Lights! Camera! Cue Domestic Bliss!

Given our present obsession with “reality” TV, the idea of turning the display of model homes into a theatrical experience is not that surprising. By this time, we’re used to peering into other people’s lives whenever we wish. Innocuous people-watching has been part of our culture for generations, but now we’ve mainstreamed the idea of staring in the neighbor’s bedroom window–and we no longer even need a ladder to accomplish it. Voyeurism may, in fact, be the dominant form of human interaction. But have our imaginations become so impoverished that we actually require a demonstration of the capacity for domesticity of our potential homes? Or is there something more sinister at work here?

It’s long been the recommendation to pretty up your home before putting it on the market–paint, install new carpet, throw out or move out all your old junk. In higher-end markets it’s not uncommon to fill a vacant property with rented furniture. The general argument is that buyers are incapable of imagining their own things and their own lives inhabiting an empty or messy space (obviously whomever is making this argument has never seen how I live, both emptily and messily simultaneously). But as any decent buyer’s agent will tell you, the seller’s stuff, their decorating choices, recent “upgrades”, and particularly the seller themselves and their family are nothing but distractions. The real estate agent I used when I bought my home was so adamant about this that she would bluntly but politely ask the seller(s) to leave before we went to look at a property. Here’s the problem: any time you spend looking at the seller’s crap or listening to the seller’s rap, is time you’re not spending looking at the things you should be looking at. Open house theater is an order of magnitude greater distraction. Then again, if you’re looking at the kind of properties that would warrant this treatment, you probably have more money than sense anyway. Good luck with that!

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