Splainin’

December 30th, 2012

Back in June, I put our house on the market. I did not think it would sell quickly. I figured I had at least a year maybe even two before someone would buy it. Our home was large and expensive and situated on eight acres of burned up prairie (due to a prolonged drought and the scorching heat of last summer) which I assumed no one in their right mind would ever want to buy. In the extreme drought and heat of the past summer, our grass had turned brown and crispy, our pond had shriveled to the size of a stock tank and I didn’t even want to think about how many of the Country Doctor’s tender young trees were perishing in this new and unforgiving hot, dry climate that has possessed my state. I fought to keep my garden and my foundation plants alive, but in the middle of July, with my back bent under a blazing sun as I chiseled cement like dirt off my tender carrots and tore out the bitter lettuce that had never tasted sweet even one time during the gardening season due to record high temperatures starting in May, I suddenly gave up. I let my trowel drop from my hands and clang against the baked iron earth of what had formerly been my loamy garden, I turned off the soaker hoses which had run almost constantly since May and I lurched into the house clutching my sore back to lay on the couch and wonder if I would ever be able to unload our dream house and the small patch of fiery hell that accompanied it.

I decided to try and sell the house myself and avoid costly realtor fees. The CD and I have always sold our own houses without the aid of a realtor, but our previous homes had been modest in price and size. I didn’t really think I would be able to sell our fancy farmhouse without the help of a realtor, but I wanted to at least try. I purchased a few ads in all the local papers and placed a photo and information about the house on Trulia and Zillow. At first, the only calls I got were from realtors. After a few weeks of this, I discovered an online company that will place your house on MLS (which is the database that all realtors use to sell houses) for a fee. The fee was not small, but it was a heck of a lot less than the six percent of the sale price typically required by realtors. I paid the fee and placed my house on MLS.

Over the next few months I showed the house maybe five times total. Getting a large house “show ready” when four boys and three show cats are living in it is not easy, but I was determined! My house never looked so good! I patched up all the paint and cleaned out all the drawers and closets. The CD and the boys cleaned out and organized the storage room and the barn. The house sparkled and shone and looked great.

As you may have noted, we are a tall family, so when I built this house, I had all the cabinets raised to accommodate our height. In general, most of the base cabinets are three or four inches higher than a standard cabinet height. As each new couple showed up to look at the house, it seemed that the women were getting shorter and shorter. A collection of teensy, weensy women ambled all over my house struggling to peer over my giant sized cabinetry. Each time I met a new couple, I sized up the ever diminishing stature of the woman and immediately assumed they would never buy my house. How would she cook in my kitchen? Would she have to use a step ladder to reach the sink? How could she ever apply her mascara when the top of her head would barely show in the master bath mirror?

There were a few other things about our home that were not exactly “standard”. We did not have the much desirable “main floor master bedroom.” Having grown up on the high plains of Western Kansas where everyone lived in ranch style homes, I have always been fascinated by any house with a second story. To me these were fantasy homes straight out of a much more romantic time when people used feather quills to write love letters to each other and everyone owned a cantankerous goat. So when the opportunity to build my own house came along, I did not hesitate. I built a two story home and all the bedrooms except for a small guest room were placed on the second floor. I never found a cantankerous goat to go with, but I did begin writing a daily love letter to the internet as our dream house was built. Choosing to build a two story home with all the bedrooms on the second floor is also a cost saving choice. You pay for less foundation and less roof. You can also get more daylight into your rooms because more of your rooms will have access to exterior walls which allows for a wonderful play of light throughout the day and this is what makes a home magical. I know, I know… most people think that what makes a home magical is a three car attached garage and a main floor master suite, but they are wrong! It is actually windows! Okay, that might be a personal preference, but the magic worked for me. Now I just needed it to work on one of the tiny women that were looking at my home.

I had also chosen to place my laundry room on the second floor with all the bedrooms. The laundry room was located just off the master bathroom and was also connected to the central hall that served all the other bedrooms. It was a perfect location. The average guest to my home never encountered the mountains of laundry that always occupied my home and everyone in the family was able to access and do their own laundry without having to venture further than a few feet from their bedrooms. However, as I showed the house to one older couple which included an average sized man and a very short woman, I heard a slight tremble in her voice as she said, “But when I do laundry, I will be stuck up here all day!”

I guess the idea of going up and down the stairs to move laundry from the washer to the dryer was a little overwhelming for her! The stairs in general were an issue for many people. Several people e-mailed me wanting to know the location of the master bedroom. When I replied that it was on the second floor, I never heard from them again. I do find it a bit funny that people in this area never hesitate to go downstairs where a family room with a large television is almost always located, but asking these same people to go upstairs to lay in a bed for eight hours, is like telling them to climb Mount Everest just to take a nap. There is also this strange fear that people have about owning a home with a second floor that involves their later years. It seems that most people assume that as they age they will be less and less likely to navigate stairs. They seem to believe that something will happen to them making it impossible to mount a step. I realize that some people do become less agile as they age, but I personally think that climbing a set of stairs a few times a day as you age probably keeps you healthy longer than avoiding them through the prime of your life because of some imagined future disability!

