I just had a client go to contract on a new, and very nice, apartment. The location is great, the finishes are great, and the reputation of the builder is great, making it likely that the home that gets delivered is the same as the home that was promised — a bit of a rarity these days.
Also, there’s a television embedded in the bathroom mirror.
My client thinks that’s a little silly — it is a little silly — but it was a signature touch by the developers to show off how “fresh” the building is.
It certainly is a conversation starter. I remember when I was at my college reunion, just eight months ago, and my friends who were staying at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge, which has the same feature, were chatting about how wowed they were by the TV-in-the-mirror technology.
But that doesn’t mean that everything that comes out of a cutting-edge hotel is good. I went on a home visit the other day — not quite a listing pitch, but more of a get-to-know-you meeting — and the potential sellers were architects who had redone their master suite after the style of Asian boutique hotels they had visited. Specifically, they had designed a door to close off the master suite from the rest of the apartment (fine), created a spa-like master shower with a teak floor (fine), and moved the master bathroom’s double sink into the bedroom.
Um, not fine.
I’m sure there is a buyer who would truly dig the philosophy behind this, which is probably something Zen like “the wellspring of daily life greets you when you awake,” but not every buyer I know is avant-garde enough to dig it. I fear I would show this apartment to many, many people who would stop cold and go, “I don’t want the first thing I see when I wake up to be my sink.”
TV in the bathroom, sink in the bedroom — both these ideas started from the same place, the world of high-end hospitality. They were probably featured in the same design magazines, but one worked in terms of sales appeal and one didn’t. How’s a renovator to know?
The answer is, you have to tell them.
Realtors are always an asset to renovators, because we see so many more properties than they do. Even if they are reading all those design magazines, the glossies are telling them what editors think, not what buyers think. Our worth on this score is probably double in today’s type of market, when sellers are so nervous about getting the pricing they want — and fear the cost of a wrong choice that would cause them to sit on the market for months, while prices possibly fall further.
There are more renovation trends in my market; big master showers, which we’ve seen for a few years, are still popular. The kitchen countertop trend is for “anything but granite” (which as a cook I think is being unfairly denigrated, but I’m losing that battle to the kitchen fashionistas.) Anything that can be labeled “green” or environmentally friendly is big — though, paradoxically, so are automated blinds and motorized shades.
If what I see are general consumer preferences, then that information is worth money to potential sellers. I try to communicate this — that I am bringing value by functioning as “eyes and ears” in the market — and I think it’s not a bad time for you to do the same.
What’s selling in your market?
Alison Rogers is a licensed salesperson and author of “Diary of a Real Estate Rookie.”