Too Many Treasures

On numerous occasions I have encountered more than one disappointment when buyers hardly looked at a house, because all their attention was caught by an abundance of antique furniture, oriental rugs and fine art.

Can a house actually be too well decorated?

Probably not, but it can be too full of stuff, even though it be excellent stuff.

I also ran into the occasional seller who turned down my advice to be out of the house while it was being shown, because "I have a lifetime of valuable collectibles in there and I don't want to risk anyone having light fingers."

And then, excited at the buyers' first polite comment about her Royal Dalton or salt-and-pepper sets she'd leap right in and give the house-hunters an entire education on Royal Dalton collecting, following them from room to room to point out her choice specimens.

They never got a chance to look at the house, mentally place their own furniture, and check whether the kitchen had room for a high-chair.

So what's a seller to do? Remove things.

That collector was going to have to pack up anyhow when she moved. Valuable items could be taken off shelves and stored in neat boxes in her basement or attic, after which she wouldn't have to worry about theft and - even better - might agree to go next door while agents showed prospects around her house.

And as for the place that was overstuffed with antiques: some homeowners have been known to rent storage space and move out half their living-room furniture, making the room look more spacious. The front-hall closet - every closet - looks better if half the clothes and eventual give-always are removed before anyone views the place. Kitchen counters look more generous if most of the appliances, bowls, bottles and notepads are gone. Even an over-magneted refrigerator door can be distracting.

So can a display of awards and plaques, degrees and certificates. What you want to sell is the house, not your family's achievements.

Nor does it help to have too many flamingos in the front yard.