If you’ve been following my real estate adventures here, you know that we’re selling our apartment.
Selling means having open houses, which means leaving your home for an hour and a half on a Sunday afternoon while groups of strangers troop through and touch your stuff.
But before they come, how do you make sure your place is both marketed for buyers and stranger-proofed for jerks?
Here are 7 essential steps to get ready for an open house.
1) Spend an eye-popping amount of money on fresh flowers.
And, work the florist’s last nerve while you decide which ones will provide the best “pop of color.”
2) Shop for things your broker told you to get, like a halogen lamp for the corner.
To complete this step, have this kind of conversation with your spouse or life partner:
“What does she mean by a halogen lamp?”
“I guess a lamp with a halogen bulb. Don’t you know what a halogen lamp is?”
“No. Do you?”
“I just don’t want to spend money on something we don’t like.”
“So let’s get something we like.”
“It’s too last minute. That’s gonna be a lot of money.”
“So why don’t we get something cheap? Like that one there?”
“Really? That one?”
“Well I don’t know! I’m not good at lights.”
“Ya think? Do whatever you want to do. I told you I didn’t want to go to Soho on a Saturday. These people are all a bunch of assholes. What happened to this city?”
We didn’t find a halogen lamp.
3) Clean in places you’ve never cleaned.
I don’t mean on your body. I’m proud to say there’s no spot on my body I’ve never cleaned. Wish I could say the same for our kitchen. Steven had to clean it “down there.” As in, under the fridge (every bit as dirty as you’d think) and in the low cabinet where I hoard plastic grocery bags (Way dirtier than you’d think. Who knew balled up plastic could create so much filth?).
4) Remove things that are too specific or personalized.
You need a blank slate so people can picture themselves living there. So you put away items like family photos, or, in our case, a painting by our artist friend that says, “HELLO MY NAME IS: Steven Eckler, bitch”.
5) Hide breakables, get enraged at peoples’ hypothetical clumsiness.
We have a set of 11 ceramic figurines we had to stash away. No, not the kind of figurines your grandma collects, like frogs and ballet dancers and little boys peeing. Ours are way cooler.
As Steven stowed them one by one in t-shirt and underwear drawers, we kvetched about how reckless people are with their massive, swinging shoulder bags. We know, because I’ve come close to breaking stuff at open houses with my own massive, swinging shoulder bag.
6) Hide valuables, get enraged at peoples’ hypothetical thievery.
I won’t tell you where I put my good jewelry, because what if we have another open house, and you’re one of those hypothetical thieves? In which case, I feel sorry for you. You come from a place of scarcity. Start thinking abundantly and you won’t steal anymore!
I also won’t tell you where we put Troll. We have a little troll doll that we were going to leave out so people would feel his beady eyes on them. But then I remembered that troll dolls are a hot item on ebay and easy to pocket. So Troll went bye-bye.
We have other things with eyes, like a rubber ducky with a disturbing Conan O’Brien head and a Japanese toy we call “Bloody Bear”, which we placed strategically around the apartment to send a message: We’re watching you.
When I’m browsing in someone’s apartment, it always occurs to me that there’s a hidden camera. But other folks aren’t as paranoid as I am, which is: very. I think there are hidden cameras everywhere I go, especially restaurant bathrooms. I try to reveal as little flesh as possible, and to do everything with an extra touch of elegance, when I’m peeing in a restaurant bathroom.
7) Make things look nice, get enraged at peoples’ nosiness.
Why not “hypothetical” nosiness? Because it’s a hard fact. People are nosy, and they cross boundaries for kicks. Especially at an open house, where they enjoy anonymity. Anonymity is an intoxicating, inhibition-lowering drug. It’s like crack for busybodies.
Case in point: I found the top to the dental floss popped open, and one of the bed pillows turned over.
Sometimes you gotta floss. But what reason does someone have to flip over a pillow?
I’ll tell you: Either because they wanted to know the make of the pillow sham (Martha Stewart Bedding Collection, Macy’s) or because they wanted to make the statement, “I WUZ HERE.” Flipping a pillow over is an easier and quicker way to do this than graffiti-tagging the wall or leaving a turd in the center of the bed.
To prepare for nosiness:
Straighten up and plant chic items in the places where prospective buyers (and fake prospective buyers) have a right to look, which is any place that comes with the apartment. Closets, kitchen cupboards and drawers, the fridge, and medicine cabinets are all sanctioned snooping places.
I took all Rite-Aid generic-brand products (depressing) out of the bathroom; clipped the cheap Zara price tag from a blouse in my closet; and stocked the fridge with a bunch of Murray’s cheeses, to support the idea that our neighborhood is a “foodie’s paradise.” Also, to eat.
