each one. In order to do this, I have to bring up faces and conversations and homes from the past. I have been in contact with most of my clients/friends over the course of the past year, amazingly enough, but for some this is the only time I will contact them. I want it to be a postive contact.

When I was an administrator in the Waldorf School in Saratoga I learned to slow down and consider each child and family as I got ready to sleep. The teachers were supposed to bring up faces and incidents from the day, not to dwell on but just to think about. I thought of families and "took them into sleep." Often I'd wake up in the morning with fresh insights.

I use the yearly card-writing as a time for that, even if the client has moved away and I may never see him/her again. It still brings a resonance to what I do. I don't just sell houses, I settle people. How can I do it better?

This year I have been mulling around the idea of selling in this market that is so much different from all the other years. As I brought up the names, I remembered past sales and thought about lessons learned and applications for current homes.

Dina Pollitts McCarthy ( has made me more aware of staging than I have ever been before. She promises (I hope that's a good verb) to provide the "WOW!" factor to homes. While I have trouble believing that you can do this for every home, I do think that maximizing the home's potential is certainly quite important in this market.

One of the couples I remembered had that "Wow" factor in their home. I met them through a friend who wanted me to help them sell in order to build. The house from the outside was not impressive, the neighborhood older and close to a commercial center, but I was game. I never know what's behind a door but I am generally eager to find out.

Behind their front door was an amazing home. Everything was perfectly placed and immaculate. The dining room invited large family dinners, the kitchen was a place for talking while they cooked, the yard had a huge inground pool and patios and flowers and more flowers. But the piece de resistance was a family room that had been added - huge windows, gas fireplace, hardwoods and decorated to the max. They wanted a price higher than any home had been sold in their neighborhood - ever - and I agreed (to my own amazement.)

It sold in a day. Cash, if I remember correctly. To a family who had a similar home but no pool. Similar, but not the same. No real "Wow." They backed out a week later, nervous that their home wouldn't sell.

Another couple came in and put in an offer - full price again - immediately. What makes this so memorable was their request to go back in a few days later. "I know I loved the house," the wife explained, "but I can't tell you anything about it or where anything was. I just fell in love!"

They carried through and bought it, my selling couple built their new home and moved in to make that another incredible place. And as I went through the cards I thought of them and wondered how to re-create what they had accomplished. Maybe it's not possible.

The gentleman passed away this weekend. I had no idea when I wrote the card - I'll pull it from the pile and send a different one. I know that I enjoyed the time I spent with them, however brief, and their home remained vivid in my mind over the years. I think also it wasn't just the home, but the experience of knowing the two of them, of seeing how they imbued their surroundings with their joy of living.