We’ve been trying to sell our house. FOR. MONTHS. You know how the best time to unload a property is in the springtime? Yeah. Since then. Hey, looky there, it’s almost THANKSGIVING. Yes, we are fast approaching the time of year when the real estate market freezes up until the spring thaw. Also, did I mention that we bought our house at the height of the market? (It’s all about timing, people. Wanna hear which stocks I’m picking to shoot up in the next quarter?)
At the time we bought our house, we weren’t too concerned about the inflated real estate market. As everyone told us: 1. “Real estate is always a good investment”* (GAAAAAAAH) and 2. “As long as you stay in a house for five years, you always make a profit”. So, just to get you up to speed: it has been over five years and we are about to lose our shirts.
Despite all this, my husband, Dan, and I still feel that it’s time to move. Dan works in another city and has been commuting for far too long. It sucks a good two to three hours out of his day and cuts into our time together as a family. An aside. Whenever we mention Dan’s commute to someone, they give him a sympathetic look, cock their head and say something like, “Wow. That must be really tough for you.” Er, excuse me. EYES OVER HERE, PEOPLE. Dan is the one listening to books on tape in the car for an hour-and-half. I’m the one TAKING CARE OF THE CHILDREN. Not the cute, sweet, delightful and well rested children that we have in the morning. The tired, cranky, shrieky version that they morph into by the late afternoon. Yeah, that. So, it’s time to relocate. Of course, when we do move, I will likely end up commuting to my job, at least for a while. (Has anyone put Parenting magazine on tape? No? How about Cosmo?**) But I can also work from home most days.
So, let me tell you about trying to sell a house when you have a baby (our one-year-old, Emma) and a preschooler (our four-year-old, Jacob). You know how, as soon as you clean your house, the little chaos machines swoop in and scatter building blocks all over the floor and start coloring on the furniture . . ? (Mm. It’s like someone read your diary, isn’t it?) So, THAT is happening. Meanwhile our new best friend, Ms. Realtor, can now call us on any given day and ask us to get our home “white glove test” ready. BY TOMORROW. There are a few unfortunate aspects to this. First, Ms. Realtor always seems to call on a day when Jacob has decided to hole punch his way through an entire package of construction paper leaving little multicolored circles all over the floor that inexplicably cannot be swept, swiffered or vacuumed. Second, Ms. Realtor does not, NOT EVEN ONCE, offer to help clean the house. (Given her commission, it seems like she should offer to clean at least 3.5% of it. I’m thinking the bathroom.)
Whatever. By now, Dan and I have a system down pat. And by “system” I mean that, when Ms. Realtor comes a callin’, we shove all of the earthly belongings into a plastic container in the basement that is roughly the size of an inground pool. There is an upside to this: anything of Jacob’s that ends in the word “collection”– ball of tape collection, leaf collection, acorn collection, tiny multicolored paper circles collection– has a one-way ticket into that container. Most of the time, Jacob forgets that he ever owned these treasures. And they are eventually smuggled out of the house in a garbage bag. In the dead of night. Just before trash collection day. (Mwaaahaahaa.)
When we first began trying to sell our house we (ever so optimistically) also thought we should start shopping for a new house. But there was one little wrinkle. How to explain it to the children? Okay, we could count on Emma to be pretty zen about the whole thing. But what about Jacob who was three at the time? How could we explain to him that we *might* be moving? And that he *might* be leaving his preschool and his friends and his neighborhood playground . . . But then again, maybe not. Or maybe not for so many months that he shouldn’t bother worrying about it now. We decided to simply avoid the truth without outright lying. We played off our house hunting expeditions as a sort of cultural experience. Going to an open house was just like visiting a tiny little (amazingly current) natural history museum. (YES, I DO KNOW WHAT THE WORD HISTORY MEANS.) Jacob couldn’t have been more thrilled. “Look Mommy, this house has TOYS!” Or better yet, “This house has a SWING SET!” And best of all, “This house has CATS!!!” We were relieved that Jacob didn’t seem overly concerned about our new hobby. Job well done, I thought, patting myself on my back. It’s hardly even registered with him.
Then one day, we were at the playground. And Jacob was playing pretend in one of the kid-sized plastic houses. He breezed in, threw open the shutters, hung his head out the front door and announced (a few decibels too loudly) “I’M HAVING AN OPEN HOUSE”. I think the father of the two-year-old playing nearby almost wet himself. “Yes,” I mumbled as he alternately laughed and gasped for breath, “we have been to a few of those.” Okay, so maybe it registered with Jacob. A little. Eventually we did confess to him that there was a reason we were visiting all those open houses. “Someday” we might move closer to where Daddy works. And “someday” (G-D ONLY KNOWS WHEN) someone else might buy our house and live in it.
Jacob: When we are done with it?
Me: Yes. Only when we are done with it. So, that’s why Ms. Realtor sometimes shows it to people.
Jacob was silent for a moment. I held my breath. Was he upset? His brow was knitted in thought. Finally he said:
Jacob: When do we get to see Ms. Realtor’s house.
So, after more than seven months, three price reductions, half a dozen open houses, and dozens of private showings we may finally, FINALLY get a bid on our house this week. A few weeks ago, a family came to see the house for the third time. Not to put too fine a point on it, but that means we have made our house immaculate for them THREE TIMES. Apparently the third showing went really well. And then . . . nothing. Nada. Crickets chirping. After too many days of silence, Ms. Realtor started poking their realtor and finally they responded that they were still interested. PEOPLE. PICK. UP. A. DAMN. PEN. IT’S NOT THAT HARD. WRITE A NUMBER ON A PIECE OF PAPER AND CALL IT A BID. Hells, just skip your morning cup of coffee and give us what you would have paid for that. We’re easy. I think the problem is that, when a house has been sitting on the market for this long, no one looking at it is feeling ANY sense of urgency whatsoever. By contrast, the houses that we have been looking at are only on the market for a weekend. A WEEKEND. They simply establish a deadline for submitting offers (usually the following Tuesday), collect them all and pick the best.
“Let’s do THAT!” I said to Dan when I heard about this phenomenon. “Let’s advertise that we will only consider offers that come in before Tuesday. I think we just need to create the right hype. It’s all about marketing.” Dan gave me his usual, “You have such an adorable form of pathology look” and walked away.
Is it such a bad idea? In any event, the waiting continues . . .
*Apparently the fine print that we never read was, “Real estate is always a good investment unless you are buying at the height of a real estate bubble which is about to collapse along with the entire economy”. Always read the fine print, people.
**Dan thinks this is misleading because I don’t actually read Cosmo. I explained to him that this is because I don’t currently commute.