Tag Archives: real-estate

Maybe you should try decluttering your house before listing it for sale

man in office talking on phone

Perhaps not so surprisingly, my career as a real-estate photographer was short-lived.

Years ago, I worked in a small real-estate office. One of the agents got a new listing, so she asked me to drop in and take photos.

As I dropped in, my jaw dropped. Random junk sat atop every conceivable surface. It looked as if a tornado had struck a knickknack shop.

There were dog toys on the couch, antique dishes on the coffee table, torn-open mail on the kitchen counter. If House Hunters and Hoarders got drunk and made a baby, this house would be it.

I would have wiped my feet on the mat, but I didn’t want to dirty my shoes.

However, I was there to take photos, so take photos I did. Being the professional I am, I used creative angles to portray the garbage as artistically as possible. Natural sunlight flowed through the open curtains, adding a heavenly glow to the pristine piles of rubbish.

We posted the photos and listed the home. A few days later, the homeowner called.

“Can you tell me who took the photos of my house?” he asked.

I told him that the creative genius in question was me.

“OK,” he said, “then riddle me this: Would it have occurred to you not to take photos of all the clutter?”

Now here’s my problem: I have a smart-aleck switch. When it’s switched on, I start spewing a stream of passive-aggressive prattle that can’t be stopped. Once I get going, I’m not able to turn the switch off, even if I try. I just have to keep going until I run out of steam.

It’s sort of like Planes Trains and Automobiles, when Steve Martin accuses John Candy of being a Chatty Cathy doll who pulls his own string — except the reverse. I have a switch over which I have no control. Only other people can flick it on for me.

And this homeowner, unfortunately, had succeeded in flicking my switch.

“Well,” I said, “riddle me this: Would it have occurred to you to clean your house when you know full well a photographer’s coming?”

Silence.

“You see,” I continued, “a photographer’s palette is the whimsical world he frames with his lens. While a painter suggests reality with brushstrokes and splatters, a photographer captures the essence of a moment and coaxes it to its fullest expression. The environment in which he composes his masterpieces sets the mood for the photos that emerge. So when he finds himself in a repulsive midst of messiness and disarray, his thoughts, emotions, and photos reflect the untidy shambles of his surroundings. What develops – quite literally – are photographic representations of the egregious eyesore, complete with all the filth and clutter that litter the landscape.”

“Are you finished?” the man asked.

“Not quite,” I said. “The horrific conditions of your abysmal abode not only undermined my artistic endeavors, but they endangered my life, as well. When I stepped backward to frame a shot of the dining room, I tripped on what I assume was a poodle — or maybe an overgrown rat. Either way, it wasn’t moving, so I imagine it had sucked its last breath as it desperately clawed through the clutter, seeking the freedom it could never find in the midst of the suffocating chaos.”

A heavy sigh came from the phone. “Is that all?”

“Your trashcan was also overflowing and left sitting in the middle of the kitchen,” I added. “I would have moved it, but I couldn’t swat my way through the thick swarm of flies. They pushed me backward and pinned me to the wall. I’m sure I could have taken them individually, but as a team, they proved to be an unstoppable force.”

“OK — I believe you’ve made your point,” the man said. “Are we done now?”

“I think so,” I said. “That’s all I’ve got.”

“Good. If I clean up the clutter, could you come back to retake the photos?”

“Of course,” I said. “I live for my art. I exist to achieve excellence. I cherish the creative satisfaction that comes from replicating the beauty of nature. Why, my camera –”

The phone clicked in my ear.

“Hmm.” I hung up the phone. “Well, not everyone appreciates my creative genius.”

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What your real-estate agent is really telling you

Large mansion with outdoor swimming pool.

Not-so-useful real-estate advice

Real-estate professionals speak a language all their own. However, with the right training (and a couple of evening real-estate courses), you, too, can comprehend the baffling jargon agents use to confound their clients — as well as impress each other.

“Today we’re going to be looking at a cozy bungalow that’s right in your price range.”

“I’m showing you this miniscule dump because it’s all you can afford.”

“With your budget, we’re going to have trouble finding a home that has all of the features you’re looking for.”

“You’re too destitute to afford anything nice.”

“The home just needs a little TLC.”

“This rat-infested pile of crap needs to be completely demolished and rebuilt from the ground up.”

“Wall colors are easy to fix.”

“Obviously, I’ve never touched a paintbrush in my entire life.”

“The kitchen appliances might need updating.”

“Your great-grandmother used to cook with a stove like this.”

“The carpets do show some wear.”

“Be sure to wipe off your shoes before stepping outside.”

“The backyard is a blank slate for your imagination.”

“This patch of weeds would look nice with a fence, some lawn and a couple of trees.”

“You could build your dream home here.”

“Here’s a vacant lot. I give up. Do whatever you want.”