So when I added all of these problems together, (death drought, burning plain, shriveled pond, crispy grass, an army of zombie trees, dirt roads, less than prime location, second floor master, two story home, big price tag) I figured it would take a miracle to sell it. So when we got an offer after the house had been on the market for only a few months, I was shocked. However, the offer was so low, that I immediately rejected it and went about my business. I did not counter offer because I thought the initial offer was ludicrous. Yes, my home might be in the center of death valley, and yes it might include a staircase which has to be climbed at least once a day in spite of the fact that we are all going to get old, but dammit! it is still my dream house and you can’t have it for nothing!

So imagine my surprise when they came back with a second offer that was very much within the range of what I had hoped for and imagine my surprise when I countered and imagine my surprise when they accepted and imagine that within the course of a day, I had sold my dream house and now what the heck was I going to do?!?!?!?!?

Fortunately we had three months to find a new house and relocate, but at first the CD and I were in such shock over the sale of our home that we assumed the deal would fall through. We honestly did not believe that we had really sold the house. As each round of inspections and appraisals went by, we both thought that the buyers would back out of the deal. They asked us to make a few repairs and we refused to make any of them because we didn’t want to spend the money for the repairs and we both thought they were going to back out anyway!

Well… we did make one hair raising repair. One inspector had noted that a stone had fallen off of our chimney. We knew that it was missing and had even found the stone and saved it to repair someday. So when we got the list of repairs that they buyers wanted, I glanced through the list and thought, you know… since they are obviously going to back out of this purchase when we refuse to fix any of this stuff, how about we go ahead and get that stone back on the chimney. So my husband tied a rope around his waist, scaled our super tall house and glued that stone back to the chimney. He also fixed a plug in the basement that he had installed and was mortified to find out that it wasn’t working properly, but everything else, we ignored.

They still wanted to buy the house.

It was at this point that I began to realize I was going through the Kubler-Ross five stages of grief. For the first month after selling our home, I had been in denial, and then I moved onto the second stage and I got angry. I spent a few days mad at the world because I had sold a home I loved and I screamed at anyone who came within twenty feet of me and then when I noted the bewildered looks of all my family members, I rapidly moved onto stage three.  I started bargaining. I told the realtor that the buyers could not have my washer and dryer. I have no idea why suddenly my washer and dryer became so precious to me, but dammit! I wanted them! This set off a flurry of emails wherein the realtor ( who represented the buyers) got very upset with me and I got very upset with her and we cat fought via e-mail over my washer and dryer for several days until I agreed to sell my washer and dryer for an additional cost to the buyer and my bargaining days were over and I descended straight into stage four – bleak depression.

I cried for a month. I loved my house! Why was I SELLING IT! What was GOING ON!!! How could this be HAPPENING!!!! My eldest son was a senior in HIGHSCHOOL! This was going to totally screw up his SENIOR YEAR! Where was I going to host his fabulous GRADUATION PARTY!!!! Wail, moan, sob, cry, beat my chest, cry, cry, sob, moan, the entire month of October was seen through a veil of tears. Every time I straightened up the house, I felt like I was cleaning someone else’s house. Suddenly I was a CLEANING LADY in my own DREAM HOUSE! Every morning as I went from room to room to wake up my boys, I would look over their rooms and out their windows and I would think about the last five years of them growing up in this house and all the memories and weekend pancake breakfasts and campfires and sleep overs and baseball games and flashlight tag and barn parties and huge waves of sadness would break over me. I might not ever live in such a pretty home again and the boys would only have this home as a foggy memory. A chapter of our lives was closing and I had no idea what the next chapter looked like, but there was just no way it could ever be as GOOOOOHOOOOHOOOOD!

But then one day, I woke up and I was fine. I grabbed some graph paper and began to draw a new house. I started to look at the housing market in our area to see what was available. I called up my friend who is a local realtor and we started looking at homes together. I found a lot that was for sale in our area that was exceptionally beautiful and I began to think about what I could build on it. I ordered a few houseplan books from the internet and hauled them to work and stood around register one with my co-workers (where Lucky lays her eggs) and we flipped through the design books together. I eventually found a house in our area that was big enough to house my family and had enough potential to interest me. It was in a nice neighborhood located between our town and a nearby university town making the future saleability of the house much easier than our former home. The house was dated and kind of ugly, but I thought with a little love, it could be made much better. I began to draw some plans for renovation as well as working on plans for a new house. We made an offer on the home and after a bit of haggling settled on a price.

I celebrated a final thanksgiving in my dream house. They boys had several parties with their friends. We built fires and had dinner on the screen porch and I tried to really enjoy the last few weeks in the home I built.

And then we moved.

