Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Heads you lose

Presenting a property for sale is a delicate balancing act.

As a buyer you want to see a clean space into which you could seamlessly slip yourself, the other half, three kids, the cat, the dog and Uncle Tom Cobley, while at the same time it must have some of the acoutrements of life that make a house a home.

Usually a few neutral pictures are recommended, perhaps a strategically placed Post-it saying something aspirational, like 'Call shoemaker - all four pairs ready', and some carefully picked books on the shelf which suggest that the inhabitant of such a desirable residence would be intelligent, interesting and well travelled.

However, it is vital that you allow no aspect of your real life to show. So the Post-it saying 'Social worker called - wants to discuss court dates', the jumbo pack of flea bombs, and the lifetime's collection of self-help literature must be kept out of sight.

So, of course, must any dismembered human body parts you may have in your home.

My very first purchase, a lovely flat overlooking Clapham Common, was scuppered when, on the measuring-up-for-curtains third visit the owner proudly showed me what he kept in the cupboards above the wardrobe: three shrunken human heads. I suspect the look on my face may have told him that in such situations offering a cup of coffee is acceptable, but offering a glimpse at your mutilated body parts collection is stepping into lose-that sale territory.

The reverse is also true, of course.

On a recent viewing of a 'distressed sale', or, as I was told delicately by the agent, a property being sold by 'one of our corporate clients', my suspicions were raised when not only was the garden gate missing, but the doorbell had gone too. The property had been described as well presented, and offering scope. Turns out that the fleeing previous inhabitants had taken everything that wasn't nailed down, everything that was, and quite a few items that had been plumbed in too. The scope for personalising this property extended to the 'opportunity' to choose a new toilet, bath, garden fence, and internal doors. Luckily they seemed to have left many of the walls and all the floorboards, so not much scope there then.

Every property has its faults, and when the right person comes along they will look beyond the missing sanitaryware and will, undoubtedly make it into a lovely home. And, as for the guy with the heads, I hear he sold soon after I dropped out. I can only deduce that he subsequently decided to keep his unusual interest where it belonged - in the closet.