Best Real Estate Advice: Presentation

Best Real Estate Advice: Presentation

by Cynthia Cummins

Cynthia is owner and founder of Kindred SF Homes and a top San Francisco Realtor. Check out for refreshing reflections on the meaning of home and for more “best real estate advice” (since 2013).

Reading Time: 2 minutes, 40 seconds

In the 80s I briefly waited tables at a fancy-pants French restaurant in Ketchum, Idaho. The manager was fond of putting George Winston’s Winter Into Spring CD on repeat for the duration of every shift – whether it was lunch, dinner or in-between. Never mind that it was July.

He also ran around shouting “Presentation is everything!” (A good idea since the food was 3-stars-quality at best.)

I mention it today because I’m writing about the importance of showing a property in its best light so you can get the best price. Presentation is everything! Cue the new-age Windham Hill piano…

There’s the online presentation, which is the gateway to your buying audience. Then there’s the in-person presentation.

For the first, you’re going to need professional photographs and video. And that means you’re going to need staging that’ll play to the camera.

For the second, you’re going to need staging that’ll put the property into context for the buyers and create a fiction they can believe in. And you’re going to need to pay attention to some little things you perhaps take for granted. You’re going to have to get granular. A little OCD. 

I could give you a 14-page essay about all the reasons you need to prep your house and stage it, or I could continue with the restaurant analogy, but instead let’s shift to a comparison with online dating. 

If you’re looking for love, are you going to post a photo of yourself in your Chevron 76 “Human Energy” T-shirt, seated in a faded easy chair with a belly-up dog in your lap and a can of Pepsi in your hand? 

(I’m not making this up, although it wasn’t on an online dating site. It was in a NorCal listing on Zillow. A photo of the living room with the above-described dream date looking up at the camera like he was asking the photographer to see if there were any more sodas in the fridge.)

While such a presentation might be authentic – a true reflection of who you are – it absolutely will not get you laid or loved. It probably won’t get your house sold either.

Somebody might say, “It’s better to let people know what they’re really getting up front,” whether we’re talking about a relationship or a manufactured home. It’s more honest; and it’ll save a lot of trouble later on. (“I didn’t know you were already in a long-term, committed relationship with that bathrobe?!”)

I’m all for honesty but – honestly – there is a right time and a wrong time for full disclosure. That time is after you’ve piqued your customer’s interest. You must first get your house all gussied up. Like it was out on its 143rd first date. Waxing, plucking, exfoliation, color, cut, moisturizing, manicure, pedicure, whitening strips, concealer, foundation, eyeliner, blush, lipliner, deodorant, fragrance, Spanx, little black dress, jewelry and shoes. Et voila!

But then don’t do something stupid like forget to brush your teeth. This is my metaphor for the OCD part of getting a property ready for sale. Yes, you DO need to power wash the sidewalk, move the kitty litter box, clean the dead flies out of the utility sink, brush the stray detergent off the top of the washing machine, and throw out the ancient mousetraps.

Presentation is the theater that evokes a primeval response. Once buyers feel emotionally attracted, they begin looking for reasons to stay in love or fall out of it. So please remove the cobwebs from the corners, the weeds from the garden beds and the soap residue from the shower glass.  The devil, as we know, is in the details.

Photo Credit: Kate Townsend 

Visit for more information on San Francisco real estate.


Let's Talk

You’ve got questions and we can’t wait to answer them.