And we have been settling in and tearing into walls and painting and plastering and sanding bad texture off of old walls.

The Country Doctor has not been around very much due to working a new job in an ER that is two hours away and still working his old job as a family practice doctor in our small town, so I have been handling the renovation by myself. I’ve called contractors and rented power tools and picked out paint colors and I think you could say that I am having a fine old time.

The boys are adjusting. They are, after all, young males. Their shelter needs are not exactly complex. They want a well stocked fridge, a place to watch sports on television and to play their video games and a room that provides a place to sleep and that is about it.

I was terrified of losing our cats. The last time we moved, one of our cats refused to move with us. She kept returning to our old home. We kept going back to get her, but she just would not adapt to the new house. Eventually we lost her. But the showcats have shown little interest in finding their old home. To them, home is where their food bowl is. We have begun to put them outside for short periods of time, and they mostly sit right outside the door and cry until we let them back in.

So that is the story of how and why we sold our house. I am posting some photos of the new house under the farmhouse and garden section.  I guess I need to change the name of that section to “Pink Nightmare and Garden” because the new house is pink… or rather mauve and almost every room in the house incorporates some shade of pinkish purple.  Thankfully the previous owners left behind about twenty cans of various kinds of purplish paint so we could patch up the old colors… NOT!!!!!

Hope everyone is having a good holiday season!  Ours has been a bit on the chaotic side, but also very good.

Comments

  • Rhonda F.:

    What an awesome read! I have SO missed you!

  • Spinny:

    I love how you write so much that even though my husband has been giving me the evil eye for the last ten minutes (I’m supposed to be packing for a trip), I just HAD to keep reading.

    Also, I think I would go through the same emotions if we ever sold our house. It’s mine and I love it. Nobody will ever love it as much as *I* do. :)

    Good luck with the new house!!

  • km:

    Good for you !!!
    We moved a year and half ago. Not far away, just a different town. I haven’t regretted it for a second. Our kids have great “normal” social lives here and I love the neighborhood.
    I was chuckling at the stairs. We have 4 flights of stairs in our house if you count basement hangout room. I guess Kansas people will never buy my house:)
    I’m very much looking forward to your renovation pictures. You rock !

  • But why did you want to move in the first place? To get out of a small town?

    I loved your old house and the pond and the barn and the garden and the porch. I loved seeing it change through the seasons and imagined what it’d look like years from now with the trees grown in. I’m really quite sad that you moved! How crazy is that?!

  • Can’t wait to discover your new home.

  • Kay in KCMO:

    So, is the new house closer to the CD’s new job? It reads like it’s still two hours away. If that’s the case then why leave your lovely, comfortable home?

    My main question is What happened to the swinging bed on the porch? Do the new owners deserve such a luxury? I hope you took it with you. :)

  • Laurel:

    Wow. Congratulations on selling so fast – and with those ‘drawbacks!”
    I will use your story for inspiration:)

    Happy New Year 2013 to you and your family in your new (and going to be renovated) home!

  • Glad to see you posting! I too wonder why you decided to move at all? Happy New Years to you and the fam!

  • nancy in ak:

    I have been reading your blog for years and I loved your farmhouse. Are you moving to be closer to the town where the CD will be working?

    PS I was influenced a lot by all of your posts on becoming atheist/agnostic. I was raised Catholic but have been moving towards agnosticism/atheism for a while now and your posts really got me thinking and reading a lot about the subject.

    I highly suggest the books, “Leaving Alexandria” by the former Archbishop of Edinborough Scotland (Anglican) and
    “UnQuenchable Thirst” by Mary Johnson. Ms. Johnson was a nun with Mother Theresa’s group for 20 years and then she left “to have a life!” She is now agnostic and anti-church. Both books are so moving and intelligent and well written by nice people.

  • After a harrowing work week, I decided to escape with some internet surfing. I ended up here, on your site during the wee hours of the morning. What a beautiful read. You’re truly a gifted writer Rechelle and I hope you’ll continue to pursue your writing in your new digs. Why not chronicle your move and renovation? It would be a bestseller.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Connie:

    Interesting to hear some of “the rest of the story” behind the move. Your blog and farmhouse were influencial in the design of my own farmhouse. I did put my master bedroom on the ground floor, though. The new house does look like a project, but painting is so gratifying, isn’t it?

  • What a funny post. I can certainly relate as someone who sells her houses herself plus I recently sold my house in Virginia and moved back to New Jersey. No mauve here but the counters are olive green, courtesy of the ’70s and the light in the kitchen was a fluorescent. But the potential! That’s half the fun.

    We also fought over the washer and dryer. My buyers extorted me for them. Refused to close at the last minute unless I gave them to them. Neighbors tell me they’re having bad luck now… Karma.

    I”m with you on the bedrooms being upstairs. Didn’t the kids on The Waltons and Little House sleep upstairs? Well, that’s where I want to be. When I get the strength to climb up there…