April 03, 2006
Sold! (Our House, That is)
Posted by Christine Hurt

House I'm not sure if I'm relaxing yet, but we now have a binding contract to sell our home in Whitefish Bay.  The experience was exhausting, although it went as quickly as could be reasonably expected.  We signed a contract 14 days after listing, then all contingencies were waived 10 days after that.  The stress of the unknown and of keeping the house pristine with two kids a dog and a cat has taken all of my energy.  I am quite happy now to be "sold."

Paul and I have sold more than our share of primary residences now, and we should be experts at "staging" a house by now.  When we sold our first house, our realtor gave us this really amateur video in which a woman went room-by-room through a house and pointed out how to de-clutter and maximize each room's potential.  The woman said such gems as, "Family photos are great, aren't they?  Great for LIVING, but not for SELLING."  When we left Houston for Milwaukee, our realtor sent an interior designer over to do the same thing in person.  I think both of these techniques are great because an objective third party tells you how bad your taste is.  You can't really be mad at your realtor for that, can you?  So, for this sale, we took heed to all that advice, packed before we moved, and staged the house.  (This is easier to do without kids, who believe they need every single Power Ranger thing close at hand just in case, and in a city with only one season, so you don't need coats/clothes for the three seasons of March in Wisconsin.)

All of this staging reminded me of a series of posts from a while ago by Spencer Overton on blackprof.com. about neutralizing race from a home that is for sale (Part I, Part II, and Part III).  According to the theory behind these posts, home buying is not purely rational; buyers may see the race of the sellers as a negative factor in deciding between two similar properties at similar prices.  I have no problem believing that this theory is valid.  Part of this bias is innocuous; from what these "staging" experts have pounded into my brain, would-be buyers like houses in which they can see themselves.  To that end, buyers are told to put away family pictures and other identifying markers that might get in the way of that vision.  Neutral colors are better than bright ones; McPottery Barn is the look.  I also have no problem believing that part of that bias may be that some number of buyers (hopefully small) are consciously or subconsciously racist and so either could not see themselves living in the house or would not want to.

Interestingly, I think that our house sale can fit into this paradigm somewhat, although all residents of our house are white and so are the buyers.  But, all the residents of our house are from Texas.  I'm from Lubbock; Paul is from San Antonio.  Although I never thought about it before, a lot of our furnishings are sort of Southwest/Mission style.  Not teal and peach with coyotes and cactuses, mind you, but reproductions of Mission style antiques.  Also, what constitutes "art" at our house are Georgia O'Keefe prints and professional photographs of Live Oak trees, windmills, and yes, cactus.  We even have a cow's skull, but Paul made me put that away in our staging phase.  So, let's look at our buyers.  According to them, they've looked at 40 properties in Milwaukee since they moved here a couple of months ago.  They haven't liked any house until ours.  Guess where they are from?  Albuquerque, New Mexico.  The buyer told me that they have the same bedroom set as we do, and the same lawn furniture.

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