Am I terminally weird or does everybody like surrounding themselves at home with highly personal items that remind, motivate and inspire us to achieve personal and professional goals?
As a realtor who writes, I know that when a house is on the market and prospective buyers are invited in, sellers are advised to “neutralize” or de-personalize the décor with bland colors and to “hide” personal items so that buyers may project their own lives into the space. Such personal effects as family photographs on the refrigerator, it is advised, can sabotage that objective.
I, however, have ignored my own advice. I tried neutralizing one room of my house, but found that I was not at all comfortable being set adrift in a world of sterility without all the reminders collected over a lifetime that comfort and inspire me. I want to experience them every single day, despite the fact that my home is on the market.
I became aware of this issue about revealing too much of ourselves to buyer prospects during my first week in the real estate business. My office received a call from a client who complained that a visiting agent had left her business card on the seller’s “home altar,” certainly a very private matter. When the agent was advised of the complaint, she responded, “Gee, to me it just looked like an end table. I thought the statue of the Buddha was just for decoration.”
While I do have evidence of calling upon the Divine in my own home, my main focus for motivation and inspiration–and this is highly confessional–is my daily quest for maintaining a decent body weight. Having been involved for many years as a food and restaurant promoter, I was the kid in the candy shop, coping daily with all the products I represented. And I didn’t have Medifast as a client. As a consequence, I have surrounded myself at home with motivational tools for health and fitness. Any visitor would clearly know that.
In my dressing room, for instance, is a serious weight bench, although it is mostly used during periods of slacking off as a pants rack. Directly over my barbell rack is a framed watercolor, painted by my daughter when she was eight, depicting me as a muscleman pumping barbells, with a photograph of my face pasted on the neck. It’s just too charming and motivational for me to hide. Then there are the nutrition and diet books on the kitchen bookshelf, including the first book published by Weight Watchers and signed by the group’s founder, Jean Nidetch, whom I once met.
Also, I devote myself to achieving mental calm and relaxation through meditation and have tools to encourage that, including a tubular tuning chime and an extensive collection of crystals that all but make my man cave, pardon the expression, vibrate.
And, I hide nothing when there is a showing.
I have found some real estate bloggers who share my point of view that there is some confusion between de-cluttering and de-personalizing. I think the former is what should be sought, rather than removing the history, love and taste bestowed on a home by its sellers. Creating clean and open spaces is a good thing. But removing distinctive colors with boring beige is not something I recommend as professional stagers sometimes do.
As for items that project our personal lives, I suspect that buyers have more than a little curiosity about them. Perhaps that lifestyle can be an attraction rather than a turn-off. Many times I observe buyer clients looking at family photographs and, in particular, reading the titles of books on the shelf. In my case, my books may be somewhat deceiving if I were to be judged by them.
Just when my wife and I were buying our current house, a dear friend, a generation older than us, passed away. An avid reader and book collector, she left us her extensive collection of old books, a broad representation of the world’s literary classics. To accommodate that collection, we built an entire wall of shelves in a room off our central hall and designated it “The Library” as though we lived in a mansion. That room may suggest that we are great literati. In fact, while my wife reads practically every new novel that comes along, I confess that I’ve barely cracked any of the books in that collection.
Any visitor would have a much better idea of my reading pursuits if they visited my special room where the walls are lined with my motivational books for business and physical fitness. You could just sit there in my easy chair and inhale the prospect of accomplishment.
So, welcome prospective buyers to my highly personalized home with all its revealing evidence of a life well lived and enjoyed. But fair warning: You may find yourself possessed by a strong urge to aspire to greater heights.
Bill Primavera is a residential and commercial realtor® associated with Coldwell Banker, as well as a marketer and journalist who writes regularly as The Home Guru. For questions about home maintenance or to buy or sell a home, he can be emailed at Bill@TheHomeGuru.com or called directly at 914-522-2076.