NO MATTER WHO YOU ARE, AN OPEN HOUSE MAKES EVERYONE A CRITIC
Neale Whitaker talks open homes and going from judge to judged.
Recently I sold my house and, for a month before the sale, we went through the usual rigmarole of twice weekly open-for-inspections – a frenzy of early morning cushion fluffing (or “karate-chopping”, as my fellow Block judge Darren Palmer would advise) and de-dogging. Usually something by Jo Malone to hide the (admittedly gorgeous to a dog lover) whiff of Weimaraner. Nothing remarkable in any of this, you might be thinking, it’s happening every day of the week across Australia.
But if you’re the editor of Vogue Living, with 10 seasons of The Block under your belt, it’s suddenly different. The word is expectation. Expectation that every lamp in your home will be worth more than your car; that every stick of furniture will be “mid-century something” and that your art will be on loan from the Met in New York. In short, that your home will be designer, whatever that means. The inner-city pad that Milan looks to before it sets the trends for the year ahead.
For an excruciating period of my life, my home was dissected, discussed and dissed. “So is that where he lives?” posted one woman online, as if she were peering into a wombat hole. The shots on the real estate agent’s website went strangely viral and I was suddenly judge-turned-contestant. How many points for that ceramic Chinese stool (so 2009) and that framed map of Australia (so 2011)? And let’s talk about my art. After all, everyone else did. “That’s not art,” wrote somebody. “Of course it is,” shot back another, “it’s a painting.”
Was I naive to think nobody would want to stickybeak in the home of a man who has made a career of judging other people’s homes? Totally. But at the end of the day, the same rules apply to me as every would-be seller. De-clutter, get all the important little jobs done (smoke alarms, squeaky stair treads), think about a fresh coat of paint or two and maximise the flow from one room to another. These days it really is all about open-plan living, even in a terrace. And yes, kitchens and bathrooms can be deal-breakers, but increasingly buyers want to put their own stamp on them, so just make sure yours are clean, tidy and brimming with potential. And a word to the wise: if anonymity is required, remove all life-size portraits of oneself. They tend to be a giveaway.