“You might have to duck to get through the doorway.”

“Please excuse the low ceilings; a family of hobbits used to live here.”

“I’m not sure you’re seeing the big picture.”

“You’re bellyaching about brass cabinet handles and completely ignoring the rest of the house.”

“There aren’t many listings available that offer the features you’re looking for.”

“No house will ever be good enough for you.”

“You may not have noticed, but you have views of downtown from this balcony.”

“This million-dollar vista might not have leapt right out at you because you have to lean over the railing, squint your eyes, peer through your neighbor’s trees, and stretch your neck to see it.”

“I wanted to show you this amazing property, even though it’s above your budget.”

“I know I’m not going to make much of a commission off you, but you can’t blame me for trying.”

“I’m really excited to show you this property.”

“I’m praying you’ll actually buy a house one of these days so I can pay my bills.”

“Yes, the counters are granite and not quartz, but look at the shape they’re in.”

“The granite countertops are perfectly adequate, you entitled jerk. Quit turning up your nose at everything.”

“Keep in mind that location is everything.”

“This deteriorating hovel is only a mile from downtown, so it’s worth the $500,000 price tag.”

“I understand that the bedroom window faces your neighbor’s house, but you can always put up blinds.”

“I’m trying really hard not to be a sarcastic SOB, and I’m failing miserably.”

“The yard boasts mature landscaping.”

“You’ll need a machete to hack out a path to the front door.”

“This is a bank-owned property.”

“You might be able to move in by the time your kids graduate from college.”

“No, the home does not come with a washer and dryer included.”

“You’re spending $750,000 on a house, and you want someone else’s used appliances? Really?”

“The home does not have the fourth bedroom you’re looking for.”

“With your budget, you’re lucky it has a roof.”

“Due to a previous commitment, my partner will be showing you this home today.”

“I can’t stand working with you anymore, you picky bastard. Good luck with your new agent.”

If you want all those cool home features, you’ll have to pay extra

fancy kitchen

Whoever said “the best things in life are free” clearly didn’t know how much all these home upgrades cost.

I wanted to go house-hunting, so I called my old friend, Rhonda the Realtor.

“I want to look at houses,” I told her.

“Are you serious about buying?” she asked. “Because the last time you called, you had no intention of buying. The only reason you wanted to look at homes was because you had spent an entire weekend watching House Hunters on iTunes.”

I didn’t say anything.

Rhonda sighed. “You’ve been watching House Hunters again, haven’t you?”

“Not necessarily,” I said. “I’m seriously in the market for a home this time.”

“Buying a house isn’t as easy as they make it look on TV,” Rhonda said. “It’s not just touring houses and sneering at outdated fixtures. You have to get pre-approved, and then there’s the home inspection, renovations, unexpected problems. They don’t show those parts on TV.”

“Sometimes they show the renovations,” I said. “In fact, there’s a spinoff called House Hunters Renovation where they find a house and renovate it in forty-five minutes. It’s fantastic!”

“Isn’t there another Realtor you can call?” Rhonda asked. “Or am I the only one you know?” Keep reading…

This week on ‘Home Searchers’

HOME SEARCHERS: Newlyweds Kyle and Melanie are shopping for their first home.

HOME SEARCHERS: Newlyweds Kyle and Melanie are shopping for their first home. “Unfortunately, their list of ‘must-haves’ reads longer than the Affordable Care Act,” says their agent, Roberta Marks, as she makes dramatic slicing motions across her wrists. “If I get through this ordeal with my sanity intact, it’ll be a miracle.”

Kyle and Melanie are newlyweds who are tired of slumming it in their 3,465-square-foot apartment in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. With Melanie pregnant with their first child and Kyle starting a new job as a floor-sweeper, the couple is ready to take on the harrowing challenge of buying their first home.

“We really need a house,” says Melanie, 23, a recent college graduate who has $400,000 in student loans … as well as the world’s most grating case of vocal fry. “It’s demeaning being renters. Besides, I’m tired of living in a high-rise hovel like some Third World peasant. I want a house, and I want it now.”

Kyle, 24, has a master’s degree in journalism and $340,000 in student loans. He said his new job as a floor-sweeper will allow him not only to put his education to good use, but also to provide an extravagant lifestyle for his new family.

“All my life, people told me I’d never amount to anything,” Kyle says. “But now that I’ve got a college education, I feel like I’m the poster child for the American Dream.”

The couple has been pre-approved for a $750,000 home loan.

“With such a measly budget, Kyle and Melanie are going to have to make some tough choices,” says Roberta Marks, the couple’s real-estate agent. “This is a brutal market, and they may need to make some critical life-and-death decisions — such as choosing between a four-car garage or an indoor swimming pool.

“It’s hard out there for buyers right now,” she adds, shrugging. Keep reading…