An agent who could work thoughtfully with four siblings spread around the country, helped make the sale of this Berkeley Hills home a success. Credit: Open Homes Photography

Anneke Saltzstein and her three sisters grew up in a three-bedroom on Poplar Street in the Berkeley Hills. Last year — decades after the loss of their mom, and with their dad turning 80 — it was time to consider next steps for their family home. It was a daunting task for the four sisters who were spread out across the country.

Anneke remembers her mother and stepfather shopping for a new family home when she was a teenager.  It took about a year to find the right one. Her mother, originally from Holland, wanted something that she considered to be beautiful, with views throughout, a great floor plan and wonderful indoor/outdoor spaces. Poplar was the one. 

She remembers her mother worked hard to make the house warm and inviting, with fresh flowers in every room. Her stepfather, an optical physicist at Berkeley, would often have professors and members of the Berkeley community over for Sunday brunches and parties, and her mother, who embraced her role as a mother and a homemaker, “knew how to bring people together,” said Anneke. “She really knew how to make a house a home.”

Following the passing of Anneke’s mother almost 20 years ago, her stepfather continued to maintain the home just as his wife had, for the family, until it became too much for him to manage. The decision to sell was a difficult one — downsizing can be a challenging process. There are of course financial decisions to be made, along with timing, the dispersal of a lifetime of possessions, and the emotional attachment that can occur with a home full of memories. 

Sheri Madden, DRE license 1228854, is a former teacher and counselor and has been practicing Real Estate for over 25 years.Courtesy: Red Oak Realty

When it came time to hire a real estate agent and start taking the steps needed to sell the home, Anneke’s sister Alicia, who lives in Berkeley, suggested they work with Sheri Madden, whom she had met previously. They met Sheri and agreed.

Sheri got all of them together over Zoom on a regular basis to make decisions collectively. Anneke felt it was especially important to work with an agent that they could trust to navigate the complexity of the situation, and Sheri’s calming presence and extensive knowledge put them all at ease. 

“All of the decisions needed to be made by my three sisters, my stepdad and me, and there were a lot of big opinions. Sheri brought the family together beautifully.” 

Anneke and her sisters appreciated Sheri’s approach when it came to making improvements. Sheri would present them with recommendations for what they “should” do and what they “could” do to prepare the home for sale, guiding them along the way.

Carpets were removed, floors refinished, lighting updated and walls painted to get this home ready to sell. Credit: Open Homes Photography

To begin the process, Sheri reached out to Dan May Estate Sales, who worked with Alicia to help clear out some of the belongings. The company also sold a number of items, notably a large book collection and some artwork, in addition to furniture and household items. Because of the pandemic, the company handled the sales online instead of at an in-person sale.

Next came the improvements to increase the home’s appeal to buyers. For example, Sheri suggested they change the old lighting in the home, brightening rooms and creating a more modern appeal. This also helped draw the buyers’ attention to the beautiful views. 

Sheri also recommended, and helped manage, numerous updates: carpet was removed and wood floors were refinished, the entire home was painted inside and out, and a shower and tub were refinished by Miracle Method, to name just a few. Inspections also revealed the need for an exterminator, and Anneke and her sisters were grateful that Sheri handled those appointments for them. 

The sellers worked with the staging company to furnish the house in a way their mother would have liked. Credit: Open Homes Photography

Landscaping, too, was improved, but just enough to increase the home’s curb appeal for sale. Sheri knew the importance of making sure the views were center stage, and by topping off the overgrown trees, the views were immediately enhanced. 

One requirement the sellers had was that the home be presented in a way that their mother would have wanted: bright and airy, warm and welcoming. Picking the right staging style was important to create this sense of warmth and space. The home was beautifully staged by Mary Cronin, of The Design Shop, who used a blend of modern yet comfortable furniture, warm rugs, artwork and finishes.

“Sheri knew exactly what needed to be done in order to sell the home quickly, and this was right before interest rates rose,” Anneke said. “She provided guidance on timing and pricing, and we really felt we could trust her.” 

Anneke called the sale “bittersweet” and very “emotional” for everyone involved, and said it was “the closing of an era.” The sisters and their father had hoped that a family would purchase the home since it had been such a wonderful family home for them. They were thrilled to learn after choosing one of the 12 offers they received, that indeed, a family would be moving in. 

When asked if there was anything they would have done differently, Anneke replied, “Nothing. Everything was flawless.” 

In the current market, turnkey homes in Berkeley are still selling quickly and above asking. Credit: Open Homes Photography