Tag Archives: selling a house

Stupid House-Selling Stories: STAIRS


We have tons of strangers passing through our house lately. This leads to a strange sense of discomfort and ickiness in general. You come home to find a cabinet left open, or a light left on, or the cat flap locked. And you know that you dealt with those things before you left the house. (Seriously? Who locks the cat flap in a stranger’s house? Who even touches the cat flap? Who has any interaction with a cat flap beyond “oh, look, a cat flap”? But no, somebody bent down, poked at it, and locked it — on both sides, mind you??) Humans have a lot of built-in reality-denying responses (just talk to a Trump supporter), but that stuff is pretty hard to ignore — it reminds you that strangers have been in your home. Poking through your closets. Judging your choices in interior painting. Complaining about your floor plan.

Or, in our most recent encounter, whining about the stairs.

Realtors trade feedback all the time; it’s to their benefit to know what potential buyers think about a house so they can address that concern for future viewers, and it’s therefore also to their benefit to engage in a symbiosis to other realtors. You help me sell this one, I’ll help you sell that one. Makes natural enough sense — you become a positively contributing part of the ecosystem or you get left alone to fend for yourself.

And then we have the following exchange, via text message, which, in a fit of flabbergasteredness, our realtor relayed to my wife:

Our realtor: How did the showing go?

Other realtor: too many stairs

Our realtor: (after thirty minutes of uncomfortably waiting for any follow-ups) Okay, great! Thanks!

That’s it. No exchange of pleasantries. No constructive commentary or disclaimers. Not even a godforsaken capital letter or period.

Too many stairs.

Too many stairs.

My head is a pinball machine of dumbfounded responses. I can’t focus on one thought about this exchange before some other part of my brain lights up with an entirely new concern.

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Actual image of our staircase, as evidently envisioned by the most recent visitor to our home.

Too many stairs.

Our house is occupied. Which means you can’t just “drop in” with your realtor on a fly-by. Which means you need an appointment. You know, so that we can wrangle our two kids and our dumb dog and shoo at least some of the cats outside and spritz some air freshener about so that the house looks livable when you get to it. Which, further, means you had to look over the house on the internet, think to yourself, “yeah, that’s worth our time,” and confirm with your agent, who then confirmed with our agent, who then confirmed with us. All of which means, you had a general idea what you were getting before you set foot in the door. Okay? You didn’t know the state of the bathroom fixtures, for example, but you damn sure knew the house had a second floor, which — unless you’re living in caca-cuckoo land, means it bloody well has stairs.

Too many stairs.

You would have, perhaps, preferred less? I don’t know a whole lot about building codes or suburban planning, but I’m pretty sure stairs in houses are pretty universal when it comes to their rise over run. But, what? instead of the fourteen or so stairs up to the 2nd floor, you’d have preferred four HUGE blocks that you have to climb up like a toddler? Or perhaps, instead, an intricate series of ramps you could hike up in the evening at bedtime and slalom down to catch your morning coffee?

Too many stairs.

That’s literally all she said. I didn’t edit out the rest of the conversation. That was the beginning and the end of the interaction. Nothing about the weird floor plan. Nothing about the ivy-infested backyard. Nothing about the tacky paint jobs in our rooms obviously painted for young children which wouldn’t suit your needs even though you could easily re-paint. Literally not a word, positive or negative, about anything else in or around the house? Evidently they made it through the yard, opened the front door, walked into the foyer, ran smack into the staircase, said “NOPE” and walked right back out.

I mean, I guess if stairs are a sticking point, then once you see the stairs, all bets are off. But that brings me back around (like a tail-chasing dog) to the first thought: why are you looking at this house in the first place? If stairs are the deal-breaker, how did you make it past the listing? Then the pictures (which clearly show the staircase — FROM A MULTITUDE OF ANGLES)? Then the appointment? How did you not pull up to the curb, see that WELL IT’S TWO STORIES SO THERE MUST BE STAIRS, NEVER MIND, and drive back into your somehow stair-free existence?

Too many stairs.

Maybe I’m mischaracterizing the whole thing. Ours isn’t a simple straight-up staircase, it’s got a landing and doubles back on itself, which could conceivably present people with certain disabilities with legitimate problems. I’m sensitive to that. But there I go again — how did they make it to walking in the front door before they figured it out?

Or maybe there’s more to it. Maybe the client loved the house, loved the neighborhood, but just wasn’t wild about the stairs. A weird sticking point, but okay. In that case, the agent made the call to mention only the stairs. Well, that’s a big ol’ cup full of wtf. How about that symbiotic relationship I mentioned up above? A little goodwill, a little quid pro quo, a little bit of genuine help. Tell us, tell our realtor, something that we can use. Something actionable. Something that adds to the conversation. “We liked all the nice, open rooms, but we’re not so sure about the tile in the bathroom.” “We love the kitchen, but the pile of human skulls in the crawl space gave us pause.” You know, we can do something about the house in that case, or we can at least know what to warn people about. I can grind up the skulls. Not a big deal.

Too many stairs.

Seriously?

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A Day of Shoeburyness and Lawn-Care Mutterings


If you have ever wanted to cut off your own piece of the bleeding edge of American literary greatness, this is your chance.

My house is for sale. The culmination of what feels like (and, by now, I guess actually is) months of cleaning and fixing and tearing down walls and repairing pipes and hauling off trash and more than once considering simply setting fire to the whole thing. But of course, the work isn’t over. Now that we have it clean and “show ready”, we have to keep it that way, which has us doing all sorts of things we would never do ordinarily, though my wife insists that normal people do these things all the time.

