Misadventures in Real Estate is a multi-part series about selling our home.
In case you missed it, here’s Part 1: Nature Abhors A Vacuum
Although our FSBO on Zillow didn’t unearth any interested buyers, it did yield a bevy of realtors from which to choose. By January we were worn down by their relentless affability and picked one to list our house. The idea of waiting until spring to list the house had occurred to us; however, our new-construction house was just completed, and we were eager to make the transition to full-time residents of Cape May County. Our previous experience (and persistent prodding by realtors) seemed to suggest it’s possible to find a motivated, serious buyer in winter and so we gambled on a mild one.
The assault of winter began on the day of the broker’s open house causing it to be postponed to the following day. Nervous about the liability of a trip-and-fall, we spent the entire morning frantically clearing the ice from the front stoop and walkway. Turn-outs for the broker’s open and the first open house were pretty good and our hopes were high even though our neighborhood spent the better part of February and March under thick cover of snow and ice.
Over the next few weeks we showed the house a dozen or more times. We went to great lengths to keep the house looking as though no one actually lived in it. We traded in big-mess home-cooked meals for quick and easy, take-out, or going out to eat to keep the kitchen spotless. Each time we got a call or text to show the house, beds were made, towels folded hotel-style, and all personal items were stowed in drawers and cabinets. Uninterested buyers voiced their criticisms (not having granite countertops being the most frequent complaint), but we always received a nice compliment on how well-kept the place appeared.
In the beginning of March, we had to postpone a house showing due to a Nor’easter that knocked out our electric. The storm dropped a foot and a half of heavy, wet snow, taking down trees and power lines with them. Our landscaping took a big hit with two toppled trees and a mess of broken branches. For 24 hours we rode it out with no power, leaving me damn near frozen to death.
Having been at this juncture many times before, we know that the 24-hour mark is the make-or-break moment for the contents of the refrigerator. In other words, if you haven’t opened the doors, the stuff in the refrigerator and freezer will last for 24 hours. At the end of one day, it’s time to eat it, move it, or throw it away. I can’t exactly pinpoint the origin of reasoning, but somewhere along the parental guilt trip between “waste not, want not” and “children are starving in Africa” I learned not to be wasteful of food. Since we had another house with a new refrigerator just a few hours away, we decided to pack the food into several coolers and run.
I like bread. But I try not to eat too much of it. I particularly like the right bread for the job. A burger needs a hamburger bun and a homemade egg McMuffin needs a Thomas’s English muffin. This preference leads to having a dozen different bread packages open at the same time. Lucky for me, bread freezes really well.
Having limited space in the coolers we were packing to bring to the new house, I chose to leave the bulky bread products behind. They may get a little stale, but they won’t spoil at room temperature (which was 47 degrees without heat anyhow). At the end of the refrigerator clean-out, the kitchen countertops were covered from end to end with white bread, rye bread, hot dog rolls, hamburger buns, small wraps, large wraps, muffins, pita pockets, bagels, and a baguette.
The ice in the freezer had started to melt forming a puddle on the kitchen floor around the refrigerator. After soaking it up, we left a bunch of rags on the floor in case of additional defrosting. With no electric and the kitchen in such a sorry state, I didn’t bother to make the bed and refold the towels either. What realtor in her right mind would show the house in winter with no heat and electricity and without the owner’s permission?
A short time after we arrived at the new house, I got a text that the house had been shown by the realtor that I had declined. My utter annoyance was tempered by picturing the buyer’s bewilderment over the bread bedlam. Do they live by bread alone? What’s with all this bread? There’s enough bread here to feed an army. They must really like bread. Needless to say, the showing didn’t produce an offer to buy.
As the snow finally began to melt, the forecast of warmer temperatures had us hoping for an early springtime house sale. But the combination of snow-melt and unusually rainy weather left the backyard looking like the Dead Marshes from Lord of the Rings. We debated taking the house off the market for a short while but instead I printed an 8×10 photo of the backyard in summer and taped it to the sliding glass doors that open onto the deck.
A visual aid for buyers who lack imagination:
Property damage via stormy weather continued into the spring when a wild thunderstorm uprooted a large tree and broke another in half.
Seventeen years of weather was barely a blip as compared to the months that the house was on the market. Our landscaping blow included three large trees uprooted, the top half of several more snapped off, and lots of breakage on the ornamental trees and shrubs. Due to snow melt followed by torrential rains, the woods in the back were transformed into a dismal swamp. When we needed our property to look its shiny best, it looked the worst it ever had. We lost the bet on a mild winter; killing our chances of a sale until summer.