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House Talk

No. 20 - July, 2005

"International Celebrity is Former East Bay Realtor"
A talk with Ann Maurice

Meet Ann Maurice - or maybe you already have! As a former Piedmont resident, Ann practiced real estate here in the 1970's and 80's and from those humble beginnings, she has followed an amazing path. Ann is now an extremely well known British television star featured in the smash hit program entitled "House Doctor."

As Ann says, "You never know where life will take you, so you have to be open to new ideas and adventures." During her years of selling real estate, Ann became more intrigued by the value of staging when preparing a home for sale. In the late 80's she moved to San Francisco, so she decided to leave sales and start her own interior design business with an emphasis on faux painting and finishes. In 1994, she was attending a fresco painting course in Italy where she met a woman from London whose daughter is a British TV producer. When Ann began talking about the concept of staging, the mom phoned her daughter to tell her that she had met an American woman with a unique approach to selling property, and wouldn't it be a great idea for a TV show in London?

Events began to occur in rapid succession. Ann flew to England a week later and she filmed the lead segment for a popular interior design television program. The producers found a house outside of London that had been on the market for over a year. Ann did a makeover, the show featured shots of the Before and After aspects of the property, and sure enough, the house sold immediately for full asking price, and her feature was a huge hit! But a year passed before the next chapter of the story was told.

Ann returned to San Francisco and continued with her thriving interior design and faux painting business. Meanwhile, the original London producer joined a different production company, and really pushed the idea of a new series called "House Doctor" featuring Ann doing her fabulous makeovers of houses that were languishing on the market. Ann was brought back to London, and the show began in earnest.

It is now 8 years later, and "House Doctor" is one of the most popular TV shows in recent British history! Ann admits that her producers sometimes encourage her to play the role of the outspoken American when telling the Brits what to do with their homes. However, she is adored by the public. (When Judith Glass of the Glass-Sabine team was living in London, she loved going out in public with Ann - even the taxi drivers recognized her and complimented her on the show.) "House Doctor" is shown on stations throughout Great Britain and Scotland, also in Canada, and on BBC America.

It is fascinating to hear Ann's reflections on aspects of the typical British home, and the mindset of the British homeowners. She quickly learned that just as in any country, the culture and customs are different from those we are used to. First of all, the phrase "an English home" conjures up images of a quaint Cotswold cottage, or a stately country home sitting on several acres of fox-hunting terrain. The homes that were featured on "House Doctor" were neither of those. They mostly were built long ago before there was electrical wiring, or indoor plumbing. Very often, the floor plans could be awkward and difficult to work with. A challenge that Ann met more than once was the existence of radiators on every wall making furniture placement difficult.

The other challenge that was almost always part of Ann's job was clutter. She describes the hoarder mentality found among many Brits; they just don't throw anything away. It is even true that in some homes, there is one room in the house called a "box room" where all the excess clutter gets stored. Ann very often cleared out the box room, and put it to perfectly good use as a bedroom, or a functioning, useful room.

Another interesting aspect of the British home is that it is not necessarily a place used for entertaining, so it doesn't have to be a showplace. Instead of inviting guests into their home, a more customary procedure is to go out, with a typical social gathering occurring at a restaurant or pub. As a result, the home is not the place for spending a lot of money on repairs and decorating. Ann often had to work hard to convince people who were trying to sell their homes that they needed to make some changes. One of the most extreme examples was the woman who had 13 poodles living in her house. As Ann says, "That was a house that had truly gone to the dogs!"

These days, Ann divides her time between San Francisco and London, with time off spent at her vacation home in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico. There are new projects in the works with seminars, speaking engagements, and ideas for TV shows expanded into other countries.

Here's good news for our readers! One of Ann's latest projects is a two-day course entitled "Property Presentation" which will be offered September 10 & 11 at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco. It covers all aspects of presenting a property for sale in order to maximize its value and increase its salability. For course information & registration visit: www.housedoctor.co.uk

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