Virtual cleanup

palimpsestAugust 6, 2014

I posted a while back re: a friend who was trying to sell an estate and getting a lot of negative feedback.

I cleaned out a couple of the rooms virtually to show what less clutter can do. This isn't photoshop so the results are kind of crude:

Straightened up bathroom:

Lightened up dining room and removed desk:

Tried beige carpet in master bedroom:

I think this may convince that the house at least needs to be emptied or mostly emptied. I don't think parts of it have been painted ever (since built) but I don't know that I would cheaply paint the entire house, I would probably lower price.

One of the other things I noticed looking at all the comps in the area is that the picture quality is also poor, and these weren't provided by the sellers they were take by the agent or a photographer. But they are all dark and not well composed even considering the given conditions.

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Annie Deighnaugh

Yeah, and put a solid color beige throw on that really clashes with the brick in the fireplace. If possible, can he take down the window treatments? That bath valance and the vertical blinds are not helpful, esp the pink in the living room...maybe leave the blind in the bathroom. And take the plastic off the bedroom lamp shades.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 4:54PM
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I think even decluttering is enough for this room, although it may make sense to switch sofas with one of the others. I think all the vertical blinds downstairs might be pink, I am not sure.

This post was edited by palimpsest on Wed, Aug 6, 14 at 17:28

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 5:21PM
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I agree about the couch, and if all the vertical blinds are pink, I would suggest taking them down, also. Better to have no window coverings than whatâÂÂs there now!

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 5:50PM
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Even moving the mirror and getting rid of a little clutter makes it look like someone is maybe paying attention:

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 5:51PM
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A switch like this:

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 6:14PM
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I'll admit it. I am first and foremost an emotional buyer. That said, I would never put in an offer before doing my due diligence and if the location and price were perfect, I'd make a concerted effort to see past the cosmetic details. However, when I see a house like this one, my immediate reaction is that it is old, tired, dirty, unloved and full of deferred maintenance. It would have to be a steal of a price for me to consider it.

Your efforts to neutralize some of the negatives are helpful, but what it really needs is a deep cleaning, fresh paint, neutral carpeting, no furniture (or staged contemporary furniture) and no window coverings. The bathrooms and kitchen would still seem old, but if they were sparkling clean, they wouldn't be objectionable.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 6:27PM
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Sofa switch is good. If they can do without the pink blinds, they really should go. Pink is a big turn off for so many buyers -- especially the rose pink. I also think you can get away with pink in one bedroom and/or bath, but more than that is a narrow audience.

I would also suggest cleaning the brick above the fireplace. A framed poster or inexpensive print would add some color to the bathroom.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 6:27PM
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I will agree. I think this house is tired and probably has a fair amount of deferred maintenance. I wouldn't buy it myself unless I was looking for a cheap entrée into a good school district. The price is lower than the more updated comps but I think not enough. I suggested cleaning it out and showing it empty. If it sits until heating season, I think they have to weigh the monthly utility bills vs. the cost of recarpeting the entire carpeted area (upstairs) in beige carpet.

One of the problems is multiple siblings, some of whom live just like this and see nothing wrong with it, one who won't contribute a nickel to any updates regardless, and at least one who realizes it will not sell looking like this but does not feel that they alone should shoulder the finances to do the work to get the house sold.

I think the kitchen is the cleanest least objectionable area (photowise) in the entire house;

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 6:56PM
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A situation with multiple owners, especially siblings, is always fraught with emotional baggage. I'm glad I'm not their realtor. You are a kind friend for trying to help.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 7:43PM
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I think that one person should always be put in charge, but sometimes that is not always so easy.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 8:39PM
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You're right. It's not. I dread the day when I have to deal with my parent's legacy. Even if siblings can agree, adding in the in-law spouses can make for a miserable process.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 9:23PM
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I was put in charge of dividing some of my mother's personal effects. In-law spouses were strictly forbidden to even be present.

We were actually requested to not discuss with each other the part of my mother's estate that was passed to each of us, and we haven't. It's really none of my business what transpired between my mother and siblings and for them, my mother and me. And it's certainly not the business of someone who's not even a blood relative. My siblings may have discussed it with their own significant others after the fact, or with each other. But I've kept silent. I suppose this could be challenged in some legal sense, but I think it would take a legal challenge to get me to say anything one way or another.

This post was edited by palimpsest on Wed, Aug 6, 14 at 21:44

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 9:35PM
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I guess they are not going to do too much besides declutter, if they all can agree to do that. It's a shame because there is a lot of potential there for a pretty inexpensive facelift and return on investment. For example, the fireplace brick should be painted at least, and a long shelf mantel mounted. A TV could then sit to the left of the fireplace on the long shelf/mantel and free up that corner visually. Remove the brass from the opening and put a pretty firescreen there on the hearth to give it more importance. That brick is way too busy and dirty the way it is.

