Realty Check

All The World's A Stage, Especially In Today's Market


I want to share a conversation I just had with my friend Nancy Taylor Bubes, a top realtor in D.C., who has helped transfer literally hundreds of millions of dollars worth of property in the coveted Georgetown neighborhood. I check in with Nancy pretty regularly, because I know she will give me the honest goods on the market. For the past year she's been bemoaning the market, showing me homes that have been sitting available for months without so much as a sniff.

So I visited her at a small townhouse in Georgetown that just sold for a touch over a million dollars. The house had been sitting since the summer, and finally, with a price drop, found a buyer.

"Right after Christmas, everything I had listed on the market that had been on all fall and even part of the summer, sold," Nancy told me. She couldn't tell me exactly why, perhaps an exceptionally warm January, but she alluded to something more than that. Perhaps a change in buyer sentiment due to price reductions -- but a definite increase in seller flexibility. Whatever it is, it's working.

"We've never had a January like this in our life, it's 100% over last year." I won't share with you her total figure for the month, but let's just say it was astounding. Nancy still says the market is tough, with homes staying on for months at a time, but staging is making a big difference.

The Wall Street Journal reports that there are now more vacant homes on the market than there have been in decades, and Nancy says that's why, if you're selling, it's more crucial than ever to stage your home.

"It just warms up a home because homes are a very emotional purchase," Nancy counsels. "I've actually done more staging this fall than I've ever had to do because the market was off and you have to do these more creative things to get a property sold."

Staging has become big business in major metro and suburban markets. Some companies will come in and rearrange your furniture, others will take it out and rent you new stuff for a month, or however long you need it. Staging is especially important for empty homes, as people tend to connect more with a home that looks lived-in than they do with empty space.

After I bought my own home several years ago, I found out it too had been staged. I remember walking through it for the first time, seeing these adorable antique toys in a purple-swathed room that was perfect for my little girl. I later learned the owners had no kids, and had used the room as an office. I took the bait.

As we head toward the all-important and usually active spring season, I asked Nancy, "Are you expecting big things from the spring?" I think I am! I wouldn't have said that in September, but now I'm very optimistic.

Questions?  Comments?