So I’ve been house-hunting. For the first time ever. And I’ve learned some things. Not things that new buyers need to know, necessarily—I think I’m still figuring that part out—but things that sellers should know. Things that I’ve learned after evenings spent traipsing from hovel to abode and from palace to shanty, my vision blurred from sweat, my disposition already soured by the constant, needling thought of how much money I’ll be spending.
So much new debt, so long ridiculous dream of retiring at 40.
Well, if I find a house, that is. Because frankly, it’s ridiculously hard. And yeah, I’ve heard everyone state that they looked at 50-1,000 houses before buying, and maybe I’ve only looked at 15 or so. And maybe Prairie Village is an unforgiving mistress due to her insatiable appetite for dollars-per-square-footage, penchant for scary basements and undying desirability.
But honestly, I don’t think I’m asking TOO much. I don’t expect a mansion, or anything even remotely close. All I want is a few bedrooms, a couple of bathrooms, and a deep well in the backyard that I can chuck shit down. (The well is negotiable.)
What I DON’T want, however, is a crap-shack. And believe me, I’ve seen plenty. On more than one occasion in this journey, I’ve walked into a house and had an almost immediate desire to turn right around and pretend like the whole thing was an accident. I literally couldn’t even fathom how some of these people were expecting to sell their house.
(Maybe they weren’t? Maybe they were hiding in the closet masturbating, the owner of a bizarre sexual fetish that can only be satiated by watching strangers finger their drapery.)
In any case, if you REALLY want to sell your house—like, for serious—here are some tips.
Look, I like cats. They’re cute and cuddly and they do adorable shit like get stuck in paper bags or whatever.
They piss on everything, though. Everything. On the walls, on the carpet, in the fireplace. It doesn’t matter. If it’s a surface, a feline will spray urine all over it. And it smells. Awful. A lingering odor of rotted pine and ammonia that punches you in the goddamned face and makes you realize that, “Hey, a cat pissed here. Frequently, even!” And like the outline of a decomposed corpse on a nice hardwood floor, it doesn’t go away. Your house will forever be haunted by the stink of a million cat accidents. I will not buy your house, and neither will anyone else. Raze it.
If You Smoke, Don’t.
See above. The stink isn’t as permanent, but it takes a good, long while to eradicate. So if you just crushed out an unfiltered Lucky Strike moments before I entered your house, it will still smell like it. And when I come clip-clopping through, every movement I make will kick up new clouds of carcinogens. I will not want to buy your house. Most other folks will not, either. You may not need a complete demolition, but you’re going to have to work on airing that shit out. Seriously, who even still smokes in their house, anyway? Isn’t that what your back deck is for? Or your stoop? Or your porch?
I get it. I’m not the most fastidious guy when it comes to cleanliness. My toilet gets a little unkempt at times, and my mirror gets splattered with a fine peppering of toothpaste particles. I am NOT, however, trying to get a stranger to look at my mess and say, “You know what, wife? I like this guy’s style. I’M BUYING HIS SHIT-BOX WITH NARY A SECOND THOUGHT!” If I were, I’d sure as hell put a little effort into cleaning up. A little baseboard scrubbing. Some elbow grease. I’d Tidy-Bowl and Swiffer my way into a sale, or at least die trying.
You wouldn’t BELIEVE (or maybe you would, if you’ve gone house-buying recently) how little people seem to care. Poop-stains on the carpet. Wads of chewing tobacco left for posterity on the back of the toilet tank. Dust and grime and graveyards of dead bugs in the corner of the garage. Is it really that hard to run a broom through the place? You wouldn’t expect me to buy an excruciatingly filthy car, would you? Then why would I buy something equally as dirty, only at 15-20x the cost?
Again, this seems like a no-brainer, but, well… I mean, what is the FIRST thing a person sees when they pull up to your house? It’s not your house’s “meticulously maintained hardwood floors!” or “all new kitchen fixtures!” That stuff is INSIDE, hidden behind THE KNEE-HIGH GRASS AND WEEDS clogged with poisonous snakes, gopher holes and rust covered tricycles. This isn’t a deal-breaker, obviously—I can mow it—but it kind of starts off the tour on a really poor note. If you can’t be bothered to mow your lawn, how can I reasonably expect that you’ve kept up with other routine maintenance items?
A Solitary New Sink Doesn’t Mean “Recently Renovated!”
Everyone loves new, shiny things. Light fixtures! Granite counter tops! Pretty sink! GLASS TILE BACKSPLASH! But if your only actual renovation is that you installed a couple of pewter faucet-handles in the master bath, I’m not going to overlook the cat skeletons in the rec room and you shouldn’t be flapping your gums about just how “recently renovated” your home is. And I know it’s a sales tactic—like “cozy!” means tiny and “charming!” means old and “solid structure/good bones!” means old and shitty—but it only works to get you in the door. And while “getting someone in the door” is over half of the battle when selling home stereo systems or elaborate fish tanks, it means squat when you’re selling a house.
Close to Everything! Could Mean Absolutely Anything.
This is the “don’t piss on my steak and tell me it’s juicy” principle. Of course the house you’re selling is close to everything; we’re in a metropolis, not Snake Rape, Montana. Right now, we’re all reasonably close to lakes, museums, lots of chic eateries, beautiful, rolling hills, vast expanses of peaceful prairie, scenic fountains, upscale shopping and lots of places where you can get your tires mounted, balanced and rotated. Close to everything means nothing. It’s a hollow phrase that conveys desperation and a lack of anything really interesting to say. Please refrain from using this vapid expression in your listings.
It just won’t. I swear. I don’t know if I’ve seen a legit two-car garage yet. And it’s one of those things that you notice upon viewing, so I’m not sure why you lie about it. Again, not a HUGE deal breaker, but if it were, I’d be angry. And you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry. You know, because then I probably wouldn’t buy your house or whatever.
And I’ll stop here. You’re welcome. I honestly could go on and on about this—I’m becoming quite passionate about home-shopping—but my phone just dinged, alerting me that there’s a new house to look at. If you need me, I’ll be stabbing my eyes out with a fork because WHO SERIOUSLY THINKS IT’S OK TO POST ONE FUCKING PHOTO OF THEIR HOUSE?
I’m on Twitter, @StanfordWhistle