We bought our Boston house fifteen years ago. It was just around the corner from where we had been living, but it had many nice features, foremost of which was a deck off the dining area. We imagined ourselves having breakfast or dinner out there during nice weather, watching squirrels scamper up and down our very own tree – a bit of the country in the middle of the city.

Over the years we did just that. When friends would come to visit they would often say how lucky we were to have this outside space.

I’ve been “downsizing” in recent years by getting shorter, and last spring we decided to “downsize” by selling the house with the nice deck. The real estate market in Boston’s South End has been “hot,” we were told, and vertical living with three sets of stairs was becoming a challenge.

My daughter had recently sold her condominium in San Francisco, and that is how I learned about “staging.” In case you’re not familiar with that practice, it means you bring in a person who knows how to make a house more presentable. In her case it worked pretty well, so the Pianist and I thought maybe we should get some advice.

“I don’t think you need to do much,” our broker told us. “I can help you with the staging.”

That sounded good to us, since it was part of her service at no extra cost. “What do you think we should do?” we asked.

After a thorough walk-through during which she pointed out various items – some clutter here and there, a few too many chairs, curtains hiding portions of windows – she focused on the deck. “You’ll need to fix that,” she said, pointing to wood that had seen better days. “And some painting out here would help too,” she added.

So we, meaning mostly the Pianist, straightened up the place, took down some curtains, and followed our broker’s advice. We called our Mr. Fix-It to diagnose the deck problem. After all, we were avoiding the cost of a “stager,” so spending some money out there would undoubtedly enhance the salability of the place.

When it came time to show the house, that deck looked a lot better. New wood, matching paint, and pots with flowers. And sure enough, our broker’s advice was right on. Within a few days we got an offer, accompanied by a letter from the prospective buyers telling us that they loved the house just as it was. That appealed to us, since some other lookers talked about tearing the place apart. But mostly it was that the “we won’t change it” letter writers made the highest bid, so we sold it to them.

We set a closing date, and a few weeks later we signed the necessary papers. If the weather cooperated, we thought, they could enjoy the deck before winter.

A few weeks later we were in the old neighborhood, so we drove down the alleyway behind the house, just to have a look.

The deck is gone … and so is the tree.