Hubby and I, in between painting and painting and scrubbing and packing and painting some more, have been perusing the real estate listings for our hopeful new home for the past few weeks. After much deliberation and staring at every teensy detail of the online photographs available, we narrowed down our list to 11 homes that met (at least on paper) all our basic criteria. This afternoon, we went out to lunch (using the gift card Mom and Dad gave us for our wedding anniversary back in January - thanks, Mom and Dad!) and then took a drive past the homes on our list. Several are in the same general neighborhood and they all are within 10 minutes of Hubby's office, so it wasn't like we were traipsing here, there and everywhere (um, except when we'd get turned around on the side streets of unfamiliar neighborhoods...). It turned out that three of the properties were having open houses, so we walked through those three, and the rest we drove by very slowly a few times each, idling in front for a bit if the road allowed. (According to our real estate agent, "drive bys" are a common phenomenon for houses on the market, especially in the first weeks of a new listing.)
I suppose the good news is that we now have fewer houses for which we need to make appointments to see. Like, all three that we walked through today. The first one seemed to have employed trick photography in its online listing - the kitchen was nowhere near as big as it appeared in the various pictures. That wasn't the dealbreaker so much as the odd, multi-level split level layout (here some stairs, there some stairs, everywhere some stairs, stairs, stairs), along with the lack of an appropriate space that could be a dedicated office and the really strong mildewy smell coming from the basement.
Speaking of smells, when we first walked in, we met the real estate agent hosting the open house, as you do. She was........ interesting. Older but trying to look much younger than her age. Fake bake veering on the side of "much too orange" with lots of makeup (including baby blue eyeshadow - really, need I say more?), big, dyed hair and an overly accessorized outfit. She had, as the always fantabulous Tim Gunn would say, a lot of look going on there. Naturally, someone who goes to that degree with hair, makeup, clothing, nails and jewelry would go a bit further than is prudent in the body fragrance category, and some heavily floral scent I recognized but couldn't name was wafting off of her in practically visible waves. The whole package was a bit much, but hey, we were there for the house, not the agent. (And she, in all her overdone, overscented glory was far better than the guy at the next house, who apparently had eaten some sort of oniony-garlicky dish for lunch and hadn't bothered to pop an Altoid or seven. He also was fuzzy on the details of his offering - "I think it's about XYZ" and "I'm pretty sure that there is ZYX" were typical for his spiel, and yes, this was the primary listing agent, not some junior flunky stuck with the Sunday afternoon open house gig. I mean, it was his picture - albeit obviously from several years earlier - on the sign out front.)
Annnnyhow, as we walked through the first house, the agent's perfume lingered throughout, along with what smelled like air freshener sprayed liberally to cover (but not quite succeeding) what Hubby was convinced was the smell of dog. (There are not many smells less pleasant than aged, wet dog...) When we reached the first of the bathrooms, Kiddo spotted a container of fake flowers, tulips to be exact, on the vanity (which matched the shower curtain and valance in the bathroom).
"Oh look at those pretty roses!" Kiddo exclaimed to us. "So that's where that smell came from!"
It was hard not to laugh, but Hubby and I managed. We couldn't manage to contain our laughter a bit later however, as we were inquiring of the agent whether we could see the deck and back yard and she was directing us through the garage to the back. She asked us if we had any further questions. We didn't, as we already were pretty sure there was no way we would take this house for near what they were asking but then Kiddo piped up.
"Excuse me, please, I have a question."
The agent smiled at her. Cute kid, shook her hand when we'd first arrived, agent wants to make a good impression on us, no doubt. (I mean, she'd gone to all that trouble to get ready for the open house with her grooming and appearance......)
"Are there any monkeys in the back yard? Like the tiny ones that hide in trees?"
Kiddo was perfectly serious, by the way. She and Hubby had watched one of the eleventy million episodes of Bindi, the Jungle Girl currently hogging our DVR space this morning, and apparently this episode featured some tiny monkey-like animal that made weird, twig nests in trees in which they hide during the day, and of course in Bindi's world, such critters were lurking about the back yard (as is customary in Australia, right Givinya?) so Kiddo was equal parts nervous and excited at the prospect that this potential new house might have such creatures just beyond the deck.
The agent was nonplussed. Hubby and I lost it. The agent tried to answer her with a straight face, but found it impossible. She did assure Kiddo that there were no monkeys of any sort on the property. Kiddo pressed the topic, thinking that perhaps the agent just hadn't seen them, but the agent promised her she'd been in the back yard many times and was positive there were no monkeys of any size to be found, although there were squirrels. Kiddo was unimpressed.
So, that was the first open house. We were surprised at how little the current owners had done in the realm of decluttering, cleaning, freshening up etc. I mean, this house was built in the late 60s and some of the paint and all of the carpeting and the bathrooms looked like the late 60s. But if we thought that house was dated, the next two were positive time warps. It was like being in the Brady Bunch but without the housekeeper or AstroTurf back yard. (Though that might've helped the swampy, boggy mess the one property featured. Holy environmental disaster, Batman!) From excessive wood paneling, especially in the "den" or "family room" areas (and in one home, the only light other than from the gas fireplace in such a wood-paneled cave came from wall sconces. I repeat: Wall. Sconces. Like "Hey, you know what looks cool and modern? Some lighting sconces like you'd see in a medieval castle, only with orange light bulbs!") to shag carpet to a bathroom entirely done in pink tile (with pink toilet, tub/shower and vanity)... it wasn't pretty.
