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Regional Archives The Altamont Enterprise, June 24, 2010

Adventures in real estate — episode two
Why can’t Realtor appreciate old floors?

By Jo E. Prout

I cleaned the house like a madwoman, just before the caravan came through. The caravan is both a blessing and a curse; real-estate agents travel together to view new houses on the market, conceivably to be more familiar with the homes their buyers might like to buy.

The blessing? You, the seller, now have several competing real estate agents who can describe your house intimately.

The curse? You, the seller, now receive multiple opinions on why your house is over-priced, unsellable, and not worth the wood with which it was built. Heathens.

I didn’t mean to do it, but I managed to offend one of the Realtors. We live in a small town. I know a lot of people. I chose a different Realtor.

The value of my home in her previously-friendly eyes? Less than that of the trailer she’s marketing just down the road. If my home were a trailer, I suppose that would be fine. It isn’t a trailer. It’s not fine.

One agent walked in, zoomed through the house in 30 seconds, and left. He suggested that we raze our historic home, sell the 25 acres that remain, and try to get $30,000 for the land.

I swear, I never met the man! I didn’t offend him. He doesn’t even read our newspaper! How did he get in the caravan in the first place? Why did he come? These, and the answers to the universe, we’ll never know.

I laughed at the sheer ignorance of some of the agents’ comments, many of them parroted straight from HGTV design shows set in suburbia mid-America.  Three different agents told me to refinish my floors.

Home Depot is an invasive capital species; if your home doesn’t look shiny and new, it must be sanded, stamped, stained, trimmed, or otherwise reinvented with the help of easy-to-use rental tools, available on site for only $50 per day.

I bought my house because of its floors. The patina of age and use tells stories of its history. Babies have been born here, old men have died here, and a wolf-dog used to climb the stairs and scuff the wood with its strong claws. My older floors are perfect.

I know marketing is different than appreciation. I planned my bedroom according to a furniture ad photo I found in a country-home magazine that caters to New York City people who move to the Berkshires and Buck County, Pa.

I fell in love with the photo before I found this house. The photo shows reproduction antiques with time worn quilts thrown over them, resting on slightly faded and scratched wood floors.

I found the house next, then searched antique stores until I found a photo-similar bed — a four-poster 1970s reproduction in pieces in a corner for $40. One of my grandmother’s handmade quilts over it made the life-sized picture just right.

The imperfect upstairs floors will remain as they are. When I want to see new Home Depot-style floors, I go down to my dining-room addition. Silly agents! Suburban mid-Americans aren’t going to look twice at this house. I’ll clean, I’ll paint, I’ll add new sidewalks, porch railings, and flower pots, but I’m not refinishing the older floors.

One agent had nothing to say about my house, other than that it is lovely. She’s right; it is. She suggested that I clean the windows and let in light. I considered that comment “nothing.”

If someone doesn’t want to buy a 25-acre farm, I can convince them to buy one because I cleaned the windows? I don’t think so. I’m not opposed to clean windows, I just didn’t manage to find any while rushing around a huge house like a madwoman, picking up after three kids, a husband, and two dogs.

The dogs! Two of those so-called agents said that my house has “pet odor.” It’s a good thing the comments I received were written, or I likely would not have been civil to two of the agents. The agents may not have been civilly escorted out of my home, either.

There are two things about me that are unwavering: I clean constantly, and, if I were a super-hero, my super sense would be smell.

I can’t leave something out of place, or unwiped, or plain icky because I develop a tic if the ickiness remains where it is. I also give lessons out of my home three times a week, which means that my piano room, home to the dog crates, gets cleaned three times a week at a minimum.

My sense of smell entertains, and bugs the heck out of, my family. My husband and kids tire of me yelling at them from upstairs to put away food I smell that has been left out in the kitchen. They roll their eyes and walk away from me when I ask how many hours it’s been since they ate the tortilla chips I smell on their breath. They ignore me when I walk past them and tell them they stink and to go shower immediately.

If my home smelled like a pet, the pet would be long gone. I guarantee that the agents’ houses are not as neat nor as sanitary nor as nice-smelling as mine. I’ve been to two of their homes. I know what I’m talking about.

My agent reassured me that the grumpy agents merely saw the crates and used “pet odor” as a tired cliché because they had nothing to say. Better to have said nothing, I say.

This adventure in selling has been dismal, so far. Only one of the agents — sadly, not even mine — thinks much of my house. A whole month has gone by, and we finally figured out that the listing had not even been posted because of a typo when it was supposed to have been uploaded to the Realtor’s website. A whole month of the selling season gone!

Summer is here, and, not surprisingly, not a single interested person, certainly not counting that agent who wants us to burn the place, has seen our house. We’re starting to make plans to stay for the next winter. That means maintaining the house for another year.

Maybe we’ll put in a new furnace. We won’t recoup any money on it, but we’ll be that much farther ahead next year. Warmer, wiser, woozy. And, clean.

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