Virtual Feng Shui

I’m not immune.  I’m just as much of a sucker for good staging as the rest of you  impressionable buyers out there. Those who can’t help falling in love with the stuff in the house, rather than with the “stuff” of the house itself.

I’m in the business. I shouldn’t be so easily swayed.  But those who have been clinically hypnotized before probably recognize the feeling.  Part of your mind knows you are being hypnotized  while it is happening.   That part watches like a detached observer and keeps echoing its escape mantra inside your head: ” I am aware this isn’t real and I can choose to stop anytime.”

Meanwhile, the rest of your brain is so thoroughly engaged in the  hypnotic trance leading you on,  that the “you”  claiming control,  never quite gets around to stopping the experience until it is told to do so.

When I am smitten with great staging. I know I’m being led in someone else’s direction. I know I can snap out of it if I want. But part of me is so caught up in the lure of a lifestyle I don’t live, it’s hard to exercise the option to opt out. I just want to go with the flow that feels so delicious and dream-like.

I remember back in the mid 90’s. There were  model homes for a large PUD tract constructed up on Meder Street.  It was a huge project for slow -growth Santa Cruz. Tons of units to push at a time when the momentum of the market was still dicey.

As the apocryphal story goes, the developers hired a Hollywood set designer lolling around, in-between film jobs. He was given the star treatment and a handsome sum to come to Santa Cruz,  dress up the models and  edit the scenes that prospective buyers would wander into, when it was time for the big premier showing.

Apocryphal or not, this guy had an incredible eye for detail.  An appreciation for nuance.  An innate sense for the imagined moment preserved in amber.  A deft touch for the tiniest vignette of emotion capable of shooting Cupid’s arrow straight into the heart of a buyer.

There was a master bedroom that he painted like a true master.  A fluffy comforter and a warm, earth-tone, bedspread casually tossed and ostensibly turned down like a lazy afterthought, all the while, disguising exacting premeditation and an exquisite flare.  A folding breakfast tray perched nonchalantly on top of the bed. A half-opened Jacqueline Suzanne novel, seemingly suspended in mid-sentence, lying face down next to a ceramic croissant, with a dainty little bite baked out of it and a glass of fresh orange juice standing expectantly nearby (or at least a glass painted half-full to resemble one. )

It was perfect.  It captured the idea of all those luxurious mornings spent lying in bed without a care in the world.  Nowhere to go. Nothing to do. No one to please (as the hypnotist always says). The only requirement inherent in the life portrayed was to indulge oneself in endless days plumping pillows and pampering whatever idle whims might arise.

I laughed out loud when I first walked into the room. I was laughing both at its brilliance and at myself for being so easily sucked in.  It didn’t matter that the notion of long mornings spent dozing happily in a perpetual bed and breakfast, in some parallel universe, was as far away from my real life as I could possibly get.

But here it is. 2010. Ten thousand homes and tens of thousands of stories later. And I still remember that bedroom and what it felt like.  The memory of that false memory is as strong today as it was then.

So, like the character of the Oracle said to the character of Neo in The Matrix:  ” This is really going to bake your noodle.”  Recently,  real estate agents in Southern California have been employing actors to provide “live” staging in some of their homes for sale.  And in this day and age where Redfin and Zillow have become the defacto new “drive-by” experience for most home buyers – content to cruise the internet, rather than actually get in their car  –  virtual home staging has become the new big thing.   Web artists are charging for staging empty houses inside pictures of empty houses!

So, what’s next?  What’s the newest, new big thing? Here’s a tip.  Virtual Feng shui.   Or as I like to call it – Shway to Go.  Sell clip art of crystals,  tiny mirrors, feathers, amulets, Chinese coins  and wind chimes to add to all that virtual staging people are going to be doing in the future.  If you are going to embrace realty, you really have to embrace the illusion and make it feel right.  Right?

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