Protect the clumsy and hide the secrets

in Contributors/Real Estate by

By Will McCullough
A few days ago, I was previewing a home with another agent. (I won’t give her name.  I’ll just say that she’s one of the two people in the picture that accompanies this column and, chivalrously, leave it at that.) It had rained the night before and, as she stepped out onto the property’s dock, she slipped and fell on the wet wood leaving her with a head to toe series of bruises. In fairness, I should mention that the unnamed person in question could likely find a way to fall during a laying down contest, but the fact remains that the entrance to this dock was at a very steep angle and it would be easy for anyone, not just a gravity-challenged person, to fall and get hurt. A little “no-skid” in an area that obviously needed it could be the difference between selling a home and getting sued.
Here’s my point: We live in a litigious society and, if you’re inviting complete strangers to come in and tour your home, it is in you best interest to take a good look at it in advance from a safety perspective. In addition, it may be wise to take a few minutes and ensure that items of an overly personal nature disappear during showings. So, based on personal experiences, below please find some home staging advice that goes beyond all the standard “put out fresh flowers”, “hide family pictures” and “get a new welcome mat” guidance.
Some people are accident prone: It’s also a fact that some of those clumsy folks are going to eventually tour your home. Before you put your home on the market, take some time to tour your property constantly asking yourself the question “How would a clumsy person injure/kill themselves here?” Fix those loose steps and railings, cover those open outlets and lay down a bit of no-skid.
Some people bring kids:  As agents, we all do our best to watch over our buyer’s kids while showing a home.  The parents, obviously, do the same. But accidents can and do happen and it may be a good idea to consider stowing poisons, knives and scissors if you are opening up your home for others to tour in your absence.
Some people are stupid: OK, in this case I’m referencing the sellers. Let me start by saying I personally have no problem with guns. I grew up hunting, was a Marine for 10 years and I’m completely comfortable stating that Deena and I both have concealed carry permits. So here’s the little bit of staging advice I would have believed unnecessary earlier in my real estate career.  If you own a gun, do not leave it loaded and laying around during a scheduled showing. Three times in my career, I’ve come across a loaded gun in plain sight during a showing. One on a bed stand, one leaned against a wall and one, yes believe it or not, lying in the middle of a kitchen island. Trust me, I’m all for the Second Amendment, but if you’re inviting strangers to come in and tour your home, make it disappear behind lock and key.
Some people are thieves:  As individual agents, we often show property to groups of people. The happy potential buying couple is often accompanied by their parents and friends. We all honestly try our absolute best to keep everyone with us as we focus on showing your home but it is often inevitable that individuals will linger and split off in different directions. If it’s valuable to you, it’s probably valuable to someone else.  Make it vanish in advance before you discover, months later, that it’s vanished permanently. This also includes prescription drugs.
Some pets eat people: OK, that’s probably not true but some people think it is. Potential buyers want to see every inch of your property if they are seriously considering it and many will not tour the back yard or garage despite your advance assurances that your dog is “friendly.” I love pets too, but if at all possible, make them go before you show.  Keep in mind that you want them to write an offer and I have had buyers refuse to get out of the car for fear that “Cujo” was going to pin them down by the jugular the moment we got out.
Some people have secrets:  And you might be one of them. So before you allow your home to be shown, please ensure that your collection of porn and/or illegal drugs disappears. Buyers want to look in closets to determine if their stuff will fit and your alphabetized collection of freaky DVDs will be in plain sight when they open the door (true story). Buyers will also want to tour every inch of your 5 acre parcel to ensure that you are not growing cannabis on the grounds when they find your baggies on the vanity filled with it but they may be hesitant to do so because you are also “breeding pit bulls” on the property (yep, another true story).
So in closing, if you’re looking to sell your home in a competitive market, be sure to focus on the curb appeal and hide pictures and clutter. Oh, and the porn, drugs, valuables, rabid critters and dangerous stuff too.

Will and Deena McCullough of Lowcountry Real Estate can be reached directly at 843-441-8286 or via email at RealEstate@BeaufortSC.net.