Selling the House and Adventures in Staging

Each winter up here in the wilds of New Hampshire we get ice and snow storms.  Then the power goes out.  Soon the neighborhood is humming with the sounds of generators as folks flip the appropriate switch and electricity flows back along its appointed rounds.  Except at my house.


After living here 12 years and watching the town relentlessly expand and develop, I can’t help but expect that this is the year the power company will figure out that winter storms in winter in New Hampshire are not a fluke.  This will be the year the power remains on.  This despite the fact that, as my neighbors gleefully point out, each year it gets worse.


In my mind, their generators are what enable the power company to get away with this disgraceful performance and I, for one, will not be a party to it.

So the power goes out.  The lights go dark.  The well pump stops and the taps (and toilets) go dry.  Slowly the heat leaks away into the bitter cold night while the food in the freezer spoils.

In righteous indignation I huddle under piles of blankets until my wife and daughter load up the car and take us all to the hotel and restaurants for a few days where we will spend roughly double the cost of a generator waiting it out.


During one of these adventures a couple of years back as we stepped out from a lovely breakfast in what passes for the big city downtown around here, I noticed a graceful new building across the street with a banner announcing “For Lease.”

“Hey,” I said, “let’s check this out.”

Moments later we are being shown a beautiful two bedroom two bath apartment reminiscent of the place my wife and I spent the first three blissful years of our marriage.

“This is awesome,” said my now Senior in High School little girl.  “Why didn’t we move here when we first came to New Hampshire?”  Why indeed?

Back in 1999 I took a new job and the company moved us to New Hampshire.  Little Girl was in second grade.  While I’ve always known owning a home is a lousy investment, there are times when it seems worth the money for the lifestyle.

If I was going to live in New Hampshire I figured we needed a classic 4-bedroom, 2.5 bath colonial.  The one we bought sits on a little hill with woods and a stream to the back and sides and a pond down the hill where a neighbor clears the snow each winter for ice skating.  An old stone wall defines the back border and big chucks of granite stick up out of the ground.  It practically screams “New England!”


Wildlife is continually on parade and we even had a moose in our yard a few years back.  How cool is that?

It is tucked up at the back of a cul-de-sac with actual neighborhood streets for the local kids to play in.  I had visions of my little girl riding her bike, swimming, fishing in and ice skating on the pond and exploring the woods with her pals.

Turns out, she’s a dancer and nobody lets their kids just go out and play anymore anyway.

She went exploring the woods and stream with a visiting friend just once.  We got an earful on responsible parenting from the kid’s folks.


She went ice-skating twice.  Broke her arm and had surgery the second time.  Still has the cool scar.

She rode her bike around maybe four times.  It’s boring alone.

Mostly we shuttled her to dance classes, soccer practice and the like.


The dog and I have enjoyed the woods.  There is a nice rock outcropping perfect for a rest and a cigar on a bright winter’s day.  But I never wanted a house and as it turns out, neither did she.  Guess we’re both city people and there are certainly better things to do with the money.

We began looking at apartments and rapidly determined there were two downtown buildings that fit our needs.  I could almost taste the freedom from home ownership, not to mention the delicious meals at the restaurants we could walk to.

With great excitement in the spring of ’11 we put the house on the market and waited.  And waited.  Showed it a few times.  Lowered the price.  And waited.  This, it turns out, is a bad time to be selling a house.

The listing expired and we went to Ecuador for the summer.

Come September and back on the market she goes.  New still lower price.  Showings dribble in, no real interest.  Then one day another house in the ‘hood goes on the market at a way, way low price.  They have it professionally staged.  Neighbors are abuzz about how “they’re giving it away.”  It sells in six days at the full (although low) price.  Mmmmm.

Mid-December our listing has again expired.  Time for a new approach, fresh ideas and a new agent.  We have her chosen before Christmas, a new 30k lower price and we have hired:

If you are new to this whole staging process, as we were, here’s the deal.  Professionals  come in, in our case two very artistic women, and proceed to very nicely explain to you what hideous taste you have and how they can make the place appeal to today’s demanding, hip and stylish buyers.  Which, clearly, you are not.  The most disturbing thing is, they are correct.

In come the movers.  The office goes from a bedroom to the living room.  (“No one cares about a formal living room these days.”)  The family room gets the nice living room furniture and the family room furniture goes out to the garage and onto Craig’s List.  It now graces a lovely woman’s seaside rental.


Then the painters arrive (how could we have ever chosen those awful colors) and soon “Pottery Barn” shades sooth the eye.

Out comes the old carpet we had lovingly installed and in goes the fresh new neutral (beige) carpet.

Then the Stagers come back and rearrange the decor.  This goes there, that goes out.  This painting on that wall.  Lots of stuff to the garage.  (Less is more.)  Up go the window treatments.  (I guess here more is more.) I prefer the unobstructed views of the woods and pond but my opinion has long lost any credibility.

Two weeks and $5500 later it is done and, oh my.  This really does look spectacular.  Still it’s hard to swallow spending all that money so I can price the joint at 30k less.  But the market is an exacting and demanding mistress.

The realtor’s photographer shows up and takes the shots.  Up on the websites it goes.  My wife checks it out and says, “Wow!  can we buy this house??”

Ah, no.


Casa de jlcollinsnh

The neighbors all say we are “giving it away.”  Certainly I’d love to get the 550k it would have brought in 2006 and will again some day.  But today is today.  It’s time for us to move on.

It’s time for a new family to enjoy the house, the woods, the pond and the neighborhood.  If it sells quickly and smoothly, I’m OK with them getting a deal as well.

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  1. Mr. Money Mustache says

    Best of luck in selling this beauty!

    I enjoyed your comments about the stagers, from the perspective of the person being upstaged. I have been ranting from the other side of the situation (“What!? I can’t believe these people are trying to sell a house with baby blue carpet and crammed full of faux-antique oak furniture! Have they been holed up in here for the last 40 years without ever seeing another house, hotel, building, or even magazine?”).

    But this too will happen to me as my furniture ages with me and I see no need to replace it. It’s a mark of pleasant seniority to be considered obsolete.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Hey Mr. MM…

      It’s an honor to see you over here!

      As the investor you are, all that baby blue carpet and faux-furnature can only be reducing you purchase cost and increasing your profits. 😉

  2. Julie says

    I find it incredibly said that your daughter’s friends’ parents didn’t want them to play in the woods. To me, that sounds like a fantastic way to spend a childhood! I’m in my early 30s and I grew up playing outside most of the time. It amazes me that just 20 years later, getting fresh air and exercise while also exercising some creativity is seen as a bad thing. I feel sorry for those kids. I hope that the next family to buy that house has kids who are able to make good use of it…. all of that beautiful nature needs to be appreciated by the next generation.

    And on a different note, good luck selling your home! I hope you enjoy the transition to non-homeownership!

  3. Diana says

    That is a beautiful house with the woods & pond. My son would love to explore acres of our backyard…

    so our goal is to buy a large estate with several acres.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Thanks Diana…

      …that’s what I’ve always liked about it. We are in a neighborhood but set back for privacy, views, wildlife and roaming.

      Good luck in your search!

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