Having watched a huge amount of HGTV’s “Designed to Sell,” I knew what I had to do to prepare — paint the cracked and marred walls in the front stairway, replace the ugly light fixtures, scrupulously clean the front porch, front door, and mailboxes; rake the yard, sweep the sidewalk, organize and clean the basement, replace all the 60 watt (and/or burned out) lightbulbs with 75 watts and turn on every single one of them, and get out the wd-40 for the squeaky doors. I thought about even baking a cake for good measure, but didn’t have the time. I practically pulled an all-nighter every day last week as it was.
It’s interesting too see people’s reactions to me at showings — my ad states that it’s an owner-occupied duplex, and gives a female name as a contact; I think that the general assumption is that I’m a retired woman. Once they meet me, and see that I’m a young professional on the cusp of 30, they often don’t know quite what to think. Most men that I show the apartment to automatically assume that I’m married, and manage the duplex with my husband (“how could a single woman possibly run a duplex on her own?”) They often seem uncomfortable at first, but leaving, they’re often incredibly nice– thank you for your time, have a good day, you have a wonderful home; I guess they figure that I’m checking them out as much as they’re checking the apartment out. Which to an extent I suppose is true… but with the rental market being what it is right now, I really can’t afford to be quite as picky as they can.
I previous years, I’ve felt a need to overcompensate when showing the apartment. I’ve tried acting like I’m a real estate professional, or one of those salesman-ey people who shows apartments for a living. I’ve tried pretending I didn’t actually live here (foolish, since they’d find out after they moved in anyway, resulting in an extremely awkward living situation). For a while, I orchestrated an appearance by my boyfriend at every showing, so that people would think he lived here also. The problem is that I’m not the kind of person that people look at and say “Gee, I bet she’s real handy! And enjoys using power tools!” All of this acting, though, has always felt dishonest and I don’t think it’s actually fooled anyone. And after all, I AM handier than many men that I know, even if I don’t look it. So, this year, I decided to just be myself, and act like the friendly, capable person they’d potentially be living above. (With a vast knowledge of all of the wonderful features of the apartment and neighborhood, of course.)
WHAT TO WEAR
Should I try to look as much like a lesbian as possible? (I’ve always gotten the feeling that people would be more likely to rent from me if i were a big burly guy with a toolbelt.) Or should I dress up and look professional, like the people who show apartments for the big management companies? Somewhere in between? This year I decided on: Jeans, a black long-sleeved t-shirt, a casual corduroy jacket from the Gap that looks as though it could be a sport coat, and a nice pair of low-heeled loafers. What I was trying to portray: I’m approachable, organized, reasonable, respected; not too fussy, and not afraid to get my hands dirty. I have to look like the maintenance man, the property manager, and the nice neighbor girl downstairs all at once.
I don’t know if it was the fantastic ad, the improvements I’ve made to the exterior of the house in the past two years, my staging activities, or how I presented myself, but my sixth showing of the day applied on the spot. I thought that didn’t happen anymore, in today’s soft rental market, but they had simply fallen in love with the place, and didn’t want to risk anyone else snapping it up. Fantastic. It was on the market for only 9 days, unlike the last two times, when it was on for more than 30.
I have to try to sell people on the good features of the apartment, and let them know that I’m capable and organized, but I can’t pretend to be someone I’m not. People can spot a phony a mile away.
Staging can’t hurt, and it certainly can help. People will like or dislike the place based on their first impressions. Making the apartment appear as neat, clean, bright, and well cared-for as possible makes the apartment more appealing. It really is like I’m selling the house every time I look for renters.
Thinking about wardrobe may sound silly, but appearances do count. My potential tenants are checking me out as much as they are the apartment, especially since it’s an owner-occupied situation. (And they are especially wary of me, since I’m not the stereotypical 40 or 50-something guy wearing a toolbelt.)
- Checking References
- Tenant Screening (Don't get too excited just yet.)
- Advertisting (and the traffic counter miracle of 2006)
- My ad is up, I'm getting inquiries. I never realized that there were so many, er, interesting people in the world.
- Moving out notification (How my life changed when I opened my door this morning)