My sister has had her former home on the market for months. Her husband retired from the navy and took a job across the country, so they slapped a For Sale sign out front and blew out of here in January. Unfortunately, the house is still there, unsold, and no one seems to love it. And it’s a bit stressful trying to manage this business when she’s so far away. Things just don’t go the way she’d like them to all the time.
So she flew out from VA this past weekend to make sure her recent investment in trying to get her house sold in East Paradise Gated McNeighborhood works. What that entailed was rounding up the family mules: Gramster Mule, Betty Mule (yours truly), and Officer Mule, the brother who keeps his distance from the female crazies in the family. It also involved rounding up as many yard tools as possible– either by begging, borrowing, or stealing — to get the whole curb appeal thing done, because all her yard tools moved to VA with the family. And most importantly, it meant checking out what she’d very recently paid $20K for on the inside to get the old homestead securely into someone else’s hands as soon as possible (new counters in the kitchen, new appliances, new light fixtures, new light switch plates — yes, I said light switch plates, and new hardware for the front door). It seems reducing the price $100K wasn’t enough for the fickle and taste-lacking Paradise bargain shoppers, (Example: two women who offered $70K under the asking price, with no money down, wanted $20K out of escrow in cash, and could they please rent it cheap and live there until escrow closed?) Uhhhhhh…..And the turnip truck you just got off of is parked where? So a bit of surface glam was called for, as well. You know, staging the house. You’ve heard about it on TV. But the price tag was so high to have furniture sit in the empty house, that props had to suffice. Tricky.
Who figured that after she took a red-eye flight out here and hit the ground running — or digging — that it would rain. And not just rain, but black clouds, wind, a perfunctory bolt of lightning and single clap of thunder just to make it official. But this didn’t stop our dusting and polishing, or our trip to The Home Depot for flowers and bark, our furious activity, or our end of the day sleepover in my mom’s absolutely freezing casita up in big, big hilly type mountainettes way east of Paradise. So freezing that we slept unshowered, with lots of clothes on, thinking that the dirt on us helped a bit with insulation, and that her head-light could double as a light to read in our dirt by. Or maybe ambient heat for our hands. Open and say Ahhhhh……
But we were halted in our fervor to get the place spruced up by the pond that the storm left on the side of the house. So much rain, that the “low spot” pond threatened to become a lake. The low spot that the realtor frets about where the downspout from the gutters sinks into the ground. Where the downspout appears to connect to some unseen drain that will conveniently, and efficiently take away the rain water. But no. The downspout just goes into the ground. There’s no drain. Not the thing an anxious to sell her house person wants. Not the day before the Grand Re-Opening Open House. Not.
The family mules set to the task of leveling a portion of the side yard, digging around the seemingly non-functional drain, and generally spiffing the place up and hiding the pond. And it worked pretty well until we wanted to walk on it, and it had a gelatinous feel to it — all quivery, and spongy. But we whistled while we worked, anyway, gossiping loudly about the neighbors who were in their yard next door, surrepititiously doing yard work even though my sister said they never went out in their yard. Some of us groused about the ridiculous hairs realtors split in doing their work, while blindly over-looking things that should be focused upon. I’m thinking you’ve got to have a bit of stoopidity in your system if you can say things like, “…and maybe you can put a bit of mulch around the roses while you’re at it…” on a Friday afternoon when a couple of rear ends are in the air , heads bent to their task of weeding, turning soil, and trimming brown plant edges. I just don’t think they get it. They seem not to see all the good things.
For example, you have to walk through the pool area to even see the roses. Or to wander up to the back part of the property to remember where the trampoline used to be, and where fruit trees are in bloom. And it’s quite the pool area that has hosted some pretty great parties over the years. My mom once broke some bones in her hand swinging on the rope before launching herself into the pool like the boys were doing. Pool floatie water polo battles were fierce. And many a young girl played water princess, exhibiting exotic underwater poses, and featuring gymnastic feats. The jaccuzzi? Well, the banana mudslides went down well as we stewed ourselves to a prune state. It’s a bit strange seeing it so empty and to know that as much as a family once loved it, others don’t seem to notice what made that family happy living here. In the end, it’s just a house, and there seem to be millions on the market in Paradise right now.
And the neighbors. Oh my gawd, the neighbors. Outside of one person who graciously invited the soaked, muddy, and fairly ugly group of us over to have wine and snacks after it became too cold and rainy to work, the rest were fairly grotesque in their behavior. Two were seen across the street smack-talking the fresh, deep green color of the front door, which couldn’t possibly pass the architectural committee’s approval. So we hopped into the car and took a cruise around McNeighborhood to write down the house numbers of those individuals who also had “painted” doors, instead of natural woodgrain doors — some in dire need of refinishing. Or houses that had beyond ugly screen doors, or fences in need of repair, yards in need of care, or just plain butt-ugly anything in front of the house. Routinely, neighbors drove by, slowed down to gawk like we were performing nude rituals in the yard, and to maybe slink over to the For Sale sign and take a flyer with up-to-date information. By the end of the day, the flyers were all gone. All in the hands of neighbors who anxiously waited with bated breath to see what the house could sell for. Waiting to know if they may continue to have the opportunity to brag to one another what they think their houses are worth — whether they actually are or not.
But my sister is going for the jugular. The house is going to sell or else. So she’s dug in there today with my mom, camped out in the back yard — mostly to keep the neighbors out, and to make sure the realtor is actually doing something to sell the house. — like answer questions about it that prospective buyers may have. What a concept, huh?
And when the house does sell within the advertised range this week, the McNeighborhood comps are toast. People will have to get off their high horses and get real about their property values in East Paradise Gated McNeighborhood. Perhaps thinking about the place where they live as being a home with a family and memories thrown in instead of a house that has a market value would be a great start. But the experience was enjoyable because my family did the work together — something that doesn’t happen often now. Being able to help in this little way just sort of cemented in the fact that my sister and her family are really gone from this home, and living on the other side of the country. Snif!