Q: I just read an article you wrote about bad staging decisions sellers make. In one of the comments, a reader mentioned that having handicapped equipment in a home for sale is bad. We have a 3-year-old daughter with special needs and have some fairly large equipment for her. She is also here every day with her nurse. We are listing our house in the next couple of weeks. We have taken great care to get everything just right and even hired a stager. Any suggestions on what to do with our daughter and her equipment? –Barb
A: You are very smart to pay attention to this issue. Some buyers find basic personal items like toothbrushes and dishes and residents of the home to be a major distraction when they are viewing a home. The unfortunate truth is that this is even more true about disability-accommodating equipment and your little munchkin. This makes the fact that you have gone to great lengths to fully stage your home exceptionally important, as the wow factor of good, professional staging has the power to help overcome other drawbacks and distractions.
There are a few other things you might be able to do, though:
1. Try to have your home shown while empty. Consult with your agent and, at least for the first few weeks your home is listed, make efforts to specify chunks of time when your daughter (and you, for that matter!) will be out of the home and her items can be stored as discreetly as possible. To this end, you might want to have more than one weekend open house and broker’s open house, to give interested people ample opportunity to see the property while vacant at times convenient to all.
Also, if there are weekly or daily times when your daughter is regularly outside of the home, communicate this to your broker, who can require that buyer’s brokers make an appointment a few hours (or even a day) in advance, to optimize the chances of setting the viewing time at a time when your daughter is likely to be on her daily walk or at her weekly play group.
It is, generally speaking, good practice to have a home shown while the residents are out; I’ve even seen savvy sellers simply go in the backyard or take a walk down the street when buyers come to view the property, simply to avoid the awkwardness and allow the buyers to fully, freely visualize themselves and their lives in the home.
If it is severely inconvenient for your daughter to be taken for a walk while the home is being shown, though, I wouldn’t worry about it too terribly much.
Her equipment — and especially anything that has been permanently affixed to the property — is actually more likely to be distracting than her actual presence, in my opinion. So, if it’s at all possible to put large equipment items away in a closet while the home is being shown, it’s probably worth the time.
2. Offer to remove any installed equipment prior to closing. Make sure that every buyer who comes to view your home is made aware that you are willing to remove any equipment that has been installed permanently to the property before close of escrow, and that you plan to patch and retile or repaint any holes in the walls, etc., left when the equipment is removed. This should be mentioned in the confidential remarks of the MLS listing for your home, and you might even want to post a neatly computer-printed sign directly on the equipment in the property.
3. Market it to families with similar issues. At the risk of stating the obvious, I thought I’d be remiss not to suggest that you market your home to families with members who use similar disability-related equipment as your daughter. If there are support groups, pediatricians or other professionals that work specifically with children who need the same sorts of equipment and accommodations, make sure you let these people know that your fully equipped home is on the market. Also, discuss the prospect of mentioning the equipment and/or any property modifications that have been made in the marketing materials for the property, touting the equipment right alongside your willingness to remove it!
You could find yourself with a buyer who is delighted to find a property that has all the accommodations you might otherwise have to remove — far stranger things have happened!