Selling your house is a strange business. We’ve had our house on the market for the better part of a month now. Another way of phrasing that is that we’ve had our home on the Internet, where strangers get to casually thumb through pictures and judge our furnishings taste. Nearly every day, people that I don’t know have walked into my bedroom, taking a look at some of the most personal details of my life. For the first two weeks, before we saw any offers, I have to admit that this idea of judgement was laying heavily on me. I am not generally a very self-conscious person, but day after day of knowing that my house was not good enough for the many people that walked through it left me feeling strangely vulnerable.
That’s emotion for you. We’ve been going to open houses, so I know well how the psychology of a buyer goes. We have yet to see a house that has really excited us, for some pretty arbitrary reasons, so it’s hardly surprising that other people would feel the same about ours, is it?
We are in a buyer’s market, as well, so I know that my strange little house, with its unique architecture and zoning, isn’t going to be for everyone. We’re in a semi-detatched, which means that we’re one side of a duplex. It’s like a townhouse, but not when it comes to appraisals. And that’s going to make the next week or so really interesting.
We’ve had a decent offer. It should give us just enough money from the sale to find a house with most of the things that we’re looking for. There are no guarantees, of course. An offer is not a sale. Our realtor is currently negotiating with the buyer to see if we can’t inch up the purchase price. They could walk away. Since there are no comparable sales, the appraisal could come back with a weird enough number that the buyer’s mortgage falls through. Still, we’ve gotten hopeful enough that we’ve started the motions towards a new mortgage. I’ve been looking at houses for sale for so long that I actually got bored of it, but now I’m trying to convince myself to start doing my research again.
Long Island is insanely expensive, so we’ll undoubtedly have to make compromises. We’re not afraid of renovations, but I have to admit that there’s a part of me that is mourning the idea of leaving my renovated and finished house and starting all over with another fixer-upper. Our home, at this point, is perfectly customized for us. Who wants to start that over?
I keep coming back to this image that I had as a girl of what my life would look like when I had it all figured out. It’s just flashes — a house with a waterfront view, where waves break against a rocky cliff. My legs, in grey leggings, underneath an oversized blue sweater. A desk facing the window, where I would spend my days quietly writing.
In none of those images were there other people or houses. I longed for space in the way that only a lifetime apartment dweller can. To have a home where you don’t hear the arguments of your neighbors, imposing on your solitude?
Now the real estate market is down, which will help us in buying, but certainly isn’t going to net us the hundreds of thousands in profit that people enjoyed during the real estate bubble. And, even though it is a buyer’s market, I see house after house where it’s clear that the sellers still are thinking in terms of housing bubble prices. We’re trying to be more realistic in the hopes of selling reasonably quickly, which does seem to be working. Still, it’s depressing to look at the top of our rather generous price range and see 70s fabulous houses on tiny lots, with neighboring houses clustered all around. That mirrored wall in the bathroom is retro, right? Who doesn’t want to watch themselves…well…
Obviously I will not get that wood-floored ocean-facing desk of my dreams. I certainly won’t get that isolated house on a cliff, where I can ignore the world around me, while watching the most peaceful part of nature. And why should I? Wouldn’t it be selfish to hog such a view? But I can’t help but dream of a room of my own, a space where my desk will look at something more beautiful than a basement wall. We have to be in the New York area for now, because our careers need it. But it won’t always be this way. There will be a time when I can step away and find a little town where I can have my house on a hill, where I can replace my crowded train commute with a walk to the garden.
In the meantime, we’ve just booked a quick trip to Ireland to celebrate a family wedding. Although I really wanted to go, I initially found the idea overwhelming, because there were things to plan and sort and figure out. Then I found an apartment in Malahide, which is a quiet suburb of Dublin that’s right on the coast. We’ve rented it, because it is near friends that we have not spent enough time near in years. Today I found that I could think of anything but getting to it and listening to the quiet inside it. Our house will come and go as it will, but one thing that I can count on is that I’ll be walking along the shore in Ireland in just three weeks time. I can’t wait.