The blue sofa is better in there. White lamp could stay then. The lines of the vintage rattan tables are awesome- you just can't see any of that with the brick and paneling screaming at each other.

Kitchen works pretty well in the picture. A solid color tablecloth with a bowl of fruit would be more appealing and less distracting than the print tablecloth, I think.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 9:56PM
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I replaced the blue carpet in the upstairs of a home I sold that was discolored by my teenage daughter's hair products (don't ask). I installed high end beige carpet. One of the open house lookers said, "It looks just like the carpet in our rental apartment.". Provide a new carpet credit. I did sell the house at the open house though.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 11:09PM
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I think the house would be better off empty. It would look bigger and nicer without even the stuff in the after pix.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 3:00AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

I would minimize but not empty the house. (In the DR, I'd get rid of the hutch and add a table with some chairs. There is evidence that empty houses take longer to sell because they look smaller. Certainly was true for my mom's rental unit which was looked much better with some furniture in it so people could see how a layout would work.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 6:42AM
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I would also empty the house. Put everything on Craig's List. Whatever they get in sales (and I imagine there's at least a couple hundred dollars there), put that into paint and freshen the place up.

I feel for the sibling who recognizes the need to make some improvements, but doesn't want to shoulder the expense. However, sometimes you just have to step up to the plate in order to get things done. He/she is not benefitting from having the house sit unsold. The sooner that happens and the proceeds are divided, the sooner he/she can move on. If it were me, I'd do my best to convince my siblings to chip in (maybe get the realtor to break it down financially for them). If they continued to resist I'd set a budget, and keep receipts for the expenses. Maybe some of the siblings would be willing to reimburse once they had cash from the sale. Maybe not. But your friend would still be ahead of where he/she is now, I think.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 7:14AM
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My Mom's house was mostly empty when she listed it in April. She had moved from her house to an apartment, and took a lot of furniture with her. What stayed in the house was a bed in each bedroom, a sofa in the living room, and the dining room set. For a while there was furniture on the screen porch (until she sold it).

As for getting rid of stuff among children: years ago, my Mom made a video inventory of the house - spreading out dishware from the sideboard, opening closets and cabinets, and slowly panning bookcases and walls. My two brothers and I went through the video and made lists of the things that we wanted from the house. Mom and Dad went through the lists, and there was surprisingly little overlap. When two of us asked for the same thing, we were able to make tradeoffs, and everyone was happy.

The beauty of that system is that dispersal was not eminent; there wasn't a huge emotional turmoil in the mix. When Mom moved from a large 4-bedroom house to a 2-bedroom apartment, she didn't have room for a lot of things. But it was very easy for her to sort the rest: anything that was on the list that she wasn't going to use went to the person who wanted it. Everything else was tossed or donated. She already knew what was important to us, and didn't have to worry about giving away a treasure - and didn't have to wait for each of us to come from out of town to sort through things.

I am so grateful to my Mom for taking that initiative many years ago!

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 10:55AM
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Here's what I think is the best that can be hoped for

Emptied of all clutter and personal belongings

A piece or two of furniture in some rooms to give a sense of scale, like beds with a clean sheet on them, or the sofas or dining table.

(Luckily the house is fairly large with okay room sizes so people should be able to gauge)

Maybe neutral carpeting to replace the (hunter green, bright blue, pinkish burgundy etc. different carpets in every carpeted room). This is if they have to start contemplating paying expensive heating bills every month. It may make sense to spend it on carpet instead of another month or two of bills.


Part of the issue here is that the sellers can't even really "see" what the original listing pictures show. I sent the cleaned up pictures to my friend who could only see how much junk was in some of the rooms when I erased it and the siblings that looked at the cleaned up pictures perhaps even more so. They didn't even really notice the dirty towels in the bathroom or the empty hangers hanging crookedly in the laundry room or the threadbare curtains on some of the windows until they were taken out of the picture.
This is their "normal" for looking at the house. (But I was going to do a job for one of the siblings and she didn't recognize a piece of her own furniture in a picture---we haven't gotten very far).

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 4:07PM
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They might listen to the argument that the longer they procrastinate on the cleanup, the more money it costs them.

They are losing money as it sits. Taxes, utilities, insurance, yard maintenance ... what is the monthly carrying cost of that house?

What is selling it quickly worth to them? How many months do they want to keep paying the carrying costs?

Spending money NOW to clear it out, clean it thoroughly, refresh paint and carpet and get it out of their hair would be a bargain.

And reimburse whoever fronted the money out of the sales money, BEFORE it is divided among the heirs (it's an expense against the estate) so the non-contributors don't profit by saying "no".

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 6:04PM
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