Our house has been on the market since January 21st and has been shown seven times since. Apparently this is a good sign— M.’s coworkers say they know people who haven’t had any showings, for months.
We’re on the wrong side of the fence though; it certainly would be nice to be house-hunting right now instead of house-selling. If we had stable jobs, this would be the perfect time to buy. Things didn’t turn out that way for us though— a fact I would do well to just accept— and we count ourselves fortunate to be financially able to take a cut in order to get rid of the place. We’ll probably lose our whole downpayment, but we won’t have to pay to get out of the mortgage, and we’re young and we can save a downpayment again. A lot of very smart, talented people came out of 2008’s financial crash much worse off than that.
Here’s the problem with showing your house: you have to put a lot of effort into cleaning it very thoroughly, but that effort may or may not pay off. People could sweep into the house you spent two hours scrubbing and decide they want a bigger closet. Yet you can’t risk not putting in the effort. If you do, whoever looks at your house might decide they don’t like it because they accidentally tripped over your dog’s food bowl. One of my friends told me that when she and her husband were looking at houses, they checked out one house whose owner hadn’t cleaned very carefully prior to the showing. The owner apparently had kids, and the kitchen was littered with sippy cups and spilled Cherrios. My friend thought to herself, “so this is what this kitchen looks like if there are kids around,” and decided she didn’t like the house. It’s all about image.
Yet the cleaning I do when my realtor calls and says, “Someone wants to see it in four hours. Can it happen?” is what I call “fake cleaning.” I mean, the place gets clean for certain– the floor are mopped, toilets scrubbed, counters bare, dog bowls stowed in the garage— but in an effort to make the house an empty canvas of sorts, I end up stashing stuff in all kinds of weird places. Our blender goes in the pantry, our exercise ball in the basement; I grab whatever is on my desk and put it into a giant bag (I now have four bags of “desk stuff” that I just don’t have the energy to peruse). The overall effect is that when I venture back into the house after the showing, it doesn’t really feel like my house anymore. Like a visitor, I don’t know whether or not to remove my shoes, and I don’t know where anything is. And even though technically we don’t want it to be our house anymore, it’s lonely to walk into this place that is yours and think, “where am I?”