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  • Kristan Higgins

Real Estate Whoring

Being a real estate voyeur (sounds more genteel than ho, doesn’t it?), I go to Zillow a few times a week. Just in case. Since I was twenty, I’ve been wanting to restore a house. I haven’t ever done it, but one of these days. I’m equally addicted to home restoration shows on HGTV and similar channels. The zhoozhing shows where, in Great Britain, they’ll redo your house in an hour. (How? Paint doesn’t dry in a hour! How?) The really good contractors who take their time and know their fact (love you, Tom Silva.) But here’s something I don’t quite understand.

Staging. You’ve restored the house, ripped it down to the studs, fixed the foundation, put in AC, a new kitchen, tiles, a deck, you varnished the floors and got rid of the dead mice in the attic, so now you…cover up all that work and fill the place with furniture?

Granted, I imagine there are those people (men, I’m thinking…single men) who say, “I’ll take it and all the stuff, too.” But I want to picture my own stuff in there…not the uber-stylish and soulless furnishings chosen by someone who will then pack up that same stuff and drop it off at another house for sale. I read that staging helps sell a house, but not for me. I’m too practical. That giant bowl of apples on the kitchen island…who has a family who can eat 40 apples in three days, huh? When I see your apples, interior decorators / house stagers, that’s what I see. Soft, rotting apples and fruit flies. Why? Because I’m a mother, and also a human who cannot and will not eat 40 apples in a week.

Sometimes, you see a staged pantry or fridge. Yes, we put everything in one-quart mason jars and line them up by color. Just like everyone. Nay. Where are the cereal boxes, the flour, the peanut butter, the chocolate chips, the spices? Who are we? Gwyneth Paltrow? The only things I keep in my fridge are bottles of San Pellegrino, oranges and this bouquet of fresh dill. This all makes me feel inferior. My fridge has beer in it. Cheese. Cold cuts. Leftovers. Half-and-half, and no, we don’t pour it into a glass bottle and label it with calligraphy.

I am also irked by the completely useless things that adorn the surfaces. A hunk of faux coral? Pass. How about some round…things? They have no use, they're just…round things. In a bowl. Another pass (but if you like them, and this sculpture that looks like it's made out of poop, try Pottery Barn). I want empty, I want clean, I want me and my own imagination…not some interior decorator who specializes in giant candles and karate-chopped pillows.

The worst staging for me is when you see a mudroom that looks like this. I have a mudroom. I love my mudroom. It’s arguably my favorite room in the house. Its purpose is the family entrance, when you’re laden with grocery bags, or when the dog is soaking wet, or when you’ve been gardening and have clumps of mud stuck to your shoes. It’s not supposed to be a serene Zen area that’s completely empty but for a single pair of expensive boots and an Australian cowboy hat. If your mudroom looks like this one, you are either very wealthy or have another space in your house where your actual stuff goes. “I come into my mudroom to meditate and be one with nature,” said no one ever. “It’s where all this other crap goes,” say real humans.

I don’t like seeing houses that were quickly and generically flipped as I peruse listings. In New England, it seems like the flippers said, “Quick! Slap down some gray laminate floor and stick up this gray and white tile backsplash, and let’s get the hell out of here!” I dislike the term “flip.” I prefer “restore.” That’s my next job, gang. House restoration visionary. (McIrish will have to do the actual work.)

The worst, though, are the real estate listing that feature fake furniture Photoshopped in. No. Uh-uh. That seems to cross a moral line. Do not try to trick me with your pretend furniture, Realtors! Shame on you! I kind of love the house listings where the family hasn’t made their beds, and the rooms are messy and chaotic. We’re moving, the family seems to be saying. We have things to do. Use your damn imagination.

And so I shall.


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