photo: Daniel Sheehan

Seattle real estate lost a wonderful person and an incredible resource when Windermere broker and home staging expert Jan Sewell died in September.

Jan was a vibrant and creative source in our field, and she is incredibly missed.

Jan was our “Wolf’, like the character Harvey Keitel played in “Pulp Fiction”, who was brought in to clean up and take care of the details after a murder. Jan was often brought in, in the same way, to clean up, pick up the pieces, keep everyone calm and be a problem solver. Like “The Wolf”, Jan cost a lot of money, but it was always dough well-spent.

Almost everyone has a story about how Jan went in and cleaned up one of their listings, turning a sow’s ear into a sparkly silk purse. If it was just once or twice, it wouldn’t be remarkable, but it was house after house, month after month, year after year, where we would watch her sell an “unsellable” home.

Observing her talents was a test tube experiment happening before our eyes, and measuring the results were quantifiable in a way we could all understand.

One day there’d be a nasty, rat-infested, outdated, functionally obsolete crapper. Maybe it had been sitting on the market for months. Enter Jan and her crew and they could do a transformation with illusion, furniture, art and a couple of cans of paint.

Her creativity and inspiration would transform a hovel into a home and we’d seen it time after time. From teeny-tiny little crackerboxes to stately homes in Madison Park, she weaved a spell with spackle and duct tape, creating a vision of a life well-lived.

Just a few months before she died, Redfin’s CEO, Glenn Kelman bought one of her “creations”, a transformed 1904 home that was bought and flipped by a builder. The builder paid $1M, then called in Jan Sewell to design, decorate and weave her magic, and it worked! The Redfin exec bought the home for $1,780,000. Real estate sales at Redfin must be going like gangbusters. Or maybe it’s just money magic with investors and their venture capital. Don’t know, but good thing he got that Redfin rebate.

You can see “Before” and “After” photos of Jan Sewell’s magic and be amazed. Though the contractor did quite a bit of work, it was all designed by Ms. Sewell.

(According to Redfin and KC tax records, the same Redfin exec recently sold a townhouse for $610,000 that he had bought in June 2007 for $745,000. Maybe he should have called in Jan Sewell to stage it and he wouldn’t have taken that $135,000 hit!)

Last month, we received a note from Jan Sewell’s partner that even though Jan is gone, Jan Sewell Design will still live on. From the note:

Jan Sewell was an icon in Seattle’s staging community. Since her passing many of you have asked what the future holds for her company. Over the past few years Jan was able to turn the responsibilities of her staging business over to her design team, allowing her to devote herself fully to real estate. Although we miss Jan dearly, the team is still intact and we are moving forward, as she wanted. Jan Sewell Design has earned a reputation for excellence and a distinctive design style. We are proud to carry on this legacy.

This evening is a special sale of some of the fabulous art work Jan collected throughout her life, and this private sale will take place at the Art Stable, designed by Tom Kundig of Olson Kundig Architects. This should be an exciting, but melancholy art sale and memorial to a talented designer.

Several years ago I had a housing complex of 12 homes for sale in a development that were listed for over a year before I took over the listing. I asked Jan Sewell to partner with me, and we got every single one of those listings sold, through her design magic. I’m still looking for some “Before” pix, but you can see “After” photos here.

Jan’s own home for sale on Windermere.

Madison Park Blog obituary. Very nice memorial and comments.

I miss her very much. Goodbye, my friend, until we meet again.

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by RealEstate Babble, My REALTY. My REALTY said: Passages: photo: Daniel Sheehan Seattle real estate lost a wonderful person and an incredible resource when Wind… […]

  2. Jan Sewell was so much fun and so creative, I will miss her enthusiasm and design savvy. I would always go see her listings and a lot of agents would put in the remarks “Staged by Jan Sewell” because that was shorthand for “This will knock your socks off!”. I remember one house she staged that didn’t really have a kitchen. There was a space where the kitchen should be, but it was just a counter, no appliances. Jan put so many cute things in that room, no one seemed to notice and the house got multiple offers!

  3. That house that Kelman bought is assessed at $1.1M and Zillow has it at $1.6M and Eappraisal at $1.4M, so it looks like he may have been struck with some irrational exuberance. Yes, Jan Sewell always did a great job!

  4. You’ll notice, or maybe not, that Tim launched an attack today. That’ll teach you to mention a bubble buyer he might know.

  5. I loved Jan and her style. She always was able to see the bright side and she was a great supporter of local artists. She staged a condo I had in West Seattle that had languished on the market for months and when we brought it back on, it sold in less than a week.

  6. Very superb recommendation, superior read, thanks

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