Selling a house is easy right? That's why realtors charge super low commissions and the whole process is a breeze!
OK - now that we've all had a good laugh, today we're going to look at how, with a bit of homework and some great vintage items, you can make the whole thing not only enjoyable, but incredibly profitable too!
Built in 1971 it is 2700 square feet, has 6 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms and had been occupied by the same family for 45 years. Architecturally it is pretty basic, a classic 70's tract home, but it was very comfortable for the owners that lived and raised their nine children there.
Yes that is Paul Revere and no, we don't think he continued on from Lexington and Concord all the way out to California, but his statue is standing in Heritage Park in the City of Cerritos. Conveniently located between Los Angeles and Orange County, boasting beautifully maintained neighborhoods, abundant recreational facilities, an award-winning library, a world-class performing arts center and one of the best school districts in the State, Cerritos is a dynamic and attractive place to live and work
The house tells a classic American family story - the son of a first generation Mexican immigrant marries the daughter of a family that came over from England in 1680. Together they raise nine children becoming university graduates and successful professionals across the country.
But time brings change and eventually the owners, now grandparents several times over, wanted to downsize and to sell the house.
45 years is a long time - particularly in the USA, as more families arrive, populations shift and majorities change. Over the years Cerritos has developed a strong Asian and East Asian population, Filipino, Chinese and Indian families thrive. These communities are the classic American story - they are hardworking and eager to purchase their slice of the American dream.
So how do you take a house that has been the same way for the last 45 years and transform it into something that is attractive to a very different culture?
I do want to make something clear at this point - I have no doubt that I was barely scratching the surface and that I probably got a few things wrong. There are so many different types from classical Chinese to Western aspirational to Vietnamese variants that I'm sure it takes a lifetime of study to really understand what is going on.
However, I was looking to sell a house and just because westernized culture doesn't assign great value to things like numerology & energy flow, doesn't mean that they aren't inherently useful and important to other cultures and can make the difference between receiving an offer or not.
If Feng Shui is about harmonizing everything with the surrounding environment and making subtle changes to make everything more pleasing, then that is what I was going for.
So let's start with curb appeal - first impressions are everything and the house has a lot going for it. The worst thing for the location of your house is when it is at the center of a "T" intersection - this indicates that the flow of energy into the house is too fast and strong and it's considered very bad luck. Likewise, you don't want your house to be lower than the level of the road. Fortunately the house was in the middle of the street and sat up nicely.
The biggest problem with the entire house was the number: 18814. In general the number four is not desirable by many Chinese because it sounds the same as "死" which means death in Cantonese and Mandarin. Of course 8 is considered lucky because in Cantonese it sounds the same as "發" which means "rich" or "get rich". But we did get a low ball offer from a Chinese family who wouldn't budge because of the 4 in the address!
The Front Porch
You can just see in the previous image one nice offset to the numerology - the strong red door. Red door's are popular all over the planet. The Chinese see a red door as lucky and a sign of welcome, likewise in early American traditions a red door on the trail would indicate to travelers that they would be welcome. But my favorite is the story in Scotland that when you had finally paid off your mortgage you would paint your door red to let your neighbors know! Either way - Red doors are good!
But to add to the attractiveness of the entry to the home we added a water feature and a laughing Buddha. Water features are very popular as they symbolize wealth coming into the house, but be careful - if you are going to add a fountain you must ensure it is working. Having a broken water feature is worse than having no feature at all!
The laughing Buddha symbolizes all the good things: health, wealth, luck, happiness - but again be careful, never place the Buddha on the ground, you must ensure that he is raised up lest it be taken as a sign of disrespect.
Placing a wind chime by the door is also a good strategy but be careful you use the right material - apparently there is a difference between where you can use metal chimes as against wooden ones - so do the reading!
The Entry Way
We're now inside the house and straight off we have both good and bad. When you're looking at things from the perspective of how energy flows you don't want to see a clear line between the front and back doors as energy will just flow straight out. To tackle this we blocked the large window with a large fig plant to break the alignment of the front door and back door.