Then, on to the places people have no business looking. Dressers, file cabinets, anything you take with you when you move. In those, we left overly personal little surprises. An obscene card to Steven from his staff…a tangle of not-so-new undies…a stuffed beaver doll I bought at my all-girls alma mater, whose mascot is The Beaver… the kind of stuff that lets people know they’ve taken a wrong turn when they have the audacity to break the Snooping Code.
So did it work? Did buyers fall in love with our apartment? Did nosy jerks get the rude shocks they deserved?
Only the Conan duck knows.
How would you prep your home for a herd of people you don’t know? Do you believe in a Snooping Code? Do you steal floss? (If so, this is a safe place to share. Just stay away from our open house.) Have you ever considered buying a teddybear cam? Do you know you’re being watched in restaurant bathrooms? Tell me in the comments.
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Emily Crom says
My mom just hosted my brother’s wedding and reception at her farm in Wisconsin. Someone told her, as a defense against snoopers, to fill drawers with marbles. Like, lots of marbles. So they all come spilling out when they open the drawer and then everyone can shame said snooper.
But we didn’t have time to buy marbles.
I too think there are cameras in dressing rooms, restaurant
Bathrooms,etc.! I show as little flesh as possible
And try to look super chic and cool (like I don’t
Know someone’s watching, when I know they are!)
I am the opposite in open houses. I hold my bag
Against my chest like a gay bull in a china shop
And I never look where I’m not supposed to cuz again
Cameras, God watching kind of thing. I’d hate to
Be struck dead before I had a chance to put in
Mom Belgray says
Oh, those medicine cabinets! It’s my own relatives and one or two friends who openly become the drug police, questioning and discarding out-of-date medications. What’s wrong with aspirin from 2005? Or ten-year-old Pepto Bismol? The other snoops don’t dare admit that they’ve looked.
I’d go looking for jelly beans or chocolate in your kitchen. You probably hide them in your toaster.
Your post is right on and funny as usual.
But did you take the Chipins out of the dishwasher?
Regina P. says
Great post. I can switch from upstanding homeowner to nosy, boundary crossing jerk, faster than a girl untagging herself from a picture that makes her look fat. I think we all like to “look in the medicine cabinet” and “check under a pillow” and “take some jewelry”. But I definitely wouldn’t take something if I felt there was a troll watching me — which is to say, most of the time.
If there is a cake baking in the oven then I would buy the home.
Vanessa $aks says
Great tips Laura & LOVE the Conan Duck!!
What about medicine cabinets? Have always thought house guests (in general) would be drawn to them…
Perhaps I have never gotten this image out of my head. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIK0kzhEJzM
Wanna get away??
Michelle Vargas says
Piggybacking off an earlier comment…
I had a big house party when I first moved to the city. Well, as big as could be in our tiny apartment, which… had no sink in the bathroom. Crazy, right?!
But it DID have a medicine cabinet. I had recently read an article that said 80% of people at parties look in the medicine cabinet. So, I put a post-it note in there with that statistic and another line telling people that if they did snoop, please come and speak the secret phrase to me aloud. I think it was “I am SUCH a gungan.” (don’t ask)
A few people did this. I think the others couldn’t bring themselves to fess up. 80% people! Where were the rest of you?!
Heidi DeCoux says
Yikes! It didn’t even occur to me that people would have the audacity to look in dressers and file cabinets.
I love your flower idea!
John C says
You’re lucky it is only the move, Phu is obsessed that we will be burgled by design-savy thrives who will mock us if the house isn’t “showcase ready” (his words).
So he has to stage the house every time we walk out the door.
Linda G. says
there are seriously inexpensive security cameras now (like under $20) for remote viewing of your home when you are away. You could place one or two strategically around your apartment – just seeing the red light should discourage snoopers. And if you actually want to watch the process from your laptop somewhere… and someone starts crossing a line… call your phone’s answering machine (if you still have one) and leave them a long, loud message. That should REALLY freak them out.
I would hire a cleaner to clean the extra dirrty bits (cos, you know, REAL cleaning beyond swiping at the bathroom sink with a makeup wipe might break a nail.)
I would also use the Conan-headed rubber ducky (which is seriously freakin’ me out, fyi) as Snooping Code material.
PS. I get paranoid every time I get undressed in store fitting rooms. (Don’t even try and tell me there aren’t cameras there.)
Floss desperation is real.
Dave Doolin says
Not a snooper myself, but I’ve thought perhaps booby trapping various places might be a deterrence.
Like when someone snoops the medicine cabinet, have that cheap glass vase you got from Aunt Winifred you don’t like (her or the vase) cleverly arranged such that it suicide leaps into the sink below. A sort of “glass bomb” which sprays shatter all over the snoop. Hopefully with a house full of people to witness the transgression.
Even better, put a little note on the mirror: “Please do not open the medicine cabinet.” Who could resist? Certainly not any self-respecting snoop.
Alex Greenwood says
Oh yes…been there…when selling our house we once had someone use the toilet and leave the seat up…along with “remnants.” Lovely.