The first house I lived in had orange countertops in the kitchen, a green refrigerator and green stove, multi colored paneling in the bedrooms, a lime green shag rug in the den. So who am I to judge the odd decorating choices of the houses we've been tromping through lately?
Weird paint colors and icky carpets, we can easily change. Harder to imagine is the fix for a teeny bathroom, so teeny you have to straddle the toilet before you sit on it. Or the house with the train track running the edge of the back yard. Or the house with the 30 degree slanted kitchen floor.
A shame, because we want to like that house. It's in the neighborhood we love, but are quickly realizing might be out of our reach. Old homes with character, as our realtor calls them, with big front porches, on winding, tree-lined streets. I stand in the kitchen for a long time analyzing the slanted floor, trying to imagine how we can make it work.
But no. Turns out slanted floors are a deal-breaker for me. That's a phrase we'd been hearing a lot from potential buyers of our home. What are their dealbreakers? Our small bedrooms (which I always thought were perfectly adequate). The split-level layout. The 1995-style master bathroom.
Picky people. I just want a floor that's level. A house that doesn't smell like death.
I wanted to like that house too! The huge tree in the front yard! With a swing! When we pulled up, I squealed like the little girl in the Miracle on 34th Street, my mind already spinning out future potential grandchildren taking turns swinging while I waved to them from the awesome screened in porch.
That death smell though was truly a dealbreaker. One step inside and I could hear the Amityville Horror warning blaring GET OUT reverberating in my head.
My husband's annoyed with me. We can get the smell out, he says. It's just old cigarette smoke.
I think it might be something more than that, I tell him through my shirt. Which I have pulled up to protect my nose.
Our daughter is on my side for that one, but in the next house, she accuses me of having unrealistically high standards when I point out that the living room is too small to fit a couch. This is a house that ticks off all of the items on our list. Pleasant and/or neutral odor. Level kitchen floors. A toilet you can sit on without straddling.
Added bonus: it looks like an HGTV-style flip with fresh paint and all new appliances.
Yeah. But where do we, um, put the couch?
We leave the place dejected. At this point we've put a bid on four different houses and gotten out-bid on all of them. The fourth we went over the asking price, but another buyer jumped in ahead of us by waiving the house inspection. I'm sorry. I get that it is a seller's market, but that's... crazy.
A friend told me that in her neighborhood potential buyers are writing letters to sellers explaining why they love the house and why the seller should sell it to them.
This seems crazy to me too, and yet...
Dear House Number Five's Seller in the Neighborhood We Love,
As soon as I stepped onto your screened in porch, took a swing for a while on your swing, I was in love with your house. The hardwood floors! The fireplace! The darling breakfast nook in the kitchen! It's clear you've spent time working on this place. You hung that porch swing and buffed those floors. You hand-painted those stencils of eyeballs? on the walls. You replaced all of the doorknobs with... faucets?
Okay, so we may not make the same decorative choices, but it's pretty obvious that you are creative and have a good sense of humor. Fun coincidence: some of my friends say the exact same thing about me!
In all seriousness though, I know you've loved living here. You made your house warm and inviting and comfortable. In a word, home.
Take a chance with us, and I promise, we'll do the same.