Last summer, I received a referral from a couple that was looking to sell their Westchester home. As many of you know, Westchester is located right near the Brookfield Zoo. Like many of the homes in Westchester, theirs was a 1960-70s step ranch, a solidly built, all brick home with three bedrooms and a bath upstairs, a combined living/dining room, a galley-style kitchen and a large basement.
I quickly learned that theirs was a not a ‘typical’ Westchester home. How could it be when the homeowners worked together at a zoo?
The couple’s love for animals “greeted” me immediately as I entered the immaculately cared-for home. Photographs of exotic animals hung on the walls, wild animal sculptures were tastefully displayed in lighted wall units, and their area rug? Leopard print.
After a brief chat, the sellers took me on a home tour. As we entered the kitchen, a mirrored back splash reflected light from a large picture window. I stopped in amazement. Peering around the corner at me was a stunning, hand-painted mural of a very tall giraffe, a smaller zebra, trees and small birds that extended from floor to ceiling.
The giraffe was skillfully painted over a built-in wall heating unit and “she” stood tall on the wall, looking down on me with soulful brown eyes. I loved her, but knew she posed a difficult situation: should the wall be neutralized and the giraffe painted over?
Working with Clients to Stage a Home
As Realtors, we are often faced with challenging situations when it comes to “staging” a home to sell. How do you transition the sellers from living in their home to “marketing” their home? It cannot only be emotionally challenging, but physically hard – especially for elderly clients. My degree in interior design has been very beneficial in helping me to stage homes to sell, but there have been times when I have had to bring in reinforcements (i.e. agents from my office) to give a different perspective. I’ve learned not to be afraid to rely on others to help in persuading a seller in how to showcase their home.
I usually start with the question: “How are prospective buyers going to walk around and through your home?” I suggest that we provide a wide and clear pathway, free from bumping into the corners of furniture, tripping over area rugs, or around large unnecessary planters. This approach is usually non-threatening and easy for the sellers to grasp. I also encourage them to clear off their kitchen and bathroom countertops.
The most difficult request? Asking them to remove family photographs and memento from the walls and shelves. If I meet resistance, I ask that they just try and “thin out,” leaving only what they need to see every day. I often encourage sellers to begin packing away those items that are not needed. They will have to do it anyway and this is a good head start on what is a very daunting task.
It is always necessary to mention that all valuables and expensive items be put safely away or even better, removed from the home.
What Did We Do With the Giraffe?
You might be wondering what we did with the giraffe in the kitchen. The sellers and I discussed her at length, and they were willing to do whatever I thought best in staging their home.
I did not have the heart to ‘white her out.’ Sometimes the very thing that seems detrimental to a sale turns out to be a great selling feature, and I took a gamble on this one and it paid off. The giraffe was actually a great conversational piece during Realtor tours and open houses – with potential buyers and realtors alike.
The new homeowner just happened to be an avid chef and had planned to repaint the entire kitchen. But his friends and family encouraged him to leave her in place, at least for the initial move-in and settling process.
I hope that she is still there and enjoying her new owner.
Cathy Walsh is a real estate agent with Brush Hill Realtors. She can be reached at: www.cathywalshrealtor.com