It’s today in Seattle. Which means yet another news story, blog post or social media thread about our hot housing market. And not just hot, but red-hot, scorching-hot or hotter-than-a-firecracker hot. No matter how it’s described, the bottom line is always the same: prices are up and inventory is down; buyers are in a frenzy and sellers are in the driver’s seat. Which is why the following is so perplexing.A true story.
For many years, my friend “Chuck” had a lovely 4-bed, 2.5-bath, corner-lot home in a desirable, family-friendly Kirkland neighborhood. He’d bought it as a bachelor but now had a wife and two young sons and they all needed more space. Chuck loved his home and it showed – from its manicured lawn and artful garden to the outdoor deck and rock surround he’d built by hand to house the gas grill he used nearly every day, rain or shine. And when the house started to feel cramped, he and his wife added a killer master suite that allowed them to stay in the home a while longer. But now it was time to move.
Very quickly they found their dream in a much-larger Woodinville house with plenty of room to roam, a big back yard, a detached shop -- even a sport court for the boys. With new house in hand, Chuck now had to sell the old one. So, he hired a broker who, in turn, gave him a not-insubstantial to-do list of fixes and updates for the house: replace vinyl floors, refinish wood floors, repaint inside and out, mend fence, pressure-wash roof, and more. In all, a chunk of change Chuck was assured he’d recoup at sale.
Chuck and his family had already moved into their new house by the time the old house was ready to list, so a quick sale was priority No. 1. The house hit the market the week of July 4 – not an ideal time but given the Seattle area’s real estate feeding frenzy, Chuck was not worried. That is, until would-be buyer after would-be buyer toured the property without making an offer. When an offer finally did come, it was withdrawn in the 11th hour. So, Chuck relisted, continued to polish and tweak the house and waited.
Mystified and exasperated and facing two mortgages, Chuck’s wife decided to call a stager, hoping for any advice that would lead to a sale. After a quick walk-through of the property, the stager sized up the situation and said, “You don’t need my help, you just need to paint it gray and it’ll sell.” Skeptical but willing to give it a try, Chuck and his wife hired a painter to repaint the home’s interior, top to bottom, in Repose Gray, a Sherwin Williams color that’s the “it” gray of the moment. Plus, to update the kitchen, Chuck put his carpentry skills to work and built new cabinet doors, in the Shaker profile, and painted them all a nice, bright white.
Two weeks later, the home was ready to relist. This time it hit the market the week of Labor Day – again, not an ideal time. Nevertheless, the house got three offers within 48 hours and, after a day of negotiating, sold for $55,000 over its asking price.
The moral of this story? Well, we’re not entirely sure because in this current overheated market many of real estate’s truisms have been dashed out the window. But when all else fails, paint it gray.