Tag Archives: house selling

The “Greige-ification” of the Spring Home-Selling Process

lilacs - spring, 2015

I am so not a beige person.

Yet here I am watching – sorrowfully – as the inside of our home – is transformed from its former colorful self into a bland, freshly-painted beige – or perhaps more accurately  – “greige” –  (you do know that gray is the new beige) –  to best attract potential house buyers.

Our realtor tells us that would-be buyers would be put off by my rather obvious fondness for color in every room. By my deep sea-blue dining room and my inside-of-a-peach family room with its chili-pepper red, built-in bookcase.  Seeing our lively green front hall would cause potential buyers to flee in dismay.

Farewell to my formerly colorful home – and welcome to my greige abode.

What is it, I ask the realtor (who happens to be my close friend, Liz and in her personal capacity, she likes color, but as a realtor, she does not), that would-be house buyers find so attractive about bland and boring greige?

She tells me that today’s would-be buyers want to walk into a clean and neutral canvas, freshly-painted walls, without any family photographs or personal items that would give any clues to the personalities of the current inhabitants.  Today’s home buyers apparently have trouble picturing themselves making your house their home if they are distracted by any signs that you happen to live there.

This has changed since 1983.

When my husband JP and I bought our house, a smallish, three bedroom brick colonial built soon after WWII, we purchased it from its’ original owners who made no efforts to hide their decorative preferences. As we entered for the first time, we were treated to a symphony of stuck-in-the-1960’s era color and texture – including thick, brown shag carpeting in the living room, a front hall covered in silvery foil/black/brown/fake tree wallpaper and a kitchen done up in matching harvest gold appliances.

We did not run out in horror, but instead headed to the basement, saw that its’ knotty-pine walls had been painted black to match the floor – and that the basement ceiling sported a large spinning silver disco ball. Did I mention the burnt orange built-in basement bar?

You can’t make this stuff up, truly.

Upstairs to the three bedrooms – where the master bedroom ceiling had a light fixture that resembled a giant wrought iron wagon wheel, ready to impale you the minute you lay down on the bed below it.  Instead of closets, there hung long strands of dangling beads from two alcoves. The one-person-at-a-time master bathroom was tiled in a fetching pink and black combo.

And the piece de resistance? Following our noses we spotted a large mixing bowl of chopped raw onions sitting on the kitchen counter next to the stove. Surely nothing says “I can’t wait to sell my house” as much as the smell of freshly cut onions in the air. Was the older couple selling the house sending mixed signals?

Somehow JP and I saw beyond the house’s distasteful (to us) decor – and aromas – and snapped it up. We were not deterred by its’ extremely overly personalized appearance.  In fact, we appreciated seeing evidence that another family had lived there, who perhaps once had teenagers who likely danced in the basement and a mom who put pencil marks in the linen closet door to show the height of her children as they grew.  It was time for their family to move out –  and for ours (I was newly pregnant when we first saw our house) to begin.

Fast forward, and later this spring our house will have been completed de-nuded of anything that would indicate that a family with real lives and personal preferences has lived here for 33 years.  Family photos boxed up, my prized collection of blue ceramic bowls packed away and all bathroom items removed (Because if someone sees the kind of deodorant you use that would tell them too much about you and we can’t have that, now can we.)

From inviting warmth to the most grayish of greige – our home is now in the process of becoming a boringly bland canvas.

Watching it as it morphs from a warm, lived-in home to an it-could-belong-to-anyone kind of a house distresses me. When it stops looking like our well-loved home, I tell myself, it will make it that much easier to say goodbye.

Or else I can leave a bowl of freshly-chopped raw onions on the counter in our newly-greige-painted kitchen on the day of our first open house. Don’t tell Liz.

 

*To Be Continued

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A House Without Books Is a Home Without Memories

bookshelf

Have you ever been inside a home without any books? None at all. Zero, zilch, nada.

