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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Home prices declined at a faster pace in May in major cities, while other data show a mixed picture for the world’s second-largest economy

By REBECCA FENG
Tue, Jun 18, 2024 3 min

China’s broken housing market isn’t responding to some of the country’s boldest stimulus measures to date—at least not yet.

The Chinese government has been stepping up support for housing and other industries in recent months as it tries to revitalize an economy that has  continued to disappoint  since the early days of the pandemic.

But fresh data for May showed that businesses and consumers remain cautious. Home prices continue to fall at an accelerating rate, and fixed-asset investment and industrial production, while growing, lost some momentum.

“China’s May economic data suggest that policymakers have a lot to do to sustain the fragile recovery,” Yao Wei, chief China economist at Société Générale, wrote in a client note on Monday.

The worst pain is in the property sector, which has been struggling to deal with oversupply and weak buyer sentiment since 2021, when a multiyear  housing boom ended . The market still doesn’t appear to have found a floor, even after Beijing rolled out its most aggressive stimulus measures so far  in mid-May  in hopes of restoring confidence.

In major cities, new-home prices fell 4.3% in May compared with a year earlier, worse than a   3.5% decline in April, according to data released Monday by China’s National Bureau of Statistics. Prices in China’s secondhand home market tumbled 7.5%, compared with a 6.8% drop in April.

Home sales by value tumbled 30.5% in the first five months of this year compared with the same months last year.

“This data was certainly on the disappointing side and may ring some alarm bells, as May’s policy support package has not yet translated to a slower decline of housing prices, let alone a stabilisation,” said Lynn Song, chief China economist at ING.

Economists had also been hoping to see a wider recovery this month after Beijing started  rolling out  a planned issuance of 1 trillion yuan, the equivalent of $138 billion, in ultra-long sovereign bonds in May. The funds are designed to help pay for infrastructure and property projects backed by the authorities. Investors  gobbled up  the first batch of these bonds.

Monday’s bundle of economic data, however, underlined how the country still isn’t firing on all cylinders.

Retail sales, a key metric of consumer spending, rose 3.7% in May from a year earlier, compared with 2.3% in April, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. While the trend is heading in the right direction, it is still a relatively subdued level of growth, and below what most economists believe is needed to kick-start a major revival in consumer spending.

The expansion in industrial production—5.6% in May compared with a year earlier—was down from April’s 6.7% increase. Fixed-asset investment growth, of which 40% came from property and infrastructure sectors, also decelerated, to 3.5% year-over-year growth in May from 3.6% in April.

Key to the sluggish economic activity data in May—and China’s outlook going forward—is the crisis in the property market, which has proven hard for policymakers to address.

The property rescue package in May included letting local governments buy up unsold homes, removing minimum interest rates on mortgages, and reducing payments for potential home buyers. It also included as its centerpiece a $41 billion so-called re-lending program launched by the People’s Bank of China, which would provide funding to Chinese banks to support home purchases by state-owned firms.

The hope was that by stepping in as a buyer of last resort for millions of properties, the government would manage to mop up unsold housing inventory and persuade wary home buyers to re-enter the market. In turn, Chinese consumers, who have  most of their wealth  tied up in real estate, would feel more confident about spending again, thereby lifting the overall economy.

But the size of the re-lending program wasn’t big enough to convince home buyers, said Larry Hu , chief China economist at Macquarie Group. “Meanwhile, their income outlook also stays weak given the current economic condition,” he said.

For the property market to bottom out and reach a new equilibrium, mortgage rates, which stand at around 3-4% in China, need to be as low as rental yields, which are currently below 2% in major cities, said Zhaopeng Xing, a senior China strategist at ANZ. He said that a large mortgage rate cut will need to happen eventually.

The other key part of China’s push to revive growth revolves around the manufacturing sector, with leaders  funnelling more investment  into factories to boost output and reduce the country’s reliance on foreign suppliers of key technologies.

The result has been a surge in production. But with domestic consumption not strong enough to absorb all those goods, many factories have been forced to cut prices and seek out more overseas buyers.

Data released earlier this month showed that  Chinese exports rose  faster in May than the month before.

However, the export push is  butting into resistance  as governments around the world worry about the impact of cheap Chinese competition on domestic jobs and industries. The European Union last week said it would  impose new import tariffs  on Chinese electric vehicles, describing China’s auto industry as heavily subsidised by the government, to the point where other countries’ automakers can’t fairly compete.

The U.S.  has also hit  Chinese cars and some other products with hefty duties, while countries including Brazil, India and Turkey have opened antidumping investigations into Chinese steel, chemicals and other goods.

Beijing says such moves are protectionist and that its industries compete fairly with global rivals.