This Little Piggy Went to Elizabeth Arden

July 15, 2019


Over the weekend a property came on the market that many of the neighbors have regarded as the local Addams Family house.  While I know most of my neighbors, this seller was sort of a mystery man – a recluse.  In over 30 years I’ve lived in this neighborhood and walked my dog, I’ve never seen anyone go in out out of the place, though he reportedly had an extended family of raccoons for housemates during our cold winters that could sometimes be seen crawling up the exterior of the house to the attic.

The Open House sign in the front yard of course lured me in.  And oh my gosh!  The seller (or his family and his Realtor) had the house completely emptied out, scrubbed down, and staged.  And I gotta say, this may have been the best staging job I’ve ever seen in my long career.

A careful look showed a potential palatial Tudor on a corner lot with great bones, but in need of a serious facelift – and then some.  There was the original (1930’s ish) heating system, no central air, probably original baths and plumbing, Edison-era electrical, and original casement windows.  The kitchen had been renovated, probably sometime in the 1970’s, and it had a serious stove and a great layout, but someone redoing it today would do things very differently.  And the agent had done such an amazing staging job that nobody seemed to notice any of the home’s shortcomings.

Most of the buyers looking at the house were very young, and I could hear them excitedly whispering to each other, “Honey, we could move right in – this house doesn’t need a thing!”

Um, not so fast!  Nobody seemed to be noticing the home’s shortcomings with the fresh paint on the first floor and the stylish furnishings provided by the stagers.

Not surprisingly, there was a lot of activity, within the first few days of the house being listed, and a serious bidding war erupted.  The home was listed at $1,199,000 and was bid up to $1,400,000.

And what is caused all of the interest and the price run-up?  My guess is that it was the totally awesome staging job.

And this is where a cautionary tale might begin.

The whole purpose of staging is to help potential buyers imagine what the house would be like to live in.  The second is perhaps to distract buyers from the flaws – and this place may have had a few, if not fatal flaws, at least flaws that will be extremely expensive to remedy. Since the house settled, there has been a steady stream of contractor trucks parked in front of the house, as the structure and systems became what I’m guessing was a pretty consequential money pit.

And there are morals to this story.  First, if you are selling, the added expense of a great staging job is well worth the money spent.  Second, if you are buying a house, do not let fabulous furniture (which after all, will not convey) cloud your judgement.

Staging is often thought of as lipstick on a pig, but on a pig, person or house, lipstick can make things look a lot better.