A: With much more care than flipping a pancake, a pursuit which requires just the right balance of providence and panache. And — as with hotcakes — you must always be ready to accept a flop. Especially in San Francisco where the griddle is especially hot. What’s not required is the use of silly breakfast bread metaphors.
…Although…as I sit here re-posting what I wrote on Quora, I think I should add a few metaphors about staging a house in order to sell it after you’ve fluffed it up. If you want the property to sell like hotcakes, then you must present it in an appealing fashion.
That means hiring a professional stager who’ll gussy it up like a plate at Mission Beach Cafe. Make it look like the real-estate equivalent of a $15 short stack: Fresh fruit garnish, hot maple syrup, a pat of butter melting on top, a side of bacon, maybe a wee vase of fresh nasturtiums on the table.
Staging is for ALL the senses. Quote me: “If you can smell it, you can’t sell it.” And this includes “positive” odors because the human olfactory system is so strongly tied to emotional reactions.
You might assume that the odor of freshly baked cookies evokes a “smells-like-home-so-show-me-where-to-sign” response in buyers. But your cash-toting multi-millionaire millennial may, in fact, have an aversion to cinnamon or vanilla or any of Mrs. Meyer’s nasal-raiding fragrances. Better to keep it clean and neutral.
Sometimes it says, “How dare you show this property and let my parents drag me to umpteen open houses on Sunday afternoon when I’d rather be playing with my toys?”
Or it says, “Please don’t let them buy this condo because I hated it the instant we walked in. I want a blue house.”
Or it’s something like this, “I can see you’re as trapped as me. You have to stand here and be nice and greet everyone and you can’t leave until 4 o’clock. And I have to come in and look around and not touch anything and I can’t leave until they say it’s okay. Since we’re both stuck here, have you anything to offer me in the way of refreshment or entertainment?”
Or maybe, “You might fool my parents with your friendliness, but you can’t fool me. Stand back three feet or I’ll start screaming.”
Don’t get me wrong. I love kids. (I even raised two myself.) But children coming through the front door of an open house can be as nervous-making as an unsteady high-heeled matron holding a latte in one hand and a shih tzu in the other while navigating the white-carpeted stairs.
You never know what you’re going to get, including:
Serious disruption of staging – vases smashed into smithereens, chess pieces sent down the toilet, pillows thrown out the window.
Nasty messes – unflushed number twos hiding in the powder room, newly planted impatiens wrenched from the ground, every glass surface streaked with yogurt paws.
Pandemonium – door slamming, stair running, door locking, cat chasing, crying, biting and violent pulling on parental arms just as they’re about to request your business card.
I prefer quiet children who tell their folks to get lost while they sit on the front steps with me. Like Maizy, a seven-year-old who attended my last open house.
Maizy: Do you live here?
Me: No. I am the real estate agent. I am showing the house for the owners.
Maizy: Do you like this house?
Me: Yes. I think it’s a terrific house. How about you?
Maizy: I guess so. I like our old house better but Mommy says we need more room for my baby brother.
Me: I bet you’re a great big sister. Is it fun being a big sister?
Maizy: (puzzling her lips together and to one side) No. He’s pretty boring. But he’s still little. Do you have some candy?
Me: No. I might have some Altoids.
Maizy: I like Altoids.
Me: Is it okay with your parents for you to have an Altoid?
Maizy: Oh, yes, of course it’s okay. They let me have Altoids all the time.
Me: (offering the Altoids tin) Here you go. Help yourself.
Maizy: Thank you. This is so boring.
Me: Yes, I know what you mean.
Maizy: Are you bored? I thought grownups didn’t mind boring things.
Turns out Mark Twain never actually said that cool thing about summer in San Francisco being the coldest winter ever. I was going to use the quote on my blog today but when I checked its accuracy, up popped a Snopes link to quash my clever intro.
Twain did sorta say something about summer in Paris and he definitely wrote, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes.” But nary a word did he pen about our cool grey city’s climate.
It’s the second half of August and – although I live on what is arguably the sunniest block in the whole dadgum town – I’ve been wearing wool since June. If you’re a local you understand why I’ve been wearing wool. Just as you understand why nobody has air conditioning and why those beyond-ugly $50 sweatshirts from Pier 39 are so popular with tourists.
(Ixnay on the weatshirtsay if anyone asks! Do your bit to keep our economy going!)
Spoiler Alert (if you’re newly local and this is your first time through a whole San Francisco calendar year): Summer starts in 10 days.
The bad news is that vacation is over and it’s back to school for you kids and parents. The good news is it’s prime selling season for San Francisco residential real estate. See you soon at an open house near you!
“It’s fine, but remember The Cat is in the house,” said my seller Y, when I asked if I could show her condo that day on short notice.
I laughed at Y’s intonation. She sing-songed her answer like a rapper: The Cat is in the house, y’all.
That humor would’ve been lost on her pet because if The Cat were an audiophile, she would prefer Mantovani to Macklemore. A senior citizen among felines, she was overly ancient. Extra old. Like 300 cat years old.
When I first met The Cat, I knelt down to greet said bag o’ fur. Y cautioned me sternly, “Don’t touch her. She’s mean!” And, indeed, the shabby tabby began hissing and swiping at the air. I jumped back just in the nick of time.
I ended up logging quite a few hours alone with The Cat during open houses, appointments and inspections. I warned the photographer, the pest inspector, the window washer, various agents and numerous animal-loving customers to keep their distance.
But would they listen? No! All these folks fancied themselves to be cat whisperers.
Me: Watch out, The Cat is viscious.
Visitor: (advancing toward The Cat with bare arm outstretched, fingers waving like seaweed) Nice kitty. Nice kitty. Aw, whatsa matter? Nice, nice. There now. You’re not so ferocious! Who loves the puss? Who wuvves de widdle kiddy. Who? Oh shit! (screaming)
Me: You don’t seem to be bleeding too badly. (rummaging through medicine cabinet for hydrogen peroxide and Band-Aids)
And so it went. With each successive visit, The Cat became bolder. Initially, The Cat hid under a bed. After a week, The Cat would hiss at me from atop the entry stairs. Eventually, The Cat would be lurking just inside the condo door.
This made me very nervous. Nervous The Cat would attack me. Nervous The Cat would attack someone else. Nervous The Cat would escape as soon as I cracked open the front door.
I expressed my concerns to Y. She said, “Don’t worry too much. It wouldn’t be your fault if she ran away. Just bring me an offer.”
Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com. I posted an earlier version of this entry at McGuire.com in 2010.