Selling a Single-Family Home With Big Appeal
If your house has a piece of furniture or art that’s prominently featured, it might be a good idea to work with it instead of against it when staging your home to sell.
That’s what Fort Myers, Florida, resident Laura Brown did. Or at least that’s what she did when she decided to let the contract with a local real estate agent expire and sell her house on her own. “I had this big table and my agent hated it,” says Brown. “She made me move it into the garage when we started showing the house because she thought it would make people feel like they had to have a big family to buy my house.”
A big family certainly wasn’t necessary, says Brown, but she did feel like the new owners should be people who enjoyed entertaining others in their home. “When my husband and I bought this house 20 years ago, we did it because our six children were all grown up and had moved out on their own,” say Brown, who sold their four-bedroom home in Cape Coral, Florida, before moving to the house they most recently sold in Fort Myers. “At the time, people our age kept talking about downsizing but we had six kids, seven grandchildren and lots of good friends. We figured a house with a big pool and a big kitchen would be a nice place for people to get together.”
It certainly has been. Brown now has 14 grandchildren and says “I make a new friend every day,” so the large home has come in handy when entertaining others.
And the most important item in their home? “It has to be the big table,” says Brown. “It’s where everyone sits and eats together.”
Brown, who worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 31 years, first envisioned life with a spacious table after seeing the movie Big Night in the mid-1990s. After watching the film’s actors laughing and talking across a large table, she knew something like that had to have a prominent place in her home. “Just the idea of all these friends and relatives sitting around a big table, enjoying a big meal together, it just made me happy,” says Brown. “I figured that it was what I wanted my retirement to be all about.”
Brown convinced her husband to hire contractors to knock out a wall and open the kitchen’s space dramatically. When the room was ready, the hunt for the big table began. The Browns finally located one at an estate sale at a family farm in Georgia. “It was just this massive thing,” Brown says. “And it came with 14 beautiful chairs. It was perfect.”
Upon moving the table to their home, Brown says their lives changed for the better. “We’d host large dinner parties on Sunday nights,” she says. “All these old men and women drinking wine, eating food, arguing and laughing. It was wonderful.”
But last year, after Brown’s husband Nick suffered a stroke, the couple decided to move to an assisted living community. When her real estate agent saw the table, she asked Brown to move it out of the kitchen so it wouldn’t intimidate people who didn’t have larger families or a large group of friends. Brown had the table moved to the garage, where it sat for six months while potential buyers filed in and out of her home, none of whom made a serious offer.
When the agent’s contract was up, Brown decided to embrace the table and its meaning when she showed the home on her own. “We put it back in the kitchen and the house felt whole again,” she says. “And people liked it. It gave us a chance to tell them why we did it and they seemed to pick up on the strong vibes.”
Brown went as far as serving food during two separate open houses, inviting her guests to stop and eat as they walked through her home.
“It might not have been too effective, but I wanted people to see what it felt like,” she says. “It did end up helping us out, though. One of the men walking through the house called his sister, who also had six children, and told her he had found just what she was looking for.”
When the woman made an offer, she asked that the table be included with the house. “I didn’t mind,” Brown says. “I’d rather it be used than sit in storage.”
On the day before the closing, Brown and her grandchildren scratched their names into the underside of the table. On the day after the closing, Brown and one of her daughters were invited to join the new owners of her home for dinner. They gladly accepted.
“We talked about the house, the pool, the neighbors, where we shopped, where we ordered food, but mostly it was just therapeutic, to be honest,” says Brown. “Her kids were loud and obnoxious and all over the place. Her brother and his wife were there and so was one of their old neighbors, who helped them move. It was just a nice crowd sitting around the table. It was perfect.”
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