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Déjà vu

July 25, 2012

The house goes on the market again this weekend. We have been here before–twice, as a matter of fact, in the spring of 2009 and again in 2010. This time, I have spared no expense and worked much harder. I won’t bore you with the huge list of necessary improvements, but the sagging floors that spooked buyers have been expensively re-engineered and replaced and refinished. There is plenty of fresh paint. I have given away (or thrown away) all the cheap, unwieldy, sidewalk-scavenged furniture, I have purged the house of detritus, I have cleaned and re-organized the damned place within an inch of its life. The porch screens have been replaced. What else? There must be something else. It has been months and months since this whole process began–I had originally aimed to list the house in April. I’m heartily tired of it all, yet strangely elated. If it sells–if it sells–my life will change for the better.

Oh, the house represents all manner of things–the marriage, a financial shackle linking me to my ex-husband against both of our wills, the miserable backdrop to the miserable separation and divorce, the lost days of happiness, babies and dogs, my innocence and optimism gone forever–and yet I don’t care. I am unmoved, this time, by sentimental concerns–the house is too big, and too much work, and too expensive, and I want out. The first two times I listed it I wanted out, too–but I would have been sad to go. (You can, I’ve discovered, desperately want to leave something and still regret doing so. Oh, the life lessons, the metaphors, how they do pile up! I could write a whole fucking sappy-assed post about the house and what it means, but I’d be milking an expired horse. This time around, dear readers, I simply want out.)

The kids are both sick, and I have a seven hundred and twenty page book to read and review. It’s a dream assignment (Mark Helprin!) but a rather daunting one, as well. “Oh, you can’t do it! You don’t have time!” my mother exclaimed, trying to be nice, at which point I bit her poor little head off. I don’t WANT to give up INTELLECTUAL WORK because I need more time to scrub FLOORS, I hissed ungraciously, and then felt ashamed of myself. I am, however, powerfully sick of scrubbing things.

Well, let it sell quickly (though it’s hardly the best time to put a house without central air conditioning on the market) and let us find a new place here in this lovely little town (a tiny house or part of a house, an apartment, some professor on sabbatical’s sublet) and let the whole homeowner’s chapter of my life close forever, because I really have no intention of ever doing this again. Owning a house is a poisoned well. I’d get married again before I’d ever buy another stupid house, and I’d submit to being flayed alive before I’d ever get married again. I’m not angry, just adamant. I fantasize about having a landlord the way most people fantasize about having a team of servants to iron their sheets.

So please think good, deep-pocketed thoughts that involve happy young families eager to take possession of what is, by any standards, a wonderful sprawling house with a huge yard in a quaint old-fashioned town. And please, if you know any tricks of the house-selling trade, enlighten me. I buried a statue of St. Joseph in the yard today, I kid you not. Consoling-windows friend and another friend who’d come over to do yardwork with me in the broiling heat and I dug a little trough for him next to the front door, in a jungly patch of ivy. There’s a helpful name and address on the box St. Joseph came in, just in case (it says) you realize more money than you’d dared hope from the sale of your house, and want to share the profits.

A devout Catholic friend left the statue on my doorstep last week. “Calling in the big guns to help you sell!” she wrote in the note she left. Amen.


17 Comments leave one →
  1. July 25, 2012 3:16 am

    Good luck with your house sale. Although quick word of warning: renting is not quite a blissful experience!

  2. July 25, 2012 7:02 am

    Holding my thumbs and crossing my fingers for cooler temperatures, lingering lavender scents in doorways, and decisive house shoppers…

  3. irretrievablybroken permalink*
    July 25, 2012 8:08 am

    Oh! Also, the roof leaked after I’d had the third floor painted, and I had a section replaced. I knew I forgot something.

  4. July 25, 2012 8:59 am

    Keeping my fingers crossed for you! It seems to me that this year in our area things are selling again. Houses that sat on the market for years finally have new owners. I hope the same is true in your neighborhood.

    Sorry the kids are sick.

  5. Celeste permalink
    July 25, 2012 10:33 am

    Lemons in a bowl are a very pretty accent for showings and they take a long time to spoil. A sliced apple with cinnamon and water cooked in the oven before a showing gives the place the smell of home. Rugs make the floors look smaller so limit them as much as you can.

  6. Nic permalink
    July 25, 2012 11:20 am

    You hit it so on the head about what a house represents! I too am in the marital home and GOD….it makes me crazy…
    Good idea on the St. Joseph. It worked for me once!
    good luck!!!
    Love your blog

  7. irretrievablybroken permalink*
    July 25, 2012 12:34 pm

    Celeste: Seriously, about the rugs? I may in fact take one out of the TV room, then. Thank you!

  8. July 25, 2012 2:55 pm

    Bake cakes! I’ve read somewhere that the smell of freshly a baked cake or bread totally sells! Also, the aroma of freshly brewed coffee. Worth a try, no?

    I’m on the opposite end of your sentiments here. Still TRYING to buy a damned house, months and months after our offer has been accepted. Fed up with renting. Fed up with landlords and housemates. And yet I get what you’re saying and wonder if I’ll end up with a bear having escaped a wolf (as the saying goes).

    Good luck!!!!

  9. July 25, 2012 3:12 pm

    And fresh flowers -not constantly, just when you know you have viewers. Apparently you’re selling a ‘lifestyle aspiration’, not just a house. (in which case a bottle of champagne chilling in an ice-bucket should be on view too, no?).
    Some anally retentive cautionary advice on renting: We’re currently having hell with our c*nt of an ex-landlord, so when you find somewhere to rent, remember that it’s a business transaction and be as hard as nails about anything which isn’t perfect. Amend the lease to reflect everything as you found it in the house, and spend an hour taking photos and logging th recondition of the property then get him/her to countersign it and agree that it forms part of the inventory. V dull, v time consuming, but worth it to save you the almost certain end-of-tenancy headache.
    also -avoid being pregnant when packing /unpacking a house….
    Good luck! I will send words to the gods of house-sales.

  10. erins14 permalink
    July 25, 2012 11:10 pm

    Our realtor recommended a drop of vanilla extract on a few lightbulbs of lamps while turned on just prior to a showing to give the house the “just baked something yummy” smell without the work or mess of actual baking. 🙂
    Good luck!

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      July 26, 2012 6:24 am

      I tried that once, just for the hell of it, and the lightbulb promptly exploded…!

      • July 26, 2012 9:08 pm

        Ouch. Was the light bulb on when you put on the vanilla? I put it on and then turned on the lamp. It did make the house smell like vanilla, but I don’t know if it helped sell the house any faster!

  11. telechick permalink
    July 26, 2012 12:04 pm

    good luck! I am hoping to put both of my houses on the market within the next month (sooner would be even better), so my fingers are crossed for both of us. Perhaps I should invest in a St. Joseph?

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      July 26, 2012 12:17 pm

      If mine works, I’ll dig him up and send him to you.

  12. Susan permalink
    July 26, 2012 12:25 pm

    I’ve been told that the smell of baking cookies works wonders. If there’s an open house, perhaps baking one of those rolls of instant cookies beforehand would do the trick.

    Sadly, I completely agree with Reluctant Launderer. We had to take our last landlord to small claims court to get our security deposit back. The roll of photos I took when we took possession of the house saved us: they showed the damage she claimed we had done was preexisting. (Include a copy of that day’s newspapers front page to date photos; that seems to be generally accepted in court.)

    And Mark Helprin??? Serious swoon. Winter’s Tale is one of my all time favorite books. Puffball suit, right?!

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