The saying goes “all things old are new again.” June Cleaver’s kitchen is once again au courant, if you can get away with calling it “mid-century modern.” But until such a revival, old styles are just, well, old.
The inventory in downtown D.C. has been decidedly tight, but price and presentation are still paramount when listing a property. Just beyond the Beltway in tony Potomac, inventory is more abundant. I am currently preparing a property for market in Normandie Farm Estates, a well-manicured enclave of about 30 houses convenient to Potomac Village that was built around 1989. At the time the subdivision was constructed, brass faucets and light fixtures were all the rage. Today, they strike modern buyers as stale.
In preparing a property for market, there is an inherent conflict between the emotions of the seller and what must be done to appeal to buyers. I always explain to my sellers that this place that hosts all of their memories and worldly possessions is no longer their home — it is now a product. Selling a home is like dating — first impressions count and so you put forth your representative — the very best version of you. Still, even for sellers who understand this intellectually, the feelings that come with separation from their long-time homes can cloud their visions for what impression needs to be made with a buyer.
In preparing to compete with 16 houses in the immediate price range my sellers will be in, I brought in an expert interior designer who recommended several cosmetic updates to their home. The home has a terrific floor plan and has been lovingly maintained by its owners, who raised four children in this house. In an era when many people feel more comfortable raising children in town than they did in previous years, a six-bedroom house in Potomac still has a substantial appeal. Many parents consider Potomac’s school system to be world class and you simply cannot get that much space or land closer in to Chevy Chase for the same price. Potomac Village has seen some shops come and go lately (RIP Chicken Out) but parking is still a contact sport in the town center. Custom homes are still being built on large lots off of River Road, meaning the houses going to market have to compete not only with each other but also with the wildest dreams of the modern buyer and the floor plans their architects have prepared.
Even after having completed a stunning kitchen renovation a few years back, my sellers are faced with the challenge of putting away family photographs, repainting the kids’ rooms to abrogate them of their beautiful and dynamic personalities, and neuter some period details to tide the new owners over before they undertake a more substantial renovation. It is an emotional hurdle that real estate agents have a hard time navigating with their sellers, but an imperative one for a successful sale.
Buyers need to envision themselves in your home. If there is too much of you in it, they’ll focus on your past rather than their future. My wise sellers understand that to sell for top dollar in 2014, they have to move upholstered sofas the kids grew up on into storage and bring in the type of staging furniture and art that will dazzle the discerning buyer with dozens of options at his disposal.
These updates are an investment but they have a wild rate of return at the closing table. Creating a success story for a sale is both an art and a science. Smart sellers take the reality they live in and adapt to it, instead of expecting the market to adapt to their reality.
Sammy Dweck with Evers & Co. Real Estate, Inc. is a licensed real estate agent specializing in residential re-sales in the D.C. metro area. He was the Evers & Co. Agent of the Month in April 2014. Reach him at Sammy@sammydweck.com or 202-716-0400.