Tuesday, April 20, 2010

All the World's a Staged Apartment

Living in D.C. has it's advantages. One of these is the fact that when the rest of the country's real estate markets tanked, ours merely dipped (thanks to the proximity of the Federal Government). And now it appears to be turning around a bit. With that knowledge in hand, WH and I are getting ready to put our apartment on the market. Anyone who's ever sold a home knows that it's not a simple, easy, or particularly enjoyable process. In fact, it's a little like going for plastic surgery (or at least I imagine it is).

The sales process starts with selecting your realtor . . . fortunately, we had friends who could walk us through this and that part was easy. Same as with a doctor, you want to work off of referrals from people in the know. Once you've selected your realtor, you need to have a consult. This is perhaps the most painful part of the process. It's the equivalent of the plastic surgeon circling your thigh cellulite with a Sharpie or outlining in marker across your cheekbones what needs to be lifted, sucked, and tucked. Your friendly neighborhood realtor walks through your lovingly decorated (and in our case, comfortably cluttered) home and tells you what is wrong with it. You see, your home is like the pear-shaped girl with the hook nose . . . she could be very pretty, but she needs work. Closets must be purged, walls must be painted, floors buffed, and everything you own that shows any character must be thrown out or put into storage. In short, your home should look like a suite at the Hilton (though most suites at the Hilton have more square footage than our fair castle).

Once you've had the prescriptive visit, you need to go through the actual process of prepping for surgery. This consists of purging all of your things from your home. There should be as few things as possible in your closet (I now have one pair of shoes, two sweaters, and a bathing suit in my closet . . . but it looks like there's tons of space!). You need to remove all of your family photos, knicknacks, and plant life. What you want is complete sterility, because, again, this implies space. In the course of our purge, I filled nine garbage bags full of clothes and items to be donated and twelve large black bags (you know, the industrial-sized ones?) with garbage. (No, our home didn't look like one of the ones from Hoarders, thank you for asking.)

After you've gotten rid of all identifying details, you must then hire someone to come in and paint and do any other sprucing up that needs to be done so that your apartment looks perfect. This is the "surgery" part of your process. It's only slightly less painful than the diagnostic phase. Like all contractors, they will leave dust, dirt, and general disarray in their wake. But this is okay, because you have to have someone come and professionally clean your hotel suite, er . . . home, before it can go on the market.

At this point, the realtor returns (much like a post-operative visit with your surgeon where he removes your bandages) and "stages" your home for photos. Even more of your things are rearranged, even removed, and the photographs are taken. Just as your new nose or suddenly slender thighs might be unnatural, so too is your apartment, but it is now perfect enough for strangers to judge it. It is at this moment that you discover exactly how Heidi Montag feels. You have become trained to see a cockeyed painting on the wall or a stray speck of dust on your bureau. You obsess about imperfections you miss on the first pass, and think maybe you need another consult. But the good news is that some other poor bastard is suffering through the same pain so that you can come in and scrutinize their closets and buy their home. And so the circle of life goes on . . .

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