Clean that mess up! Why clutter gets in the way of house selling

William Shakespeare summed up the issue of clutter best when he wrote “And happy always was it for that son/Whose father for his hoarding went to hell”. Perhaps Shakespeare was cursing a difficult childhood, or maybe it was a line from Henry VI Part III in which Henry shows his disdain for the burdens his father placed upon him. I suppose we’ll never know.

Aside from being the muse for some quality literature, clutter has little else going for it. At best it’s uneasy on the eye. A really cluttered home can cause safety risks to anyone who isn’t an Olympic hurdler. And of course there are people with serious hoarding issues, which in all seriousness are best tackled in tandem with a professional.

For home sellers, a cluttered house stays on the market longer and often winds up selling for less than it should.

The New York Times has a series entitled ‘Market Ready’ which details ways to get your house in order before selling. A recent article on cluttered homes contains some excellent advice from Jeffrey Stockwell, a vice president at luxury real estate company Stribling & Associates.

Cluttered homes fail to sell, explains Stockwell, because “most real estate is aspirational, and buyers want to see themselves someplace better and more beautiful… If they walk into a cluttered, messy space, there’s none of that feeling that life will be better.” These homes also sell for less because “people will think it needs a renovation, and that lowers the value.”

No one will buy your house if they feel it’s a step down from where they are now.

What should you do? Hiding things in boxes doesn’t work, says Stockwell, because “if I go into an apartment and see a lot of boxes, even if they’re attractive boxes, I immediately think there’s not enough storage space.”

Professional organiser Jeffrey Phillip describes storage space as “a valuable asset in itself” and he’s absolutely right. You can’t just hide your stuff away and hope prospective buyers won’t find it. They will want to see how big the basement, attic and closets are.

Selling your home is as much a new start for you as for whoever buys your house. It’s the perfect time to get rid of anything you no longer need.

A personal anecdote: About a month ago I shifted from Auckland to Hamilton. When I started packing I would often stand there umming and ahhing while I worked out each item’s nostalgic value. Each detour down memory lane took me further away from what I was meant to be doing.

Only when I started getting moving quotes did I regain my sense of grim reality. Turns out moving to Hamilton ain’t cheap – but one can reduce the costs of moving simply by being ruthless. And I was: at least six rubbish bags worth were thrown out, recycled, or donated. It felt good. On the downside, the streets of New Lynn have never seen so many loud shirts.

Decluttering is easy if you can detach yourself emotionally. At the end of the day your things are just that: things.

Here’s how I did it:

  1. Note all the things you plan to absolutely keep – furniture, antiques, children, etc.
  2. Divide the rest of your stuff into three piles: ‘Yes’, ‘No’, and ‘Maybe’.
  3. Throw out everything in the ‘No’ pile.
  4. Throw out everything in the ‘Maybe’ pile.

Start with those storage spaces. If your stuff is put away somewhere, chances are it’s not stuff you use often – so you may as well biff it.

An uncluttered house is not only easier to sell, and for more, but it can also help unclutter your mind. Take this chance, home sellers, to make a truly new start. As the Great Bard said, “Now go we in content/To liberty, and not to banishment.”

Lest we forget


New Zealanders and Australians all over the world will, tomorrow, commemorate ANZAC Day. As we approach the one hundredth anniversary of Gallipoli, those who were there in those long months have since passed on. For our knowledge of those times we depend, among other sources, on word of mouth, history books, and documentaries.

When I started writing the Open2view blog, I promised myself I would save that cliché ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ for as long as possible. Alas it only took three weeks to give in, and here we are.

The thing about clichés is they are often as true as they are overused. While those who were there are here no longer, the photos our soldiers captured paint a dramatic picture of what it was they went through, 24/7, on our behalf.

There are some great galleries online where you can see photos of the war effort, including:

The Press – with plenty of glass plate negatives of our soldiers training before embarking. You can also buy prints of these from Press Pics.

New Zealand History Online – their media gallery features photos from the Gallipoli landing and campaign, as well as paintings and memorials.

National Library NZ on Flickr – our National Library has many Flickr photo galleries that one could get lost in for hours, if one wasn’t working.

And – because we have great respect for our Aussie friends – this gallery of intimate images from ABC News.

Looking through these, while deeply appreciative, I could not help but wonder why a soldier would for one second swap his gun for a camera. It had slipped my mind that, thanks to Kodak, the handheld camera had become immensely popular and accessible by the turn of the twentieth century – making it far easier (though still by no means easy) to make a visual account of their experiences.

In the book ‘Early New Zealand Photography: Images and Essays’, historian Sandy Callister wrote about Kodak’s marketing of themselves to New Zealanders as the “visual historian of the war”. Indeed, according to a 2008 Listener interview with Dr Callister, one of the ads of the time read “take a Soldier’s Kodak with you and bring back your own priceless record of the great war”.