Taking the trash out once a day. Keeping the sink clear of dishes. Vacuuming the floors every day. Keeping laundry out of the floor. Mowing the yard at 8pm on a Friday because it’s literally the only chance we’ll have to do it.

Madness. My wife, somehow, has a reservoir of patience and sense for this sort of thing. I do not. While circling my yard with the mower last night, thoughts of murder circled in my head like swarming crows. What the hell am I doing out here? It’s getting dark, for crissakes. Primeval man survived for tens of thousands of years without mowing the damned grass. It’s all gonna grow back when global warming wipes us all out, and the kudzu will consume the country. Why fight it?

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I may have mentioned, here or there, that yard work is a dirty word with me. I’m not exaggerating. My mind goes to some dark places when I’m holding garden tools.

But it has to be done to keep the house show-ready, so mow I did. Just part of the deal of trying to sell the place.

Also part of selling the place? A sensation that I don’t have a word for: The vaguely disconcerting , slightly unsettling feeling of knowing there have been total strangers tromping through your house, peeking in your closets, judging your choices in counter-toppery.

Douglas Adams once wrote a book full of words like this, and I’m sorry to say that I have not yet read this book — The Meaning of Liff. But from the liner notes and offhanded comments found in The Salmon of Doubt, I know that within that text is a word that comes close: Shoeburyness, the uncomfortable feeling you get when sitting on a seat that is still warm from somebody else’s bottom.

This is stronger than that, but less extreme than the real discomfort and terror that, for example, my sister-in-law is experiencing, having been the recent victim of a break-in that did not apparently result in any theft — somebody just broke in and skulked around.

It’s somewhere in between those two extremes. Odd. Definitely not pleasant. But not actually disruptive or traumatic in any way.

Again: nothing to be done about it. Just part of the process. And, hopefully, the beginning of the end of the all-consuming task that selling our house has become. I don’t quite see the light at the end of the tunnel yet, but I can’t see the light from where we entered either at this point. There’s a comfort in that — in seeing how far we’ve come — even though this mushy middle part is bleak.

At least I’m writing again. Words on the page. The concrete evidence of progress.

The light at the end of the tunnel has to be up there, somewhere.

This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.


A Fresh Coat of Paint


This post is part of SoCS. This week’s topic: Attachment.

We’ve spent the past 48 hours fixing up this old house, the wife and I.

That’s 48 hours of parent time, which is measuredly and markedly less efficient than regular human time, because parent time is punctuated regularly by appointments with a baby who is hungry, a baby who is sad, a baby who is upset, a baby who is angry, a baby who wants attention, a baby who is attempting to pull all the sharp things off the table and into her mouth, a baby who has somehow figured out a way to deepthroat the remote control that’s twice as big as her head. We even got her big brother out of the house and off to the grandparents’ for a couple of nights to buy us extra time, and we still spent the day scrambling. As a result, in 48 hours we got three bathrooms painted.

It’s a chore which, we realized after just a few hours, was about four and a half years overdue. (We’ve been in the house for five years.) For all that time, the walls have remained the same bland, inoffensive taupe, plus or minus the scribblings of our two-year-old and a few decorative pictures and photos. They say taupe is soothing, but what it is, really, is invisible and characteristic of nothing. Which I guess makes it the perfect color for a house you’re trying to sell: it’s a blank slate for prospective owners to color with their own hopes and expectations. Somehow, we never got around to filling it with those things for ourselves. We can blame it on the kids a little bit, but ultimately, we just hadn’t taken the time to do it.

And therein lies another realization. Why were we able to let this little thing go so long without being done? Why have we stared for five years at the same bland, inoffensive walls, without being overcome by the surge of frustration at the vacuous sameness of it all? Because we’ve never been particularly attached to it.

Don’t get me wrong: I love our house. It’s a weird kind of wonky style with lots of open space and plenty of room for us and all of our stuff. It’s been the empty husk in which germinated the pale little seedlings of our tiny family. It’s in a nice enough neighborhood, away from traffic, and with pretty decent neighbors. But I also hate our house. That wonky style is born of the 70’s, which is when the house was built, and you can tell, because parts of the house are starting to fall apart as you might expect things built in the 70’s to do. Underneath the taupe paint we’ve discovered layers upon layers of horrible — and I mean really quite atrocious — wallpaper with nausea-inducing patterns and colors. I’m talking about gold-and-green flowers on chocolate brown background. It’s buried behind the light fixtures and air vents, and any time I undertake a home improvement project, I’m always discovering the stuff, like little breadcrumbs leading me back to the house’s horrifying past.

At any rate, my wife and I are both feeling that it’s about time to move on. Our family has grown, and like a snake growing too big for its skin, we need to leave our old trappings behind. We need a basement. I’d like a study that doesn’t double as a guest room. It’d be nice if we could find a place that comes with insulation in the walls. It’d be peachy if the pipes in the new place don’t explode at the slightest glance from the gods of winter.

Our little project this weekend has shone a sharp light on just how ready we are to move. All of a sudden our heads are full of all the little things we need to do to get this place ready to sell: fixing up the porch, replacing carpets, painting rooms and walls and doors… the list is growing by the minute. That said, we handled three rooms this weekend, which is not bad for a sleep-deprived couple with a nine-month-old who still isn’t sleeping through the night.

Not that I’m complaining. That little girl, unlike the house, I am actually quite attached to.


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