Looking at the housing market leaves some house hunters wondering if they’ve arrived in a bygone world via time machine.
They set down in a land where stretches of green cut-pile fibers carpet the hills of architectural step-ups and step-down that whisper, “Feelin’ groovy,” while fields of paper flowers climb walls. The sun’s rays fade under heavily clad windows, and every color and fixture tells a story – one that prospective buyers have likely already heard, and possibly already lived.
It takes stepping back into “modern life” of any era to truly appreciate its quirky offerings and haphazard trajectory. Even the request of a client to “Beam me up” can’t shake most seasoned real estate agents, who say they’ve heard and seen it all.
Sometimes navigating the time-space jump takes a little engineering on the sellers’ part; sometimes, vision from the buyer, agents say. In the end, the right price is a sure sign of return to Earth.
“We were trying to do the best we could, but it wasn’t helping all that much,” said a Realtor in Virginia Beach, in recalling a listing last year.
“When I walked into the house, everything was original from the ’70s,” she said.
The colored cut-pile carpet, heavy draperies, dated wallpaper and dark paneling might have appealed to buyers 30-something years ago, but she could hardly get a new-millennium prospect past the threshold. Sixties velvet furniture further undermined the seller’s goal.
“Today’s buyer is not interested in outdated homes,” she said.
She recalled one too many encounters with “fake butcher-block” countertops while making rounds with a recent client: “He would say, ‘Wow, this reminds me of when I was growing up!’ ”
Not good, she noted.
But it’s hard to convince people to change. “If (a seller is) willing to take less money, it’s OK. Though not everybody understands that.”
The worst offenders of the time-space continuum are dated wallpaper, flooring, colors and appliances.
The ’60s boasted “a lot of pink, peachy and black and white,”. The ’70s brought avocado green and harvest gold; the ’80s featured mauve, gray and teal; and the ’90s bombarded us with hunter green, burgundy and white.
“If I see a kitchen that’s all white with brass fixtures, that’s a flashback to the ’90s,” she said. “And colored carpet is always a, ‘Wow, what were they thinking?!’ ”
It is recommended that sellers update a few elements. Today’s buyers prefer neutral colors and natural surfaces, so consider granite counters in the kitchen (if the cabinets are good), tile flooring and stainless-steel appliances. Replacing old light fixtures adds value; change out brass hardware and lighting to brushed nickel, iron or dark bronze.
Not everything old amounts to moon dust on the journey.
“Some of it’s really wonderful,” said another Realtor from Virginia Beach. She recalled one older home with all the original features, including the kitchen’s “little tiny oven,” and often sees “wild-color tile from the ’60s – pinks and blues – and colors that nobody uses anymore,” she said, “but the stuff is still in good shape.”
While “it’s hard to make people see past what they dislike… there’s a population of people who enjoy that stuff,” Tanner said. She attributes her “broader aesthetic” to past work at the Contemporary Art Center of Virginia and suggests that people who can’t produce major upgrades “play it up, in a charming, retro kind of way.”
So the lesson here is update, update and then clean, clean and sparkle.
article credited to Nora Firestone from The Virginian Pilot