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The Think Tanck: Cost of Clutter

by PoP Sponsor January 25, 2018 at 12:15 pm 0

This weekly column is written and sponsored by D.C. real estate agent and Kalorama resident Jeffrey Tanck.  He can be reached at [email protected].

As an active Realtor I see a lot of homes. Between showing properties to Buyers and preparing properties for Sellers, I have a unique insight on how people actually live. While not universal, one of the things that has struck me over the years is how much stuff people have that they actually never use: boxes in closets/storage areas, unused clothing, plastic take-out containers, books, inherited items that we don’t know what to do with, CDs and other outmoded media.

I’m going to call it what it is: Clutter. Clutter can cause an emotional response — and it’s usually negative. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests clutter is bad for us physically and mentally. It’s also expensive.

Clutter and real estate have a complicated relationship. Sellers spend a lot of time getting rid of clutter before they put their house on the market to make it look more spacious. Buyers look at places through the lens of their current clutter and how it will fit into their future home.

If a Buyer’s current kitchen is stuffed full of take-out containers, they will judge the kitchens during their home search by the way they will be able to store those same containers in the new space. If that Buyer edited their plastic collection down to the few pieces they actually use, they would likely discover that the smaller kitchen in that cute apartment would actually be perfect.

In the era of micro units and rising real estate costs, every square foot really does count. Price per square foot is a popular data point that many people use to value real estate.

It is an easily computed metric that can give an indication of value: sales price/property’s square footage = price per square foot.

Trulia lists the average price per square foot in D.C. as $539. Therefore, if someone has five square feet worth of clutter they are paying $2,695 to keep it around. Popular neighborhoods regularly see sales prices closer to $700 per square foot. So D.C. junk costs $3,500 to store.

I encourage clients to be honest with themselves about the way they live. How often do they re-read the books they have? Are the soccer trophies from middle school really going to be displayed in the studio they are considering on U Street?

If the answer is a resounding “YES” then by all means, spend the $600, $700 or $800 per square foot to accommodate that stuff.  If the answer is “meh” or “hell no” then why spend a lot of money to simply store it? A little editing could save you a lot of money — and maybe just improve your life.


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