Sunday, August 21, 2011

For Sale By Helen

Dear Helen Hartman,
As you know, my house is on the market, it is a traditional home...furnished with an eclectic mix of "finds" and real antiques. The kitchen was done in a retro fashion the old formica table and chairs etc. It was fabulous. The broker made me change it out to boring white/pine table and windsor chairs and black and while toile curtains. Boring. So I had to give up my kitchen to appeal to the general folks..... what would Dear Helen have done?

Dear Loved One,
  Of course it was fabulous (if anyone wants to know how Helen knows this drop in and visit Sherrie’s blog A Conversation at the Goodwill). I’ve wanted a Formica table for the longest time. 
Giant dollars only redeemable as currency in Gambles Top of the Beanstalk location.
 So even the best Realtor would have to have wrestled me to the ground to get me to move it out. 
"Look, honey, the boys are showing me how you dealt with the Realtor this morning. You know the saying: Children learn what they live!" "Then ours aren't living right because they didn't learn a thing. Gouge the eyes with your right hand, pull the hair with your left, Billy."

I have moved a time or two in my life (contrary to what that snipe Teresa might tell you, Helen is NOT wanted by the law. They never proved a thing!) But to be sure, I checked with the experts:
"Mommy I know you love The Sound of Music but please, can't we just buy clothes from Sears instead of always making them from curtains?" Magazines from 1943 to 1954, $2 each! So much goodness inside!
Sure you need to de-clutter and de-personalize but that doesn’t mean you have to leave your house a depressing space devoid of the things that make it a home. You still have to live there, ya know!
Carol truly was a control queen. She called that her control kitchen, the dinning room her control dinning room and the master bedroom the dungeon of dominance.

So let’s tackle some of those well-known tricks to sell a house:

Repaint. Repair. Refurnish.  Keep it neutral, neutral, neutral!
The caption to this actually describes it as a neutral kitchen. Neutrality is in the eye of the beholder, I guess. This kitchen certainly make me want to stick something in my eye.
Curb appeal? Make a good impression from the moment the seller arrives.
From the actual article: "I'd driven by that house a hundred times and never noticed it until..."  Until the horrible accident when it was hit by a semi hauling 2 tons of Pepto Bismol.

If you’re not inclined to do a lot of work…
"When you're done with that lovely treatment on the walls, Oscar, can you slip into my new evening gown so I can adjust the hem?" "Red? On THOSE hips? Girl, you need to adjust your mirror if you think THAT's going to work."   Their sex life wasn't great but Wendy considered that a small price to pay for having an in home interior decorator and fashion consultant.

…a new door mat will work wonders.
Caution: Your new doormat should probably NOT say Eve Arden on it.
But that doesn’t mean you have to BE a door mat (do you hear me Eve Arden? I mean, really, you were kind of a big deal, why would you be hawking $5 doormats in the back of magazines? The real money is in celebrity endorsements of chin straps and personal flame throwers!) 

But really, are those things enough to close the deal? Helen has some thoughts about what really works. Yes, Helen is offering actual advice. Make a note, it may never happen again! 
Cook meals in the crock pot so the house smells great every day. 

Behold the modern oven: the perfect place to store the food you bought for your party and plan to pass off as home cookin'.
 Use orange oil on the sinks and their fixtures so they gleam.

I don't have a disposal, I'm all dolled up and stuffing things in the drain in hopes of meeting a cute plumber!
 Make a list of all the improvements you've made to the home.
"Okay, I mowed the lawn, raked up all the cuttings, swept the walk, hosed down the drive, showered, did my hair and got dressed. What did you do?"  "I put a flower in a pot."
Put the TV on an ambient music channel during showings.

I'm speechless.
 I always write a letter with pics of the house in different seasons telling the prospective buyer what it’s close to (or far from) and what I’ve loved most about living there.  Yep, despite the trend to de-personalize the process, the thing that has actually helped us sell our homes was the personal touch!

OH MY WORD, Not THAT personal. This is the room you send your kids to when you want to punish them. "Please, Mom, No, it gives me nightmares about dolls and clowns and animals. So many nightmares!"

Good luck – and if you have to wrestle with your Realtor, remember, right hand gouge, left hand hair pull.

Joining Amaze Me Monday at Dittle Dattle
and Nifty Thrifty Tuesday at Coastal Charm
Tuesday Treasures at My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia


  1. Just when I start to think about wanting a different house, I think about our basement and all the storage units we'd have to rent to "hide" all our stuff. Awesome blog header. It's FAB!!

  2. I'm thinking about putting my house on the market and moving to Dallas, since the kids and the store are there. It's only a 30-minute drive, but the traffic is a nightmare...but when I think about getting this place ready to sell (especially cleaning out my workshop), that seems even more nightmarish!

    I'd hate to have to hurt a real estate agent who wanted me to get rid of my mid-century stuff...or even store it. It wouldn't be seemly for a woman my age to be seen gouging and pulling. :)

  3. Hello Helen:
    Who can resist any of this? We shall be off to the estate agents as soon as they open to put it all to the test!

    As always, wonderful images to drool over - never surely seen in the UK during the 50s and 60s - combined with the most amusing and witty text. Have a fun weekend but stay clear of 'realtors' for your own safety as well as theirs.

  4. It's so nice to get back after a longish break from blogging and meet DearHelenHunt! I have a friend who's not having any luck with her house and it's been up for showings for a long time...I'm gonna direct her here...:)

  5. Great post as always you always make me smile ;-)) Theres some great advice here but i agree you have to live there and if people really love a house they will look past your things and see there own in its place. Have a great day, dee x

  6. All this good advise and all I keep seeing are these Barbie doll waistlines in the ads/articles! Were women allowed to eat back then?:@)

  7. Thanks Kim! Actually my best Realtor said stuff in a storage space is ok - it's using the house as it should be used. It's the stuff everywhere else that seems to be at issue!

    Dana - Dallas traffic is a misery. It might be worth tackling a Realtor!

  8. Jane and Lance - Hmmm, Helen has found some 1950s magazine from the UK (they are holiday themed) so we shall test this theory. I Have certainly seen those estate agent shows that were popular not long ago and I think I could kick some of their behinds!

  9. khushi - I wondered where you'd gone. Welcome back and thanks.

    Dee - so true. You are not selling a product that require mass appeal, there only needs to be one buyer (we've had a home go to a bidding 'war' before and unlike house selling shows, it was actually not a big $ bonus, I'd just as soon have a smooth sale.)

  10. They ate - AFTER they did all the chores! That's what keeps me from buying vintage clothes from the 40s or 50s -waistlines! (mine is more of a waist squiggle)

  11. Great new header!
    Decluttering scares the heck out of me, I think I'll be in this house till I'm carried out in a box! x

  12. What a cute post! You had me smiling through the whole thing :D

  13. $99 for that formica table, new. I only paid a 4x inflation for mine *groan*

  14. Thanks Carrie!

    I KNOW on that table - and that was with 7 chairs!

  15. These are great tips for selling a home. I must remember them when we get around to selling.

    For the record, I knew you weren't wanted. The rumor mills, well, you know how that goes, but I made sure I told everyone I ran into at Kroger that you were definitely not a wanted woman.

  16. LOL Karen - if you were at that new super Kroger that must have taken ALL DAY!

  17. I've had people round to look at my place today. I was going to make runner bean chutney but then figured the smell of onions boiling in malt vinegar might be off-putting to those of a delicate constitution! That's a free hint ;-)


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