Let Your Freak Flag Fly

(This piece originally appeared on my old blog in January 2014.)


I loved being a realtor. Basically, I’m a snoop and there’s nothing like selling residential real estate to scratch the rashy snoop itch. And here’s where the public service announcement comes in. People if you are selling your house, you need to get your embarrassing personal shit out of there. Rent a storage locker, box it and take it to mama’s attic, whatever you need to do but do not leave it out on display. It will kill the sale.

If you can’t tell whether your prized possessions are outside the normal range, ask a friend. Ask your mother. Ask your realtor. Things that you may be very fond of might just turn someone else off. That someone could have been your most lucrative offer. So don’t get uppity about your hunting trophies. Don’t be all proud about your gun collection. Don’t showcase your Nazi memorabilia. Just don’t.

I used to tell my listing clients that once their home was on the market, it was no longer their house. They were now guests in their buyer’s house. The house had to look like it already belonged to their buyer. They had to treat it as if they were just borrowing it for the weekend. Buyers have a great deal of trouble visualizing potential when they are being smacked in the face with your reality.

Don’t get all defensive. Yes, a whole lotta home buyers are freaks but they are only comfortable with their own flavor of freakiness. They find your brand of freaky downright disturbing. If your house meets their needs perfectly in every way possible but has an idiosyncratic “souvenir” laying about, they will either run away from the sale or offer you thousands less than your asking price because eeeewwww.

I know what you’re thinking, you bunch of little sex monkeys. No, I’m not just talking about the errant pleasure toy. I’ve come across a bunch of them showing houses and yes, you should definitely slide the lube and the magic wands into a storage box under the bed, you exhibitionist scamp, you. I’m talking about the less-vanilla items. The things that people don’t even recognize at first and then their brains blossom into oh-my-god-why-is-this-thing-in-the-kitchen?*

For example, I showed a normal, suburban house in a good neighborhood to a young woman. Everything was peachy until we came to the master bath. There was discoloration in the jacuzzi tub. Faded splatters in the tub and droplets on the tile. Is that blood? Looks like blood. Looks like a lot of blood. Why is there blood? Actually, don’t care why. We’re leaving now. House tour over.

I called the listing agent and asked about it. She called the homeowners. Turns out the homeowners were with the diplomatic corp and had just slaughtered a goat in the bathtub for a large family celebration. Let me repeat that. Slaughtered a goat in the master suite jacuzzi tub. So do you think my vegetarian, PETA card-carrying client wrote a contract on that otherwise perfect house? Fat chance.

I showed a house that had extra large eye bolts in the ceiling joists and wall studs of the blacked-out basement. I’m not sure what the homeowners used them for, why they needed such heavy duty bolts so securely installed but my buyers couldn’t get past referring to that house as the one with the slave dungeon.

There was one home that pushed all my ick buttons and I just didn’t see it coming. I showed a lovely condominium near public transportation, a park, and shopping to a young couple. Neighbors were sitting out on their patio and we talked with them before we went in. They said, “Oh, that’s Jasper’s condo. He’s a phys ed teacher at the middle school. Let us know what you think of his place once you’ve toured it.”

Well, the place was lovely. It was bright, updated, clean and fresh, with loads of natural light. I mean, I had this place sold. Then we saw the bedroom. And we just stood there, staring. The bedroom walls were covered in framed photos of barely adolescent girls in gymnast costumes. Most were mid-air, tumbling, jumping, splitting, all tiny with their hair in a tight little bun. When I say the walls were covered, I mean frame edges touching, no wall visible, had to be at least sixty 8″ x 10″ shots per wall.

You know what? The photos weren’t the creepiest thing in the room. Didn’t see that coming, did you? The bed was way creepier. Ole Jasper there had built the bed special, so the top of the mattress was four feet off the floor, just like a balance beam. Hanging from the ceiling above the pillows were a pair of gymnastics rings. Well, you can’t unsee something like that.

As we filed out, the neighbors asked what we thought. My client answered. “No. Just no.”

* Fun fact: That thing that was on the kitchen counter was a life like replica of a female porn star’s private parts. Why was that sitting in the food preparation area? Huh?