The image that conjured of a fantastic adventure was quickly dispelled in the days and months that followed. But thanks to technology, and our soldiers, the First World War became the first major conflict photographed by those who lived it.

Our historical records are a lot richer for their efforts.

Plainly ANZAC Day is not your typical day off; if you’re looking to attend a memorial service tomorrow, the RSA’s website has made it easy to find one nearby.

New Zealand Architecture Awards 2012

The 2012 winners of the New Zealand Architecture Awards were announced yesterday by – who else – the New Zealand Institute of Architects.

The Awards, in their words, “provide a snapshot of the best of New Zealand architecture each year and showcase the work of NZIA Practices.” The twenty winners were chosen from those who earlier won themselves a Local Architecture Award. And one of these will get the big trifecta when the 2012 New Zealand Architecture Medal recipient is announced on 25 May.

A few aspects of this year’s awards particularly stuck out:

The four winners in the Residential category were, in typical understated kiwi fashion, houses that “didn’t strive to stand out” but were too hard to ignore all the same. It doesn’t have to be a tribute to Picasso to win – beautiful and accepting of its surroundings does more than nicely.

A number of Auckland Council projects picked up accolades also. The design for Wynyard Quarter, the Art Gallery and the New Lynn transport redevelopment were among them. The latter is a particular favourite of mine, having drowned many a time waiting for a train at the old station.

Auckland Council was quick to issue a statement celebrating their projects’ achievements, and fair enough. Absent from their release however was convenor of judges Hugh Tennant’s disappointment in the lack of medium or high density projects presented (“these are building types we desperately need to be good”). If Auckland is indeed heading down the compact city route then he is absolutely right.

Something else that sticks out? This café built on a mountain ridge:

The judges’ citation specified “wind and snow loadings, site access and sheer buildability in a location requiring the aerial delivery of materials” as some of the hurdles faced when building the Knoll Ridge Cafe. (Spell-check be damned – ‘buildability’ might just be my new favourite word.)

Also the HOME New Zealand 2012 Home of the Year, designed by Herbst Architects, picked up another accolade – and there’s not much I can say about this dream house that this video doesn’t already:

One glance at the winners shows an abundance of very talented designers who also recognise the need for practicality. In a tough economic climate developers must, more than ever, ‘build clever’ – and it seems our nation’s architects are delivering.

Congrats to all the winners, and you can check out more photos and citations on the NZIA website.

Taking animal photography literally

Dennis, one of our Franchisees, received this photo from some friends in Botswana. It appears their photographers have a whole different set of challenges.

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This is as good a time as any to remind homesellers to please notify our photographers if you have any pets they need to be aware of!

Our new Facebook page is online too

It’s a busy day here at Open2view HQ. Of course we have our new website up and running, and now with our new Facebook page also launched into cyberspace we’re well and truly embracing the social media universe.

If you’re on Facebook be sure to ‘like’ our page to keep up to date with the latest in real estate news, photography developments and anything else that catches our eye. It’s going to be fun, and we’d love to have you on board.

Oh yes – by liking our page you can also enter the draw to win a new iPad!

Our new website is now online


It’s bigger, brighter, and all-round awesome. After more than two years of hard graft by our tech geniuses, we are proud to announce the launch of our brand new New Zealand website!

I had a look through this morning and well, as good as the old site was, this simply blows it out of the water. Whether you’re looking to buy or sell, or you’re an agent looking for the best real estate photographers around, we can help you.

Among the new features we have:

The finest homepage you’ll ever see: it’s big, it’s bold, and best of all it’s useful. On there you’ll find our newest and featured listings, our latest HD videos (coming soon), properties due to be auctioned, and our most recent sales.

A new, improved search engine: you can search by area, postcode, listing number or anything else you like – if you’re looking for a house with a barbeque area in Kelburn just type in ‘bbq’ and click search!

Bigger photos: no more postage stamp sized pics – our slideshows showcase our houses in all their HD glory. Plus if the listing has floorplans, video, walkthrough or virtual tours it’s easier to have a look – just click on the corresponding tab.

New social media features: like what you see? Click the ‘Like’ or ‘+1’ buttons and share with your friends on Facebook and Google Plus. There are also links to our new Twitter and Facebook pages (more on that later). You can also log in to the site using your Facebook account – no more forgetting your password!

So have a look around, then come back and tell us what you think. Feedback is always welcome!

850,000 reasons to use an Open2view photographer

An extra bonus post today on why you should always hire a professional photographer when selling your home.

See this old, nothing out of the ordinary state house in Point Chevalier? It hit the headlines yesterday after selling for $850,000.

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Even better, it was one of ours! 

That’s what you get when you use Open2view: while we can’t guarantee to make you famous, you will always get a top quality professional portfolio that adds real value to your home.

Although having said that, we’re not sure any amount of Photoshop could help this home: