Home Sellers Can Get Carried Away When It Comes to Greenery
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Home Sellers Can Get Carried Away When It Comes to Greenery

For some real-estate agents, showings are ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ Meets ‘Jumanji’.

By AMY GAMERMAN
Tue, May 11, 2021 4:38pmGrey Clock 3 min

Q: Has a houseplant ever upstaged a showing?

Mercedes Menocal Gregoire

Senior global real-estate adviser and associate broker

Sotheby’s International Realty, NYC

It was an estate sale, a duplex apartment in a prewar building on the Upper East Side. There was a humongous cactus in the living room, the kind you see in the desert in California. It was like a gigantic Christmas tree, at least 10 feet tall, with tentacles coming out and big, big spines all over the place. When you walked in, the only thing you saw was that monstrosity. There isn’t a word to describe this thing. It was like “Little Shop of Horrors.”

I got pricked the first day I went to see the apartment. It was the summer and I was wearing linen pants and a Tory Burch tunic shirt. I went too close to the thing while I was talking to someone and got caught in one of the branches. It ruined my blouse.

The owners had died, and their children didn’t want to stage the apartment. The first week I said, “We at least have to move the cactus,” and they were like, “Oh no, we don’t want to pay for it.”

So I volunteered to move the cactus. I really wanted to sell this apartment.

It took three guys in protective gear with a chain saw. They started cutting the branches, cutting the branches. It took three hours. They filled 30 or 40 bags—big industrial ones. It cost like $600. I gave the super $100 in cash and he called someone to remove the bags.

We sold the duplex for US$3.5 million. Of course, the children weren’t happy with the price.

David Mazujian

Real-estate agent

The Corcoran Group, East Hampton, N.Y.

The listing in the Hamptons was very pastoral, very private, priced $1 million to $2 million. I would say the owner was a bit of a horticulturalist. There were huge plants that in the summertime would go outside but which came inside in October. I was showing the house in the fall. When I came into the house, I was overwhelmed. There were huge pots on the floor. They were beautiful plants, but it just blocked the view.

ILLUSTRATION: DAVID BAMUNDO/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

It was a huge challenge navigating the living space during showings. I was concerned with liability. You don’t want anybody tripping over the plants.

One potential buyer couldn’t get through the door, literally. It was a back door, and there was a very large terra-cotta pot with these large banana leaves coming out.

Apparently, one time a buyer did move the pot and one of the big leaves was damaged. That became an issue with the owner.

So I learned early on that we have to do our best to walk around the plants and not move them and not touch them. I would say, “Oh, I’m really sorry, the owner is a horticulturalist and let’s just be careful as we walk around this plant and slightly move the leaves.”

I love plants, but if I were trying to sell a house, those things would be gone yesterday.

Alexandria Ludlow

Sales associate

Summit Sotheby’s International Realty, Southern Utah

The house was 11,000 square feet and very old-fashioned. It would be a great place to host a murder mystery situation—marble floors, candelabras everywhere, a knight in shining armor. And on every surface and in every corner, there was a fake plant of some kind. There was fake ivy everywhere—over the tops of the windows, on top of the cabinets in the kitchen. In the master bathroom, they had a 4-foot vase with another 4 feet of fake pink lilies. In the kitchen, there were lots of gerbera daisy-type silk flowers and a wreath that was 4 or 5 feet in diameter. It took two of us to move it for the photos. They could have filmed “Jumanji” in that house.

I gave the owners my feedback for how to spruce up the place for staging. They did everything I asked them to. They had to hire a junk-removal service. They said they filled two dumpsters full of the fake plants—the ones they were willing to get rid of. They filled all the walk-in closets with all the other ones. They were so attached to some of these floral arrangements.

The weirder part is that the house was being sold fully furnished, except for the fake plants. When we were in negotiations, I’d say, “Everything except the family heirloom piano and the fake greenery are included.” The buyer was like, “Are you joking?”

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: May 10, 2021.

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