Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I Put My House on the Market. Three months ago. I'm Exhausted.

Ok, full disclosure: I started this post back in September when I had just listed our house for sale. I was wide awake early one morning and jittery (probably from the stout pot of coffee I brewed) and so I attempted to tap out a post about my experiences selling our home. It was really rambling and disjointed, so I never published it. Here is the condensed version, mostly for Steve and me to remember the experience. Maybe you've bought or sold a home and have some of your own experiences to share? I'd love to read about it.
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Selling one's home can't usually be done on a whim. Much preparation is required. First, I interview my Realtor. There are so many options when choosing a real estate agent. How was I to proceed? Basically, I selected one of the largest Realty companies in the city and scanned the agent directory until I found the agent with the most professional headshot (not the Glamour Shot where the agent is pretending to talk on her phone. "Get it? I'm so committed to you, the client, I'll take your call any time. And I mean any time.") An impressive website was the real clincher. You know whose website didn't impress me? The agent whose mission statement highlighted her goals for the year 2002. So...how did 2002 work out for you? This website doesn't bode well for your attention to detail and your demonstrated ability to follow up. Also, I automatically eliminated agents whose email addresses contained their birthday, zodiac sign, or favorite hobbies. I'm sorry, if I had to give up "sassiestgirluknow@hotmail.com" when I graduated college and entered the work force, you have to grow up and get an email that legitimizes your profession. It's only fair. That is, if you expect me to entrust you with the sale of my most valuable asset. There are so many real estate agents out there, and I just don't feel comfortable emailing my agent at "luvs_2_dance@yourmomshouse.com." I need to feel like selling real estate is your top priority, not some side gig you use to pay the bills until your acting career takes off.

But I digress. I reasoned that the Realtor who best markets herself would likely best market my home.  I don't have the wherewithal for this to be a long and drawn out process. I have set a goal of being in my new home by Christmas, an ambitious but not unrealistic goal. I need a winner working for me to get this house sold, and my listing agent is a damn champ! Once she tours my home and begins pointing out the areas where potential buyers might find objections, I get to work with the help of a handy man. The hot pink laundry room is one, which I accept even though I love my hot pink laundry room.
The other major change was the carpet in the master bath. Yeah, you read that correctly. Until two weeks ago, my master bathroom was carpeted.  Let me just say that a carpeted bathroom is one of the worst ideas ever, right up there with the classic children's toy "Bag O' Glass".
Next, the handy man comes to make the requested improvements. Handy man is polite and courteous, but not what I would consider friendly; despite my attempts at friendly banter, his demeanor is very flat. This sorta bums me out. Why do I feel like I have to make friends with everyone I meet? I don't know, but the man caulked my tub, which is more than I can say for any of my friends. He may lack charisma, but damn it if he isn't handy.

After my home has been improved, I have thoroughly cleaned out all my cabinets and closets so that my home appears spacious, and I have packed up all my tchotchkes (yeah, that's the correct spelling of "chotchkies", and thanks to me, you just learned something new today. You're welcome) and other personal items that make the house look like someone actually lives here, a professional stager hired by my Realtor comes in to rearrange furniture and add decorative elements that at the same time make the house look more furnished and less lived in. I thought I knew what staging was about, but I had no idea. For instance, she removed my fluffy, expensive white Restoration Hardware towels from my double towel bar, replaced it with some paper-thin brown towel and tied a tulle bow around it. Additionally, she placed a basket filled with about a dozen wash cloths on my counter, and placed some sort of "decorative accessory" resembling a sheaf of wheat and a sign that says "Relax" on the seat of my garden tub. (Side note: Telling Steve that "Frankie says..." and pointing at the bathtub sign never stopped being funny to me). So...my bathroom has never had more towels, but I'm not allowed to touch any of them. And the sheaf of wheat and the sign instructing me to "Relax" makes me do the opposite. Ok, I think I get it now. You want to fill the house with generic decorations to make the house look full, but you want it to be impersonal enough so that the buyer can visualize themselves in the house and not think about the fact that anyone has ever bathed in that bathtub. Basically I'm living in a model home. I feel like Michael Bluth.
Welcome to Sudden Valley!

Then she goes to my guest room, and her singular improvement is to turn down one corner of the bed. Wait, I'm confused--I thought the house was supposed to look like nobody lives here. Doesn't the turned down bed imply that someone may sleep here later? Unless we're showing this house to Goldilocks, this seems counterintuitive. I still have so much to learn.

After a whirlwind week of preparation, the house goes on the market. I had no idea how strange this would feel. Why? Let me count the ways:

1. There are photos of my house on the internet. Photos of every room of my house. There is a virtual tour online. Thousands of strangers can see where I sleep. I realize that isn't the same as thousands of strangers watching me sleep, but it's still unnerving on some level.

2. Strangers will tour my home outside my presence, make judgments and comment on whether they like or dislike my home, and I will receive feedback. I've been judged before; I competed in a couple beauty pageants scholarship programs and I went through sorority rush, and I know I was sized up and discussed, but I never had to hear about it later. I suddenly feel vulnerable. This is my home. I am a stay-at-home mom primarily responsible for the decoration and maintenance of this place. I know I'm not supposed to take this criticism personally, but if people dislike my home--it isn't pretty enough or sparkly enough--how is that not a reflection on me? If this house doesn't sell, I'll feel like a failure.

3. Preparing for a showing is not unlike Mission: Impossible. Robinson and I are enjoying our Saturday morning in the living room when a message appears on my phone:

THERE IS A SHOWING REQUEST ON SAT 9/24 @ 11:45-12:45. REPLY WITH YES TO CONFIRM OR NO TO DECLINE

It's like saying, "A stranger wants to snoop through your house, and possibly buy it from you. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to clean up this mess, make your house look like nobody lives in it, pack up your kid and your dogs and haul ass out of here. You have one hour. This message will self-destruct in 60 seconds"

It is then I begin running around the house, like Jane and Michael Banks tidying up the nursery:

A key element in successfully selling one's home is to create an atmosphere where the buyer can visualize herself and her belongings in her future home. Part of that requires that the Potential Future Lady of the House never sees the Current Lady of the House. Buyer walks in the front door, seller walks out the back door, and never the two shall meet. I did have a couple of close calls where I was attempting to make a to-go cup for Robinson, and once where I was backing out of the driveway and remembered that I left my engagement ring inside. I stopped the garage door, ran in the house, heard the Realtor's voice calling "Hello?" from the front door, frantically darted into my bedroom, retrieved my diamonds and hauled ass to the nearest exit, breathless and with my heart racing. I had no idea that breaking in and out of your own house could be so suspenseful! I later told Amy, "I am my own cat burglar". It's a weird feeling, being a grown woman and sneaking in and out of my own house.

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