Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Houses

We are in "hurry up and wait" mode. We've been so pumped for so long about selling the house that it seems a gross injustice that we should now have to wait for it to actually happen. It's been a whole day! Why isn't the phone ringing off the wall???

As a matter of fact, the house was shown yesterday. I got a call from an agent telling me he'd like to bring a client; he gave me an hour's notice. I ran around turning on all the lights (one of the rituals of showing a house--make it bright!), taking cat-covers off the furniture and generally sprucing things up. One bit of advice I decided to act on is to make the house smell nice. I have a homemade cinnamon and orange peel potpourri in a teapot that I set on the stove to boil for a bit just before anybody comes. I figured a whole hour would be enough to send those mom-and-apple-pie aromas wafting decidedly through the house, so I turned on the flame under the teapot and set about other cleanup business. About a half-hour later I happened back into the kitchen and detected the unmistakable scent of carmelized sugar--oh, no! The potpourri was burning! The water had boiled off! I filled the smoking teapot with water again and set it outside to cool; luckily things never got past the "something's baking" stage, odor-wise. When Steve came home a couple of hours later he was looking for the molasses cookies.

Another hint I tried was to supply soft background music. I chose some very good piano stuff, standards played by my old friend Ron Browning, and set the Ipod to "play" just as I left. When I got back, I noticed the Ipod was still playing, but the sound on the Bose had been turned off. Hmm.....did I have it too loud? Or is the music a bad idea? I'll try it again next time, softer......

To kill time while the agent showed the house, I took a ride out to Falls Church and the neighborhood where I grew up. I do that every now and then; the street just gets more beautiful as new owners re-model the old houses (mostly very tastefully) and the landscaping matures--it invites me to idealize even more the already pleasant memories I have of the place. All is well on Meadow Lane except for our old house, which, alas, has received additions that render the place almost unrecognizable. The back yard, where the Winesap apple tree once stood and my parents planted their gardens, and where our dog Peanuts is buried, is completely taken up with an extension on the house. The graceful brick and stone front stoop has had a totally inappropriate two-storey portico added to it--"McMansion" springs to mind much too quickly. The house has been given a faux grandeur it that looks nothing but uncomfortable. Interior changes, while I can't see them, must be as drastic as those on the outside.

It's a desecration of the old place, but in perverse way, I'm grateful for it. The house as it was remains in my memory, and that's really the only Meadow Lane house I'll ever know, anyway. There is no longer a physical structure for me to want to return to. It's a concrete affirmation of the notion that you can't go home again, and that's a healthy and realistic antedote to nostalgia. Onward and upward is the only direction that remains.

12 comments:

Linda - SE PA said...

Hi Ralph,

It is so true that we can't go back home. Before I left Long Island we took a drive past my first home. I didn't even recognize it! The entire block seemed to have shapeshifted.

Yet, some of the old neighborhoods remain only slightly changed. Sigh!

A kind suggestion for you when you have to vacate for showings - library or find a cafe - good time to catch up with light reading.

I can't say about real estate traffic as I live in an apartment complex - yet, it seems that the weekend or long weekends will be your busy time. Sense Zoey's dad will be able to offer good advice and info on this.

Closing for now - fingers crossed that the house sells quickly.

Ralph said...

The library's a great idea, Linda. I go there all the time to check out books, but never just to read. It's only a block or so away.

And I will pick Z&M's brain!

AJ Davis said...

Good Luck with the "hurry up and wait" routine! Beautiful house-shouldn't take long....

Ralph said...

Thanks, AJ. Hope you're right!

Zoey and Me said...

Bury a St Christopher's statue in the front yard, works every time. That's Zoey's Dad recommendation. Honestly, I think you're doing fine, but alas, me thinks if you are compared the same nationwide, people are shopping price. Our friend the banker is forcing prices down so fiercely it's like a new value every three hours. I've never seen the market spike like this.

I visited my old homestead, last house we all lived as family while growing up on Fielding Street there and it's exactly the same as I remember leaving it. I could've moved in that day and started mowing the yard just like I remember doing for 12 years. I would have loved to sit in the kitchen. Don't have a clue as to who owns it now. I also saw my neighbors house and it too is the same as I remember. They were wonderful neighbors. Wished I followed them to see where they ended up. I can only recall they had a daughter in Oklahoma. Good luck on your first offer. Maybe it will hit you guys today.

Nan said...

Maybe it is just the suspicious person in me, but when we were house-shopping, if someone was baking or had pot pourri burning, I would immediately wonder if the sellers were trying to mask some nasty odor! I'm big on just a little fresh air. As for music, you have impeccable taste, so I can't imagine your picks would offend. However, I remember a realtor telling me to take as much as my identity out of my house when it is being shown so that the buyer can walk in and picture themselves with all their "stuff" in our place...so on the off chance that they only like top 40 pop, silence may be golden. However, what do I know? I am just musing...

Ralph said...

Z&M, thanks for the encouraging words. As a matter off fact, the agent did bury a little statue in the front--wasn't St. Christopher, but some other one. We'll take all the hopes and prayers we can get!

Ralph said...

Nan, you strike a chord. I'm leery of too much "staging" in a house, too, but am going along with the people whose expertise in the matters we're paying for with 6% of our profit from the house. Problem with "fresh air" at the moment is two-fold--it's too cold to open the windows--and also right now there's too much pollen! It's hard enough keeping the place presentable enough to show on short notice without adding that yellow-green film to every surface....

I think I'll try the music once more, very low, and test that. I did let the stager set up a tray with a bottle of wine and two glasses at the foot of the jacuzzi tub, but she also wanted us to set the dining room table as if waiting for a fancy meal and I drew the line there. The only time we use that room is for company. It just seemed too hokey. We were extremely sensitive about "de-personalizing" the place, though, and again, the stager's expert eye saw noting wrong with our choices. We'll see....

Zoey and Me said...

Some staging helps, most often though, if the buyer is in the appropriate price range, they will want to put themselves in the house and those vibes can't be guessed at so I encourage owners to keep the place clean, pick up the clutter before a live showing. I see your property as one that screams "I'm as lovely on the inside too" as I'm also sure the curb appeal (from photo) will draw buyers, even those who can't afford the sticker price. Another way to attract buyers is to determine what it was about the house, property, location, that impressed you enough to want to buy THAT house to make your home compared to other properties you saw years ago. Those hot buttons are a part of the house today and can be used to match up to the buyer you are searching for and as the old saying goes, "you are only looking for one buyer".

Ralph said...

Actually, we bought this house on price and potential. It was being sold for a song even back in 1981 ($89500). It was in good basic shape but decorated horribly and we knew we could do a lot to it to fix it up, which we did. Example: just to show the house, the previous owners spent $1500 on a hideous metallic blue shag carpet they put all over the first floor and up the hardwood stairs. They even painted the hardwood trim on the stairs to match the carpet!

Zoey and Me said...

Floor plan? Location of Kitchen? Fireplace? Close to Metro?

Ralph said...

We changed the floor plan. The old kitchen became a powder room when we knocked off the back of the house and built a 2-storey addition, the bottom level of which was a new kitchen. We put in the fireplace. It's a 5-minute walk to the bus down Columbia Pike to the Pentagon.

Like I said, it had potential. We literally re-created this house inside and out. The only things original in it are the sturdy, hand-cut 1938 2 x 4s in the frame.

Like I said, it had potential.