Dear Mr. Myers: Christmas is my family's favorite time of year, and we spent all of last weekend putting up our usual decorations - pictures of our kids from past holidays, garland all around the living room, lights outside, etc. But when the real estate agent who is trying to sell our house came to visit Monday, she said all the decorations would make it even harder to sell the property. We think all the decorations make the house seem more homey and family-oriented, which could help sell the property faster. What do you think?Answer: Families don't have to suspend all of their holiday decorating traditions simply because their home is up for sale, but they do need to show some restraint.
Too many decorations can turn off potential buyers by making a home seem cluttered or smaller than it really is, agents say. They also can draw attention away from some of the property's most important amenities. Too much garland or too many lights in the living room, for example, may cause a prospective purchaser to miss a ceiling's intricate molding or a handsome hearth, while an inflatable snowman or other large items on the front yard may obscure a beautiful rose or vegetable garden that would provide a buyer with year-round pleasure.
If you're purchasing a holiday tree, think "tall and narrow" instead of "short and fat." A tall, skinny tree can emphasize a room's height while keeping the floor space it uses to a minimum. You can wrap a few small, empty boxes and put them under the tree to provide a more festive look, but make sure you store all the real presents that you're planning to give in a safe place because this time of year, some thieves pose as potential buyers with the hopes of picking up a few free "gifts" of their own.
It's fine to display religious symbols, but be discreet and tasteful. I'll never forget the open house I visited during the holidays several years ago, where the centerpiece on the dining-room table was a 2-foot-high statue of Jesus nailed to the cross in a Santa Claus suit - with a battery-operated light that would make it turn from green to red and back to green again. Every visitor to the home seemed offended, regardless of his or her race or religion.
Also keep family pictures and holiday decorations to a minimum. Too many photos scattered about the house, or even personalized stockings hung over the fireplace, can make it difficult for buyers to imagine their own family living there. And remember, when the holidays are over, remove all the decorations promptly. If you leave them up longer, it will remind buyers that the home has been on the market for quite a while, and may encourage them to offer a lower price if they think you're anxious to sell.
Dear Mr. Myers: I saw a TV report a few days before Thanksgiving Day from a little Texas town named Turkey. I grew up in Texas but never heard of the town before. Do you know anything about it?
Answer: There are only a handful of communities across the U.S. named Turkey, including tiny towns in North Carolina and Kentucky.
The one in Texas, about 100 miles southeast of Amarillo, also is small (pop. 465), but it's probably the most famous of the places named after the Thanksgiving bird. That's because the rural community is the place where Bob Wills, working as a barber there in the 1920s, formed the musical group Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys, and subsequently created the "Western Swing" sound that revolutionized country music.
Dear Mr. Myers: We rented a small house in June, and our lease requires that we "properly maintain and provide upkeep" for both the house and our yard. The fruit trees in our back yard are now full and we would like to pick them, but our landlord says the fruit belongs to him. We have taken care of the trees for six months and paid for their watering and fertilizer, so shouldn't we be able to keep their fruit?
Answer: Yes, you probably can pick and eat the fruit. A typical residential lease gives a tenant exclusive use of the property, which usually includes the right to harvest fruit from a yard's trees or vegetables from its garden. So, unless the rental contract you signed specifically states otherwise, the fruit is yours to keep.
Of course, dividing the bounty might help strengthen your relationship with the new landlord and maybe even keep everyone out of court.
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