Sunday, December 16, 2007

A stressful chapter finally closes

There are many things I would have preferred to do rather than trying to sell our house through the wintertime, such as hiking the Appalachian Trail in my wife’s “going out” heels or being a gladiator with a losing record.

Everyone knows you can’t sell a house in the winter. That’s because, even when it comes to a tough buyers’ market like the one we have right now, every real estate agent knows the secret to making a sale: balloons. Balloons, especially when tied to roadside signs, hypnotize buyers with their gentle bobbing, compelling purchases that otherwise never would have occurred. Used car salesmen know this secret as well, though they diversify their offerings with plastic flags and giant inflatable men with waggling arms. The concept is the same: mesmerize the buyer with colorful moving objects so that they don’t notice the water damage or the cracked headlight.

When the weather turns cold, though, real estate agents’ most powerful weapon is neutralized. Balloons hang limply, if at all, signifying a long, bitter stretch until St. Patrick’s Day, when the homebuyer drunkenly crawls out of its hole, seeing its shadow and waiting another six weeks before getting pre-approved for a mortgage.

Fortunately, my wife and I narrowly avoided this fate, with a closing scheduled for tomorrow afternoon, two weeks short of a year from when we began selling. If everything goes according to plan, our long-vacant albatross will finally be hung around somebody else’s neck. I mean that in the nicest way, of course, and honestly, I don’t even know how you hang an albatross, what with all the wing flapping and carrying on that would likely ensue. Regardless, if everything doesn’t go according to plan, please be advised that my next column may be a Caps Locked expletive repeated 650 times.

They call it “closing” because “closing the most stressful chapter of your life” takes up too much space on the paperwork. This will likely be the last closing I’ll ever attend, because if we ever have to move again, I think we’ll just peel out of the driveway in the moving truck with the house ablaze behind us.

If you’ve never been to a closing, it’s really an interesting display of civic pride. Pretty much the entire community shows up to ensure, in the spirit of brotherhood and fellowship, that every last cent has been whittled off your hide. You could walk through the monkey cage at the zoo with bunches of bananas in your pants and you would have fewer hands in your pockets than you do at a closing. Representatives of the real estate companies, the title company, the lending companies, Uncle Sam, Danny Bonaduce and his mom all show up to get their cut. Even so, we’re thrilled to have gotten this far along in what has been a gut-wrenching process, and I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to jinx it all by writing about it before the deed, as it were, is done.

When one of my co-workers found out that we had finally gotten a closing date, she asked, “Do you have any pointers on selling a house? We’ve been trying for a few months now.”

You’d think that with nearly a year of experience, I might have had something worthwhile to tell her. After all, while selling a house in this market is difficult, selling a house with only one bathroom is even more difficult, especially when that bathroom would easily lose a playground fight with a broom closet.

After mulling over every lesson I’d learned in the past year, I said, “Is burning it down an option?” OK, not really. My real advice was to drop the price, whatever it was.

“What about refinishing the floors?” she asked.

“Drop the price.”

“Baking cookies before an open house?”

“Drop the price.”

Of course, even dropping the price doesn’t always help. Until balloon season rolls around again, though, the best option is probably the inflatable dude with the waggling arms.

You can pop Mike Todd’s balloon at


  1. Ahhh...the joys of selling a home. This reminds me of exactly why I will die in this house! :)

  2. It must have been a guy that bought it. Women have to have more than one bathroom, and a decent kitchen area. Or we don't touch. LOL

    Seriously though, congratulations!!!!

  3. Thanks, dudes! And Schmoo, that sounds like an excellent plan.