Since the house has been on the market (Yes, it’s another one of those “I’m selling my house, and I’m going to talk about it forever” posts. Sorry.) we’ve had three sets of potential buyers come to take a look at it.
Now, this was a part of the process I’d been absolutely dreading. I HATED the thought of having to follow The Others around my house, listening to them list all of the things they hate about it, and repeatedly answering the question “But what do you DO with all the SHOOZ?” (Note to self: remember to make up smart comeback to this, so you don’t keep on having to go, “Er, I wear them? On my feet? Am I doing it wrong?”), so I was really pleased when our estate agent told us we didn’t need to be there when they show people around. This works for me: I don’t have to deal with the awkwardness (I have the ability to make even normal situations awkward, so I really hate to think how badly I could screw up a situation that is inherently awkward anyway…), and the prospective buyers don’t have to pretend they’re going to buy our house, just out of politeness. (Which is what I tend to do when I look at houses and the people are in them at the time. If Terry wasn’t there to stop me, I’d probably make an offer on the spot, and end up buying a house I absolutely hated, just because I couldn’t think of a polite way to end the conversation.)
There’s a good side and a bad side to this, though…
The good side is that we get totally honest feedback from the viewers, who are much more willing to tell the estate agent what they don’t like about the house than they presumably would be to say it to our smiling, hopeful faces. This means we know what we have to work on, and what kind of improvements we can make before the next person arrives.
The bad side of this, though, is that…. we get totally honest feedback from the viewers. Who are WAY HARSH people, seriously.
And, OK, so far it hasn’t been TOO bad. In fact, Terry would argue that it hasn’t been bad at all, and that’s because Terry has the ability to listen to the feedback and say, “OK, fair enough, that’s something for us to work on.” I, on the other hand, listen to the feedback, toss my hair, and say, “WELL I DIDN’T WANT TO SELL IT TO THEM ANYWAY, SO THERE!” And then I walk around going, “Even if they offer us a million pounds for it, I’m still saying no: THAT’LL show them!”
I don’t deal well with the feedback, then, is what I’m saying. And yes, I know that’s a big bag of ridiculous, because the fact is, I don’t like our house either. That’s, you know, why we’re moving. (WE ARE NEVER MOVING WE WILL HAVE TO STAY HERE FOREVER.) And many of the things that the viewers have criticised have been things that I’VE criticised myself, many times. They are things that we KNOW are less than ideal, and they’re also things that we’d probably point out if we were viewing the house, too, but I guess it’s one of those situations where it’s like, “I’m allowed to diss my house, but if you do it I will curse you, and generations of your family, and we will be mortal enemies for ever more.” You know? (You totally DON’T know, do you? Because you are normal. Lucky.)
As part of the process, The Others are given a questionnaire to fill out, and they have to rank a number of different things (It ranges from “room size” to “parking” to “neighbouring properties”, etc etc) from 1 – 10, with 10 being the Paris Ritz and 1 being a cardboard box under a bridge, which smells a bit like pee. We’ve been mostly getting 8s, with a few 9s. Which is great! Except we’ve also had a couple of 6s and 7s, and one person gave us a 4 for “neighbouring properties”, which made me want to go out and rally the neighbours into a small private army to TAKE THAT PERSON DOWN.
The four I can take, albeit grudgingly, because the fact is, we don’t have any control over what the neighbouring properties look like. Well, other than that Terry went and
stole moved some rubbish from the garden behind ours because the agent told us it seemed to be the main reason for the four. (Which I obviously think of as THE FOUR.) He also tidied up the side of Nigel’s house, which was still empty at the time, and yeah, REGRET THAT NOW. (Also regret all the times we have mown Nigel’s lawn and picked litter from the front of his house, just out the kindness of our hearts, and OK, also because there goes the neighbourhood otherwise. And this is how he repays us!) But. We’ve also been getting 8s for “cleanliness”, which, sorry, WHUT? OK, 8 is a reasonably high number, but one thing you need to know about me is that I am a perfectionist, in a half-assed kinda way, and where you see ‘eight’, I see “NOT TEN”. Every time people have come to see the house I’ve spent HOURS (I’m honestly not exaggerating here: literally HOURS) cleaning our already-fairly-clean house, so each time I’ve looked at these feedback forms and seen the 8 for cleanliness, all I can think is WHY DID I NOT GET A TEN? I deserve a 10, dammit. My house COULD NOT BE CLEANER. It is not just “clean”, it is ALL CAPS CLEAN.
The thing is, though, I’m telling you this story, and you’re sitting there nodding dutifully and thinking, “If Amber says her house was clean, then Amber’s house was totes clean!”, right? RIGHT? When I told my mum, and also Terry’s mum, this story, however, they did not do that. Instead they both nodded doubtfully, but in their eyes I could clearly read the message, “Clean? Bitch, puleeze. I’LL show you clean, missy!”
(Aside: why are mothers just so much BETTER at this stuff? Is it something that magically happens to them when they give birth? Like, they get a baby, and they also get The Knowledge of how to expertly clean a house, using just a sheet of newspaper and a block of carbolic soap or something?)