One great win was that often in two story houses like this you open the front door directly onto the staircase - another no no when it comes to energy flow - fortunately for us the staircase was off to the side.
The kitchen ideally should be a rectangle in shape with correctly positioned appliances and elements to create positive chi.
Aside from the positioning of the room, the internal layout is just as important. You shouldn't have the stove next to the sink as you don't want the two elements fire and water working against each other, but you don't want them opposite either. We were fine there.
We of course removed all personal items and cleared the counter tops - you'll notice the small plant in front of the window - all rooms in the house had some sort of live plant - a must for a well balanced house. Also copper pans and pots attract positive chi.
Oh, one other thing when considering the kitchen - if your master bedroom is situated directly above it, make sure your bed is not positioned above the stove - apparently that creates a little too much heat in the marital relationship!
There was a large beam in the main living space, you can see it above - it was going right across the middle of the room. It’s considered bad luck to have the main seating area underneath that large beam so we compromised the fireplace in order to create a big conversation area without having that beam above it.
Here's another view of the area under the beam - we have our back to the Fireplace, you can just see the fire tongs and the grate in the mirror. By creating that space we not only pulled the living space out from under the beam, but with the placement of that deep orange mirror we were able to reflect the fireplace back into the room - always a positive thing to reflect the light.
Staging & Vintage Pieces
If you look at the professionally staged houses from the commercial flippers in Cerritos, you can tell that they're going for the Chinese customer. The furniture would be white and muted colors, what we call at Casa Victoria, "Cheap and Cheerful" ie IKEA, Living Spaces, Target.
We wanted to make this house look special and unique and that's where working with the range of Vintage pieces from Casa Victoria came in handy. We removed pretty much every piece of furniture and focused on bringing in pieces that had some soul, some texture and that would work for a variety of different cultures.
We brought in a mixture of 25% new items and 75% vintage. Neutral but warmer tones of furniture mixing different eras and styles such as classic Santa Barbara club chairs combined with a Hacienda style coffee table. We did target certain colors that resonated with the Asian culture like the bright orange mirror.
Artwork & Accessories
The main piece of artwork was a vintage 1970's tribal African piece - a primitive piece of artwork that’s created on Mud-cloth. But there were ample opportunities to bring cultural reminders into the home through the placement of carefully selected accessories.
Elephants are always welcome in Indian households and we were able to distribute a number of little wooden elephant statues around the home. Similarly a beautifully embroidered elephant pillow is sure to remind an Indian buyer of the good fortune that awaits in the house. As for cats - well a lucky cat is always a good sign to Chinese buyers.
The Casa Victoria Rabbit
We left most of the upstairs bedrooms empty to give the impression of more space. We did stage one of the guest rooms as a children's room and incorporated Casa Victoria's famous rabbit reading to a group of his friends. White rabbits are very auspicious in Chinese culture and he was the most talked about piece in the entire house.
We didn't want to spend money on a head board so we placed vintage art including Chinese silkscreens behind the bed.
The nearest comp had recently sold for $840k and we went to market with a list price of $899k. We did one agent showing and had 4 offers within a few hours.
Despite ultimately receiving full cash offers of $900,000, the owners sold to a young couple for $890k because they loved their story and how they wanted to raise a large family. Which just goes to show how important the relationship between potential buyer and seller can be!
And if you haven't guessed by now - yes - this was my family home and my parents. And if you scroll back up, you'll see me, back in the day, sitting on my Father's knee!
Casa Victoria Vintage Furniture
Aside from the great feedback about our lucky rabbit what people seemed to comment on most was the staging. They loved the mix of styles and eras and the fact that we didn't go for the soulless whitewash was a huge plus.
Below are a few examples of merchandise in stock now at Casa Victoria that would compliment your staging project or add a vintage touch to your current home:
Casa Victoria offers exactly the kind of pieces that you can use to make your own staging, even your own place look amazing for far less than you might think. Come and visit us on Sunset boulevard and have a chat with me - I'd be delighted to see how we can help you.
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