We are selling our house in the Northwest Valley–that’s Phoenix suburbs for those new to the blog. To get it ready for sale, we treated it like an awkward teenager going to the prom. We didn’t expect people to like what we liked (wide roads, block construction, good neighbors, lots of trees in the backyard, xeriscaped front yard). We studied what would make it sell, and did those things. We added crushed stone counter tops, had the whole house painted inside, updated both bathrooms, had the floor tiled in all rooms except the bedrooms, and hired a cleaning crew so there was not one cobweb, dust bunny, or window stain.
Our realtor took a group of other realtors through the house and asked them to comment. This, I thought, was not the best idea. The same thing happens if you give your writing to someone else and ask them, “So, what do you think?” Because we are a culture of fixers, we believe we have to find fault. To demand more. I tell my writing class participants not to ask “What do you think?” but to give out a specific list of questions. That avoids the “change happy to glad” remarks from people desperate to put their own stamp on the article.
The realtors’ remarks sounded as if all those home-flip-sell-it-or-love-it shows are not scripted. Many of the comments sounded exactly like they came out of a home DIY show:
- Ewwww, popcorn ceiling, get RID of it!
- Bathroom tile is different than living room tile. FIX it!
- Kitchen cabinets are dated. Install new, raised-panel ones or glass-fronted ones.
- Ceiling fans in all bedrooms should MATCH.
- Garage floor should be resin-coated.
Of course I could do all of those things. But there is no guarantee that those improvements would sell it faster or get people to offer more money. It would, however, empty my pocketbook. None of the realtors said a single thing about the upgrades. None said anything encouraging. One even said, “trim bushes more” although the bushes had been trimmed an hour before.
Everyone of them thought it was helpful to point out what should be done. What more I could do. Never mind that I bought the house without those upgrades and loved living there.
After cleaning up the storm mess from yesterday, and having a new garbage disposal installed (no one suggested it, but I knew it needed to be done), I left the house to the realtor for the open house.
And then, for the first time in nine weeks, I drove to a big mall and allowed myself to be distracted by fragrances, people-watching, good coffee and keeping my mind clear of panicky thoughts of being not enough. For the last months, all I’ve thought about is fixing, correcting, upgrading, doing, and out-thinking a buyer–what would someone else like? What will they want that will make a difference? The truth is, I don’t know. And people buy houses for various reasons, some of them not in the least related to price.
No wonder my art table is blank. No wonder I have no ideas about what to create. All I do is blame, fix and see what’s missing. I suddenly realized that a lot of boxes are still unpacked in the studio because I am spending so much time at the house looking at what is lacking, how it is not enough.
It’s one thing to do it to a house, it’s another thing entirely to do it to your soul. Tomorrow, for the first time in more than two months, I’m reading the paper, having breakfast, and spending some time in the studio. The boxes will wait for me. But I want to try poking at my creativity, play, work without a goal. That, in itself is worthwhile. Yes, it’s raining in my life. But I’m looking ahead to the rainbow.