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Realtors as impromptu designers during downturn

I’m a moderately color blind, middle aged guy. I think it’s fair to say I am NOT a design expert. I wouldn’t know Napastyle from Nashville style; South Beach from Orange Beach or De Rigueur from Dens-R-Us. So why is it more and more I have clients asking my opinion about significant changes they’re making to either design or décor in their homes?

Really……they’re asking me! Or maybe I should say….really….they’re asking me?

We recently sold a very large estate for a corporation that was part of a take back from a previous CEO. The home needed ‘freshening up’ so the company had decorators come in, establish a budget and then said decorators prepared color and design boards for their presentation. When the time came for the decisions to be made, the company sent me to approve them. Me? As I’m sitting in a small conference room with the obligatory team of attorneys, designers flashed large mock ups of their proposed color and decorating upgrades of choice. The presentations went on and I nervously checked off on tens of thousands of dollars in changes in paint, flooring and overall ‘freshening up.’ True, this example of a property is very extreme but a Realtor’s involvement in this part of the process on a scalable level as of late has become more the norm.

Another facet of the housing downturn is that at least some consumers have become much more cautious about how they spend their decorating & design dollars….and they should be. They want to have some certainty that the best portion of those dollars will garner a return. They now realize putting the blue steel fridge in their kitchen may not be the resale edge they think it is. The sea foam green granite also has its resale consequences. These are regular homeowners, not high end elite clients who have unlimited resources. They realize that it’s become increasingly important to make good decorating choices in their homes because resale real estate will be a hyper competitive world for years to come.

So rather than just slap that eggplant shaded, wall paper up in the dining room, they are now asking me first what the resale effect may be. Will some of these individual home owners still make choices that aren’t always good for resale? Of course they will but at least they’re going in with their eyes open rather than harpooning the Realtor when we tell them that eggplant doesn’t sell 22 months later.

I will admit I have fostered the belief that before making major changes to the design or decor of their homes, my homeowner clients may want to at least run it by me. In the middle of the downturn in 2009, past clients called me to market their home for relocation to another city. In the time they had owned this property they had taken out a wall between bedrooms three and four for their teenager to give him a larger space. They changed their four bedroom home to a three bedroom. Sorry Mr. and Mrs. Seller, without changing it back that just cost you $30,000.

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While every real estate professional has their horror stories about homes they’ve marketed with aberrative floor plans and bad color choices, in today’s new world of real estate everyone needs to be more cognizant of the impact of highly personal design. As real estate professionals, I have come to believe that we do need to gently nudge clients to understand the effects of their design choices in the resale process. If not, we had certainly better learn how to market eggplant shaded wall paper.

Written By

Realtor, Speaker, former Indianapolis radio personality. Least prettiest person ever on HGTV. Crashed in a helicopter and a Cessna 182. Seven lives left. Blessed by an amazing family!



  1. Ron Foo Chun via Facebook

    March 15, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    I have 25 yrs of design experience I offer to my clients as an added value which sets me apart from others :o)

  2. Ron Foo Chun via Facebook

    March 15, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    I have 25 yrs of design experience I offer to my clients as an added value which sets me apart from others :o)

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