Now, I get that these are all older homes. I get that the split level was popular back then. But.... but..... but....... do you have to keep living like it's 1974? Agents kept telling us "there are hardwoods underneath the carpeting!" Fine, but for the price you're asking, we don't want to have to pay to have carpeting ripped out and floors refinished. Plus, the bedrooms were all pretty dang tiny, the kitchens were abysmally small (they all claimed to be "eat in" but apparently that's only if you can manage to hover standing at some of the nonexistent counter space or over the sink while you dine) and it was just bad. One kitchen was done entirely in grey and Formica. I swear those were the original appliances from when the house was built in 1965 - I muttered to Hubby under my breath "No wonder they want to sell those with the house!" - and the cabinets were these weird, grey things that looked like they'd be much more at home in a middle school science lab.
Just not good. We further ruled out a couple more houses by driving by - one was on a section of road that was much too busy, and the other was waaaay down this road where the neighborhood went from being on the posher side to seeming a bit.....Deliverance-y. Like rusted conversion vans lurking behind falling-off-the-hinges barn doors and boarded over windows and cars up on blocks, with the stray chicken or mangy looking dog running around. I kept expecting to hear the strains of a banjo being picked from up the wooded hill that ran behind the street. (Though it would've been hard to hear anything much over the Heywood Banks greatest hits cassette Kiddo insisted on listening to for the entire trip. Hubby and I love Heywood Banks, really we do, but 3.5 hours of Fly's Eyes, Pancreas, The Cat Got Dead, Toast, Red Ants, The Garden Weasel, If Pigs Had Wings and The Music's Too Loud over and over and OVER again can start to wear on one's sanity.)
So, we returned home to our freshly painted, sparkling clean, utterly decluttered house with a whole new sense of why our agent was so dang excited to get people inside the door to have a look around. If our listing goes up without the words "Move in condition" and "pride of ownership" featured, I'm gonna be on the phone to him right away. Because really? None of the houses we looked at were in anything close to "move in condition" - all of them would need at the least a good cleaning (carpets, walls, kitchen) as well as fresh paint and/or removal of wallpaper... (And we are SO not excited about the thought of picking up a paint roller again any time soon!!!) Kiddo was impressed with the various children's bedrooms, as they featured themes from Diego and friends to Cars and Thomas to Noah's Ark and Puppies Playing Sports. So, it seems she at least will be an easy sell on whatever we buy.
We went back through our list and looked through the listings once again. We've got a total of eight properties now that we've asked our agent to show us this week. He says he wouldn't be surprised if we have five or more showings of our house in the next week and a half, without doing an open house, even. I'm definitely going to keep my eye peeled for drive-by-ers...
Now, the listing goes live tomorrow, but I took some pictures myself so here is a sneak preview of our house, including Kiddo's room (which he didn't photograph because, as he so delicately put it, "It's a bit....busy." Or as Tim Gunn would say, "A lot of look." The agent did ask us where exactly Kiddo sleeps, and was impressed to hear she sleeps under all of her Stuffed Animal Entourage. Didn't bother explaining it is a sensory thing - she likes the weight on top of her. Who needs a weighted blanket when you have over a hundred - not kidding here - stuffed animals to pile on top of you?)
The blog version of a Virtual Tour:
The front entrance (oh, and the verdict is that we've left that Window to Nowhere above the front door bare and are just being careful to keep the bathroom door closed!)
The great room. For the official pics and when being shown, the remotes and Kiddo's beanbag chair will not be in view):
The kitchen, which for the official pictures doesn't have either Crazy Cat or her dishes:
(The daffodils are in homage to my bloggy buddy Jennifer, who is also trying to sell her house, but who employs much greater flower arranging talents in her sale efforts than I ever could dream of doing...)
The laundry room, which will not have Kiddo's coat on the doorknob or my coat on the rack during showings. This one won't make the listing, so it is a Blog Exclusive!:
Downstairs half bath. Yes, I cheated - these are the same pictures I posted a little while back.
The stairs, complete with freshly painted baseboard trim. Hubby had to do lots of taping to get that bit done. Not fun!
Upstairs hallway, another Blog Exclusive:
New shots of the upstairs bathroom, now featuring Official Showing Towels (that do not actually get used!):
Our vanity area (shout out to my mother for the excellent suggestion of sticking the various baskets that usually line the counter underneath our bed. Kiddo finds that hilarious, as well.)
Another Blog exclusive.... the walk-in closet for the master bedroom:
Blog Exclusive: Kiddo's room (cameo appearance by Swimmy, the evil, carny goldfish):
And last but not least, the guest room (which is still kind of a "slash office" as well, as evidenced by the computer at which I'm now sitting....)
And there you have it! Please send all your Good House Selling and Buying vibes my way! I've yet to buy a statue of St. Joseph to bury next to the sign, but I'm not beyond considering it. I am a superstitious sort who always picks up heads-up pennies, gets a little freaked if I break a mirror, and always throws a pinch of salt over my shoulder should I spill any. I'm good with black cats crossing my path, though, and I got over the "walking under ladders" thing pretty much for good when we were in the midst of painting and walking under ladders just couldn't be avoided.......