Wednesday, February 22, 2006

"For Sale" Doesn't Say It All



Register columnist

I'm staring at a sign right now. A big, ugly red sign that should read, "Go Away," but instead, for whatever reason, says, "For Sale."

I know it's just a few pieces of wood slapped together and painted, probably against its will, but I can't help deeply loathing this sign.

It is, as they say, a bad sign. I wish it ill.

Behind the sign sits my house. My home. Which, at this writing, has been "for sale" for exactly 12 hours and has already garnered an obscene number of interested callers. I had to flee my own home for half the day with my dog and baby (a lot harder than it sounds) so that some cruel and nasty couple could tromp through it.

Through my home. My house. Which is soon going to be "my old house," or "that place where we used to live."

Forgive me if this sounds quaint. I know Orange County's maddening market has yielded many home-flippers. But this is our first house, which means it's our first time selling a house. Which means this is the first time I've had to come to grips with my home as a commodity, and I don't much care for it.

This is the first place I've ever lived where I could sit peacefully and read for more than a few minutes without fidgeting. We've thrown great parties here. Had our son here. Done a ton of therapeutic gardening here. And now we're going to leave it. Sell it. To someone else.

We're doing the right thing financially and psychically: We're moving to an apartment to cut expenses, and we're moving closer to Hubby's work so he can cut his commute. But I am feeling gutted. And since I can't hide under my covers (our agent says potential buyers are put off by unseemly lumps), I am going to buck up and put together a listing - I mean a list - of things I have learned so far in the process. (You choose your coping mechanism, I'll choose mine.)

1. The previous owners were not as tidy as I had thought. When we first saw the house, I marveled at how Dwell-magazine-like everything looked. They had a 4-month-old baby, a dog and a cat, but the house looked like no one lived in it. Now I know why: Their agent told them it had to. I'll bet you a cramped Accord they stuffed laundry baskets, family photos and baby toys into the back seats of theircars to give their home a more spacious appearance, too.

2. My mother is odd. Aside from suggesting that I bake a cake every time someone is scheduled to come look at the house ("It gives off an inviting smell," she says), she is under the impression that we are not moving, but rather, "running away" from her. "No, Mom," I tell her. "We're moving because it's better for Zev. The fact that you'll be farther away is just an added bonus."

3. Real estate agents eat bunnies for breakfast and wash them down a kitty-puppy puree.

4. My friends are terrible liars. "That's gr that'll be really I think you guys are doing the right thing. I think. Really," has been the predominant reaction.

5. As much as I hate them, "For Sale" signs are entirely too small. Those little placards don't have enough room on them to tell the full story of the homes they advertise.

On the inside of our home, the story is one of a family in transition.

Of a young couple taking a risk and praying it pays off. It is a story both terrifying and exciting - and, at turns, unbelievably sad.

But from the outside, it's just another single-story home, just another house. From the outside, it's just "For Sale."

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