How silly is this? Here I am, a woman in her sixties, pillar of the community, said to be sensible and sane, ducking down below the dashboard so I can’t be seen by the young family just exiting our driveway. I’ve been sitting in the car waiting for them to depart for at least five minutes after gaily driving up the driveway to park in the garage, then hearing the ringing voices of little children in our garden behind the fence.
Horrors! They’re supposed to have gone ages ago.
Quick-smart, I reverse out and park in the empty school parking lot across the road, half hidden by a school building, but with just enough clearway to see our drive. And then I wait. Next minute, our neighbour comes out to check her letter box and spots my car. She waves. She starts to come over. I gesticulate wildly not to. Puzzled, she returns home. There’ll be some explaining to do later.
The family currently visiting is on a private viewing – their fourth trip to our house. My hopes are therefore high. And the last thing I want is for them to spot me spying on them from across the road. But short of driving round the block a few times or going to the mall I don’t know what else to do. Hence hiding like a guilty spy when they finally come out of the drive and spend what seems like an eternity chatting on the footpath.
This wasn’t the only time we’d arrived home too soon either. Some open homes go on long past the advertised end-time if someone arrives late or wants to linger.
Lesson number one: give the agent a good twenty minutes past the end-time or risk running into people who are in the middle of criticising the home you love. Or whose images of the home being theirs already, with their furniture placed just so and their kids running round on the lawn, are dashed by the sight of the current owner laying claim to it instead.
It’s all part of depersonalising your property for open homes, removing yourselves, your family photos, your personal touches, thereby making it easier for potential buyers to see themselves and their belongings there. Apparently, once they visualise where their furniture will go, what colour they’ll paint the bedroom, what sort of new kitchen they’d put in or what wall they’d like to knock down, they’re so well invested in the property their actual financial investment is almost a given.
Depersonalising is quite an exercise. I had no idea we had so many framed family photos until I gathered them all up and needed two big boxes to hold them. And where to put the myriad of stuff that sits on the kitchen bench? The cooking oil, pepper and salt, vitamin bottles, water bottles, coffee grinder, Soda Stream, tea and coffee canisters and other assorted stuff that clutters the kitchen so badly. The pantry has been tidied – people always open pantries and linen cupboards they tell me – and packing the bench stuff in there will completely wreck the order and sense of space.
All the lotions, shaving gel, deodorants and manky old hairbrushes have been removed from the bathroom window-ledge; ditto for the bedroom dressing table and bedside tables, where only one entirely tasteful book remains.
The agent approved.
When she arrived for the first open home, she asked for the radio or a CD on – couples feel uncomfortable talking to each other apparently when there are others around so some background music fills the uneasy silence – for flowers on the coffee table, and for an aroma candle burning in the kitchen.
While we were getting that sorted, the first “party” arrived – 15 minutes early! Then another couple arrived, then a whole family. The driveway was filling with people and the start time was ten minutes away. I thought that only happened in Auckland!
We’d thought of asking a friend to pop in to suss out the vibe, but chickened out. In the end, the agent gave us a pretty detailed report – the 17 “parties” that came through that first open day, what sort of people they were, what they liked, what they didn’t like, what they wanted to change. One couple wanted to bowl the whole house. How could they!
At first, I found myself getting quite upset that some people didn’t like the home we’d loved for 27 years, criticisng parts of it we’d though perfectly fine all those years. But others, more sensibly, wanted to rebuild the stairs – a quirky and impractical feature of a ‘70s build. New carpet, new kitchens, an ensuite, all the things we’d expected. Some returned with builders to get an idea how much their grand plans would cost.
And after every open home, the linen cupboard door was ajar – telling evidence it had been opened. Just as well I’d tidied that too.
Felicity Price ONZM is an ex-journalist who now writes bestselling books – funny, fast-paced romance-suspense for the over 50s. Read more on www.felicityprice.com.