“Well,” said Terry’s mum encouragingly, “It’s hard to keep a house clean when you have a dog.” (Pause while we all stopped to look accusingly at Rubin, who had tried to dig a hole in the woods on his walk that morning, and was still wearing most of the dirt from said hole on his fur.) “People will understand that!”
But here’s the thing: I didn’t understand that. Because, seriously folks, I had scrubbed that house to death. If it was human, it would have bled. Terry had helped me. My parents had even come round and helped. We had cleaned and dusted and fabric-sprayed and disinfected and washed and opened windows and switched on the air-freshener and washed Rubin’s bed and toys and Rubin himself, and we were sure – SURE – that there was no smell of dog. Or of anything, actually, other than that air-freshener, and the fresh flowers we had dutifully placed on display. And, I mean, I should probably point out here that we do these things anyway: Rubin is a hypo-allergenic dog, so he doesn’t cast hair, or have a very “doggy” smell, unless he’s been digging, but we have a couple of friends with bad allergies, and their allergies can be triggered even by dogs like Rubin, so we do our best to keep the house as dog-free as we can. We actually asked one of those friends for an honest opinion, and she told us she has never detected the scent of dog in our house, so we thought we were doing OK.
But 8 out of 10 for cleanliness! And then, the second set of viewers? Gave us a seven. A FREAKING SEVEN. It was just not to be tolerated. I may not be good at gardening, (or, apparently, cleaning) but I AM good at worrying about things, and developing obsessions, so ever since that seven – SEVEN! – I have been obsessively cleaning the house, and when I’m not cleaning the house I’m worrying about whether the house is clean enough, and if we’re maybe Those People whose house smells a bit, but no one wants to be the one to tell them, and hey, I’ve had an idea, why don’t we check into a hotel until the house is sold, and that way we can make sure it is totally, 100% clean at all times?
Everyone told me I was over-reacting to all of this. Secretly, I knew they were right. I had never had the experience of actually being GRADED on the cleanliness of my home, though, so this was all new to me, and so, for the third set of viewers, we decided to pull out all the stops. The appointment had been arranged for the Monday after our stay at Dunkeld House. I may be mad, but I’m not quite mad enough to give up a weekend away in order to stay at home coming the lawn with a toothbrush, so we had to maximise the time we had. On Saturday morning then, two of our friends came round and helped Terry to quickly re-model the front garden. When they left – and also when we’d left for our trip – they were replaced by my parents, who cleaned the ground floor of the house in the way that only parents can, and who also did a bit of weeding at the back. On Monday morning, we got up early: Terry headed out to do yet more work on the garden, and I started another deep-clean of the house, which by this point was so clean it actually hurt to look at it.
And after all that?
The prospective buyer cancelled the appointment.
Yup, she said she’d thought about it over the weekend, and she’d decided the house “just wasn’t for her”. GAH.
We were disappointed, obviously, but we asked the agent to try to get some feedback from her anyway, and you know what it was that put her off?
It was my shoe shelves.
We were just a little bit surprised by this. Out of all the things we’d talked about that might put people off the house -and trust me, there are plenty of them – that was the one thing that honestly didn’t ever cross our minds. And sure, I get it: not everyone likes/needs/wants shelves in a room. But the thing is… they’re just shelves, you know? I obviously use them for shoes, which I understand is super-weird to most people, but you CAN actually use them for other things, too: books, movies, DVDs, voodoo dolls of Nigel, the International Man of Mystery Next Door, whatever. You could use them for anything, really. Or – and here’s a thought – you could NOT use them at all, and just take them down. Because they’re shelves. Which can easily be removed. It’s not like having to remodel a kitchen or bathroom, or even like having to replace flooring, or wallpaper. Because they’re JUST SHELVES. It would take maybe a couple of hours to take them down and re-paint the wall, and after that, it would be like they’d never existed.
But this Other didn’t like the shelves, and for her, they were a deal-breaker. Our agent let her know that we would be happy to take the shelves down ourselves if they were an issue for her (Because, again, it’s not a big job), but it seems she just couldn’t get past the idea of them, so that was that.
After that, I stopped stressing so much about everything. I’m still keeping the house clean, and refusing to let anyone touch the towels in the bathroom ever, on pain of death, but as for that perfect ten I’m after? I’ve realised I’m never going to get it. I actually don’t think it exists, because when you’re buying someone else’s home there will always be SOMETHING that’s not quite to your taste, and which you’ll want to change. None of the houses we’ve looked at ourselves have been perfect tens, after all – not even close. That doesn’t stop us liking them, and it won’t stop us eventually buying one of them – we knew when we started this search that, given our limited budget, we wouldn’t be able to buy a dream house, that was perfect down to the last detail – but people like Our Lady of the Shoe Shelves seem to have different expectations, and I just have to accept that no matter how hard I try to make everything perfect, there will always be something that will turn some people off. It’s just like they say: you can please some of the people, some of the time…
… and the rest are The Others, and I didn’t want to sell my house to them anyway.
*tosses hair, flounces off into sunset *