I am not exaggerating here. How do I know this? That this particular house (names of its owners withheld to protect the guilty) contained no books? Because I snooped.

Yes, while the homeowners were otherwise occupied, I peeked into every room. Surely I would find a bookcase in a guest room. Nope. Or bookshelves in their study. Not there either. I glimpsed into the master bedroom, hoping to see night tables piled with books – or some magazines, show me some printed material, please!

But no luck. These people  happen to be smart, well-educated human beings. They are very busy with their jobs, they work hard and when they don’t work, they exercise. Perhaps they read on their laptops while exercising?

I am still puzzling over this a few weeks later.

I know I am being very “judgey” – it is just that I can’t imagine what it is like to live a life without being surrounded by the tangible evidence of your life in book form.

I like looking at all of the books I read as a child,  books I once read to my children, books that got me through law school, books I just finished, books I am now reading, books I want to read, books to share with friends and books to give to my grandkids.

My husband and I are now in the process of “decluttering” and hopefully downsizing (do you know anyone who wants to buy a very well-loved family house?)- and part of that process means purging our “huge” (meant in a very non-Donald-Trumpian-sort-of-way) collection of books.

Over the years I have tried to lighten my toppling shelves but have failed. Our local high school has a wonderful used book sale every spring. Every March I promise myself I will haul boxes of boxes to the school on the designated drop-off days. This is the year to fulfill that promise.

Where to start in a collection of hundreds of favorites?

One shelf is devoted to mysteries I love by Ruth Rendell, P.D. James and Elizabeth George. Another to the multi-volume set of epistolary diaries of Anne Morrow Lindbergh. The lovely female-strong, village-based novels of under-rated (IMHO) British author Barbara Pym pack another shelf.

Wartime and spy novels written by Eric Ambler, Alan Furst, John le Carre and their lesser peers fill several shelves.

Three or four shelves contain my own collection of cookbooks, some purchased, some inherited from my mother – and no, I won’t sell you my autographed editions of the older Julia Child’s or The French Menu Cookbook (Olney) or my multi-volume set of leather-bound Gourmet cookbooks.

Spaces filled with presidential biographies, history, novels and political memoirs.

How to choose which books to donate –  and which books to keep?

Like selecting which child I love least!

I sat on the floor by our upstairs hall bookcase to ponder earlier this week. Taking down books, one by one, blowing off the dust (some of these books have been there for y-e-a-r-s) and finding bits of our lives tucked in the pages. Bookmarks (remember those?). Old letters from even older friends. Receipts. Kids’ drawings. Dog photos. Notes with mystery phone numbers.

A parade of books showing who I was at all the stages of my life since we moved into this house when I was 31 years old and pregnant with our first child.

What kind of person keeps nearly every book she has ever read? A person who thinks old books are just as important as old friends? Or maybe they are the same thing.

I like my human friends fine but they don’t nourish me as much as the sight of all of my beloved books on the shelves. The kindle is handy but hardly evocative of memories.

Looking at an old book I remember exactly where I was when I read it.

The David Maraniss book that kept me so engrossed when I was on a bus ride crossing Northern Israel that I totally missed out on the beautiful scenery. The Ruth Rendell mystery that comforted me with its strong characters when I was very ill in the hospital. The lovely short stories by Laurie Colwin that I first read as a young mother and re-read often today. And the Jhumpa Lahiri book where I cried when I got to its last page because the book had ended and I wanted the story to go on and on.

It took me a long time to fill up the 21 boxes of books I donated last week but I did it. Still the shelves are hardly denuded. Some favorites, I just couldn’t let them go.

I can’t say goodbye to some of them yet. And why should I? If we ever complete the “decluttering” process (hello, JP, are you listening? are we going to keep your old sports memorabilia forever?), and get around to selling this house, I am sure there will be empty bookcases in our new place.

I already look forward to filling them up with old printed friends to make us feel at home.

 

 

 

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