When a house goes on the market, it’s common for the owners to sign a 90 day contract with their realtor, and that’s what we did. Once the “For Sale” sign went up, I methodically moved down a to-do list:
- clean the oven
- pack the 182 photo albums
- organize the crawl space and label those boxes
- match up the sheets and pillowcases we want to save
- box up our hundreds of children’s books.
There were 86 items on my list, including miscellaneous repair projects, with which I needed help.
Ninety days passed. Then 120… and 150. I was up to #54 on the list but had slowed my efforts considerably, having lost any sense of urgency. Although many people came through our front door accompanied by realtors, nobody was buying. “Your house is quite old,” our realtor observed, “and that’s bothering people. You’ll need to fix it up in some significant ways.”
A month later we had hired a basement sealing company to put in a new system, making our musty cellar dry. We’d destroyed wooden shelves throughout the basement, because we were told they were moldy.
We tore down a wall that divided two small bedrooms, making one large one. (This was our realtor’s idea: “Most people want four bedrooms. Five can be a study or guest room. Six is too many.”) We painted the upstairs bedrooms and washed our 52 windows (each with a storm window) and spiffed up the gardens, planting new flowers.
We de-cluttered. Knick-knacks disappeared, and table cloths were put away in favor of polished wood surfaces. We did such a good job at this that one realtor said, “Oh, I see you’ve already moved out.”
We put new carpet in all the bedrooms and replaced an old toilet with a new stylish one. In a different bathroom we yanked out the cabinet base, sink and countertop, replacing them with new ones. In all the bathrooms we had the grout scoured and dyed, removing all stains.
Our 100-year-old farm house looked better than it had in decades, and we were sure it would sell NOW. After all, the entire country was still on the real estate ride of quick sales.
Then Mom got sick. They told us it was lymphoma, but she wanted to fight it, even at 92. Life picked up speed as we escorted her to doctor’s appointments and daily radiation treatments. And then winter came to Chicago.
Our realtor’s counsel was, “If you take it off the market for a few weeks, when it comes back on, it’ll be a new listing that’ll draw fresh attention.” She, too, was frustrated when the house refused to sell.
House hunting traffic had thinned anyway, so we took her advice and terminated our listing. It would be a relief not to clean like a maniac every time a potential buyer came. Our high school girls breathed a sign of contentment. “So the house isn’t for sale anymore?”
“Not right now.” And that was that.