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February 10, 2020

Selling Your Home in the Age of HGTV

Selling a Home in the Age of HGTV

“There’s minimal inventory in this development, and zero golf course lots.  This area has been selling really fast and at above average prices,” said the realtor.  

“If you paint, neutral colors and change some of the light fixtures, you can boost the asking price by 10 – 15%,” he said.

So, in three weeks we decluttered, painted, replaced, weeded, planted, mulched, staged and photographed.  We were as close to a magazine home as we were ever going to get, just more sterile and less personal.  We were living in a carton of vanilla ice cream, and the realtor assured us we had exactly what the market wanted.

It took two weeks for the first showing.  Another two weeks before a second and third showing.  So much for selling fast. According to the feedback, those buyers preferred a “more open” floor plan. We assured our realtor we would not be taking down any walls to meet the whims of the market.

In three months on the market we have had about 15 showings and one pitifully attended Open House.  Feedback has been mostly the desire for the “open” floor plan and more upgrades than we had done.

We live in a solid house.  The kitchen is new with all the modern necessities. Okay, no wine fridge.  It does, however, open to the family room.  Both the kitchen and family room face the back.   Six large windows across the rear of the house provide a magnificent view of a flat yard that meets the #10 green on our neighboring golf course.  

Eighty percent of the flooring is new.  The bathrooms are mostly original, a whopping 18 years old.  The only upgrades in the bathrooms are new toilets, sliding doors replacing the shower curtain in the secondary bath, a new “rainfall” style shower head and light fixture in the master bath. While not magazine bathrooms, they serve their function well; and they function well.

I can only assume that “open” floor plan and more upgrades mean: no walls nor formals on the first floor, and newer bathrooms.

It is clear that HGTV, DIY network and all those magazines that feature, highlight and promote the newest and best in home design have killed the market for much of the USA.

Today’s buyers are smart.  They are doing their research; looking at homes online; reviewing comps on recently sold properties. They are also watching hour upon hour of all those remodeling shows.  So they know what they should be getting for their money. Today’s buyers want all the trends they are seeing on tv, in magazines, and on social media sites included in the asking price. For the seller, the decision is to sell “as is” or “as you wish.”

If HGTV is dictating the market, kitchens must be granite, tile, stainless, modern, rustic, spacious, not too big but have plenty of storage and entertaining potential.  Bathrooms need the latest in fixtures and functions.  Dual shower heads, floating vanities, heated flooring, smart toilets.  The preference is seamless, glass shower enclosures and definitely no brass or nickel finishes, maybe satin nickel; not stainless; maybe bronze, but better if its oil rubbed bronze.

Who can keep up? 

I thought we were thinking ahead when we chose the “chair height” toilets for replacement!

And forget just having spacious closets.  Closets are more pleasing and functional if they combine armoire, dresser drawers, shoe racks and jewelry safe in one convenient location. And, should be closed off by a rustic, sliding barn door.  Stage lighting, a window, and piped in music would be a much added bonus.

Moving into the standard parts of the home, vintage is popular.  Vintage mantels are preferred, even if there is no fireplace.  It gives the illusion of a fireplace without the fuss and muss of wood, kindling, ashes, and dampers.  

Hey, wait, aren’t all those brass fixtures in the bathroom vintage?  They are eighteen years old.

Modern is popular too.  Please, pantry, please contain modern pipe shelving and not that boring, white, adjustable wire “closet in a box” shelving. 

I wonder if modern pipe shelving helps family members put items back where they belong?  Or will all that beautiful shelving outshine the disarray in the pantry?  You know, cereal boxes with the soup cans, empty peanut butter jars near the spaghetti and dry goods.

And then we are back to that “open” floor plan concept that is the central theme of every remodel show on television.  

Adorable TV Show Host:  So what are your must haves?

Giddy Family:  Open Floor Plan, definitely. No compromising there.  Must be open concept.

Adorable TV Show Host: Can you swing a sledge hammer?

Giddy Family: Yes, absolutely.

Adorable TV Show Host:  Then open concept living is yours and you can say you helped.

And in one fell swoop, the walls come down and everything is open!  Pay no attention to that load bearing wall, or the plumbing that carries the waste water to the sewer line.  We will just move those, make adjustments.  It will take a little out of the budget.  But we can cut out the fireplace.  Who needs a fireplace anyway, when a nice rustic mantel made from reclaimed wood will give the illusion of a fire place, and still work with the budget.

More than the upgraded bathrooms, I believe it is the “not so open” floor plan that has us walled in from an offer.  Again, remember the back half of our home is open.  Large kitchen that connects to large family room. But, still, not open enough.

We have always entertained.  We have always had a house full of kids.  Inevitably everyone comes to the kitchen.  I have often said my next house will only have a kitchen occupying the first floor.  I get the open concept concept.

But then there is reality.  The open floor plan does create some challenges.  Especially if you are not constantly entertaining.

Cooking with garlic and onions?  Everyone is in tears.

Trying to talk to the computer technician to undo the virus on your computer?  Good luck if the kids are having a play date.

Watching your favorite remodeling or cooking show?  I hope your surround sound comes with headsets so you can listen over trombone practice, video games, or your spouse’s overseas business call.

Hectic Day?  Want to squirrel away for 30 minutes?  Everyone can see where you are trying to hide.  And when you look up for just a brief, few seconds you will spy all the toys and shoes not put away, the remaining dinner dishes that still need attention, the backpacks and briefcases that just never quite made it into the rustic, antique storage bench by the door.  So much for a quiet and carefree half hour to yourself.

We all have looked through the magazines, watched the shows, and even visited the home of that friend/family member that is HGTV worthy.  But for the average, everyday family, picture perfect is just a momentary snap, when everything has a place and is in that place.  But come morning, or the arrival of guests, is that really what’s important?

Home buyers have to remember, what you see on tv, social media sites, in magazines and journals is staged, contrived and not lived in.  What you see is not real, it’s reality TV. It has not yet been lived in.

Oh yes, the complete look buyers are seeking can be found, but not in their price range.  And, even if they find it, some changes will need to be made to make it complete.

I watch HGTV, read Better Homes and Garden, spend way too much time on Pinterest.  I love the ideas, the possibilities, the creativity and ingenuity.  I love the repurposing of old and new items.  I even the love the “reveal” when the giddy family is awestruck and teary eyed and madly in love with the adorable TV show host for giving them the perfect home.

I will say again, our family home has never been magazine worthy.  We don’t have floating sinks, or sliding barn doors, or vintage mantelpieces.  Ours is a traditional, two story home with a solid foundation.  It had some warmth, color and personality, until we followed the realtor’s advice and painted it vanilla (to sell faster). 

If our home could speak I believe it would tell a potential buyer about the fun and games, tears and laughter, kick ball competitions, birthdays, holidays and other celebrations.  It would speak to the parties with friends and family.  It would tell of the love and joy, a few sorrows and heartbreaks, that it has been proud to witness and hold in its embrace.  It would delight in the memories, joy and love it has housed.

It is not the latest design trend that makes a house beautiful, it is how you live that makes a home.  And, if we could put a value on having lived a good life in our house, we would be on Million Dollar Listings.

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