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Bidding a house goodbye

And preparing the place for sale

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Tom and Gina Kaufmann have lived in their centuries-old farmhouse on the Delaware for decades. They raised five kids there. They worked and they volunteered, they even ran a local business. The connections and the memories run deep.

“It’s hard to leave,” Tom said.

But it’s happening. They’re moving out of state, near other family members. And that means putting the house, built in 1794, up for sale.

“The house has outgrown us,” Tom said. The kids are adults, living elsewhere; elders have passed on or moved away. For good or ill, life happens, and the Kaufmanns are looking to the future.

Part of that is selling the farmhouse, a fascinating blend of rooms, passages and history. The main house has five bedrooms and three baths, including a new one on the first floor.

“This is a multigenerational house,” Gina said. Her mom lived for years in the attached apartment, which is connected to the main house via a passageway. It has two more bedrooms and a bath.

The house is a total of 3,400 square feet and boasts the original pine floors and hand-hewn beams. One bathroom has a pressed-tin ceiling.

“The neighbors are great,” Tom said. They have family on both sides, and the Willow Wisp Organic Farm on part of the original property. And, of course, the river behind—a fourth neighbor—flowing slow and majestic, just as it did when the house was built 226 years ago.

Preparing to sell

To start, you need to “see the house with new eyes,” Gina said.

The point is that “you live with things [and rooms] for so long you stop seeing them.” A fresh assessment can help you prioritize what needs to be done. (For more input, see the interview with Eagle Valley Realty’s Dawn Curreri on page 9 of this issue.)

Tom and Gina haven’t renovated for the sale because they’ve already done the work. The place stood empty for 18 years. “When we took over the house, we breathed new life into it,” Gina said. And, one could say, poured a lot of sweat equity into it too. “If something needed to be done, we did it right.”

The renovations have added value as well as made the place livable. However, it’s not something that a seller can do in a few months, not without living somewhere else while hordes of workers tear the place apart. Tom did most of their work over the years.

That said, Gina outlined some things that they have done recently to prepare.

Listen to the house, she said, and it will tell you what it wants.

They decluttered. Items went into storage or were given away.

The rules say that you should remove all personal items, but that can be tough if you still live there. Compromises can be made: Gina turned a wall of family photos into an arrangement of work by Boston artist Edna Hibel, easily removed before a showing if needed.

Gina plans on painting the dining room in neutral colors. “The big decision [was] which greige should I choose. Pintrest offers so many, too many choices.”

Although the rooms couldn’t be emptied out, since they still need some furniture and dishes and things, cleaning, decluttering and minimizing still open the space up for the buyer’s imagination.

Curb appeal is important, and they’re working on that now, cleaning up the area around the house. “I have many gardens that can become overwhelming for a new owner. I’ve contacted Adrianne, The Dirt Diva to help me knock one down, and help with spring clean up. I never got to properly close my garden [last fall] due to work and rainy weekends.”

 They removed an unsightly fence, took the satellite dish off the roof and treated the gazebo for lichen.

“There are other things we have thought about but then wonder if a new owner would have different ideas than we do,” Gina said. “For instance, finishing the loft,” which has a spectacular view. “We are still undecided as to how to finish this... I think the new owners would love something to make that space their own.”

Over time, they’ve found so much on the property: a tiny shoe, various interesting bits of paper, a flint spearhead that the Kaufmanns unearthed when they buried their dog. Bits of history, just waiting for them. “The next people will find more things,” Gina said. And they’ll fill the house with their memories and soul until it becomes their place too.

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