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Just Call it a Dump and Be Done With It

Written by Posted On Sunday, 29 November 2020 00:00

In nation of 300 million, there's at least one sharp-eyed person who can see a marketing tool for what it really is.

“I read your recent article about storage and the fact that real estate agents urge clients to reduce the amount of clutter to make the house look bigger,” the sharp-eyed reader writes.

“Sounds a bit sneaky to pare down the contents of a house interior to give the appearance of spaciousness. If owners do this and Realtors advise this, I believe this 'minimizing' should be part of disclosure. Is there no end to what people will do to make things seem something other than what they really are?”

I'd never thought about it that way. It made me want to travel through time, back to when we were readying our last house for the market. My wife spent an entire weekend filling 16 30-gallon trash bags with old clothes and shoes that we ended up donating to Goodwill and similar charities, thus extricating 14 years of clutter from our bedroom closets.

I'd never bothered to tell the prospective buyers what we had done. I'd failed to list it on the disclosure form. They thought they were buying a bedroom with a spacious walk-in closet, a rarity in a house built at the turn of the 20th century when the few clothes we owned could fit in freestanding wardrobes or armoires, and permanent closets were the size of postage stamps.

When I begin thinking of the other things we did to get that house on the market that we didn't disclose, I start to cringe.

For instance, I hired a couple of guys to finish painting the hallways from the first to the third floors and never bothered to say anything about it. For at least 10 years, the hallways had been half-painted. I kept meaning to get to them, but never had the time. I should have disclosed that.

The living-room ceiling wasn't original, nor were the lights. A couple of days after we moved in, the living room light stopped working. When we went to replace the light with high hats, we discovered that the ceiling was weak and we needed a new one. I know that happened 12 years before we put the house on the market, but we should have said something.

I should have disclosed that we used a plasterer with more than 70 years' experience and a licensed electrician for the work. I might have inadvertently led the buyers to believe I had done the work myself, making them worry endlessly about the quality.

I never really said flat out that the kitchen was new, and maybe I should have. Perhaps I should have taken before photos and attached them to the disclosure form. It would have given the successful bidder the opportunity to negotiate to get me to put the old one back. I mean, some people really prefer 30-year-old electric stoves with two non-working burners to a modern gas one, or washing dishes in a chipped porcelain sink instead of a dishwasher.

It's true. There is no end to what people will do to make things seem something other than what they really are, and I guess I'm one of those people.

Although I have no intention of selling my present house soon, I've been making notes about things I've been doing to prepare for that inevitability, so I'll have enough to disclose.

For example, I changed the color of the exterior of the house from tan to cream. I wasn't trying to hide anything. I just didn't like tan.

I turned my garage into a workshop, not because there was anything wrong with the garage, but because I needed to put a workshop somewhere. I didn't want to put it in the basement, not because there was something wrong with the basement, but because the garage was bigger. I don't know why it is bigger. It just came that way.

In the fall, the trees lose their leaves, so I have to rake them up. I don't think anything is wrong with the trees. My neighbors' trees shed their leaves, too, all except the ones that look like Christmas trees, so maybe it is a neighborhood thing.

The one thing I won't do is get rid of any clutter. When you come to look at my house, I want to make sure that your junk will look just as nice as mine does in the same space.

I don't want anyone ever saying that I'm one of those people who tries to make things seem other than they really are.

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