First of all, in all fairness, I want to eat cake all of the time – not just when I am stressed. But, under normal circumstances, I can “Just Say No” and move on with something more constructive, like eating Reeses Peanut Butter Puff Cereal. This house thing, though – Man, I might as well make cake one of my main food groups.
It’s been 16 years since we last went down this path, and I don’t know if it’s age, the crappy housing market or Mr. Polar Vortex, but it sure seems harder this time around. To give the folks down at Uncle Mike’s Bakery a break from my window peeping cake stalking, I decided to write down the 10 worst cake-eating inducing culprits of the house selling process. Feel free to eat cake while you read this.
OPEN HOUSES: Is there anything worse than having to clean your house for strangers? Yes. Yes there is. It’s having to clean your house for strangers, and then spend an hour in the car with two hyper little dogs that have face-melting breath, who are dancing nervously on your lap with their pointy little feet digging into your flesh, and a meowing, barfing cat in the back seat. Oh, and then when you get back afterwards, the realtor says, “We only had one couple. They think your house sucks.”. Result: 9″ Marble cake with white frosting and pink flowers from the Pig.
Adorable. Until they breathe in your face.
SHOWINGS: Showings are marginally better, in that the people coming thru are likely more serious and it doesn’t take as long, so you only have to spend about half an hour with the smelly dogs and barfing cat. However, your hopes are pretty high, because you think they are really interested, right? So you wait for feedback, and wait for feedback and then you wait for feedback. And each day you wait is another blow to your house ego. You started this adventure thinking you had the best house in the world. Day One has you at “Good God These People Are Getting a Bargain For What We Have This Priced At!”, and by the time you get your 3rd or 4th showing with little to no response, you are down to “We live in a hovel. Our home is worthless. Nobody love us. Gloom, despair, and agony. We suck. Our house sucks. We will never love again.” Result: 6 pack of giant cupcakes from Festival.
PRE-APPROVAL: To even seriously start looking at houses, realtors want to know you can actually afford what they are showing you. Funny how people don’t like to work without the prospect of being paid. To avoid being labeled a time-wasting pariah, you have to go thru the pre-approval process with your local mortgage lender. Be sure to bring with you your pay stubs, W-2 forms, 401K information, bank statements, certification stating you have access to both of your kidneys, a living specimen of the Palos Verdes blue butterfly, the venom of a black mamba, and the birth certificate of your first-born. While the birth certificate is fine for pre-approval, make sure you bring your actual first-born with you to the closing! Result: Turtle cheescake from Cheesecake Heaven
GETTING AN OFFER: So, after 10 bazillion years of horrible car rides, you finally get an offer. It’s 19 pages of legal mumbo jumbo, and you need a masters in rocket science and Mandarin Chinese just to figure out the date printed at the top of the page. But you sit down with your realtor, who walks you thru it. Basically, they want to buy your house for a decent price, but first, they want to inspect, test, staple, bend, fold, and julienne fry it, and then they want you to pay them some extra money to help defray their costs, and then they also want you to throw in a few appliances, too. Like maybe all of them. But yay! They don’t have a house to sell, so you consider yourself lucky, and sign on the dotted line. Result: Birthday cake!
Lots of birthdays celebrated in this house. Look how old that computer monitor is. And the beanie babies on the shelves. Yikes.
HOME INSPECTION: This is where the buyer hires a certified home inspector to go thru your home and find all the boogers. All homes have them and most homeowners are aware of them. The door that doesn’t shut right or the curling iron burn in the counter top from your rookie fashion diva. However, these are not the things that keep you awake the night before the inspection. It’s the boogers you can’t see – the horror stories you hear from other sellers – like a leaky roof or mold in the attic or a monster living in your sump pump hole. We had a few tense moments as we read the report, but we escaped with minor injuries. One thing to note – the report stated we had a minor gas leak in the furnace, so we called the heating and cooling people, who came over and tested it. It was a leaky valve that took about 10 seconds for the guy to tighten, all to the tune of $70. SEVENTY DOLLARS. But this turned out to be nothing compared to the monster in the sump pump hole. Result: Celebratory heart-shaped Valentine’s Day cake, and a glass of wine.
RADON: The Monster In Your Sump Pump. Most of you have heard about this gas – odorless, colorless, and present in all Wisconsin homes to some degree. In high amounts, it can cause lung cancer. Most home offers now contain a radon test contingency, and then they also have a contingency in there that states who will pay for the mitigation (usually the seller) if it tests above a certain level. So the radon test guy comes over and puts a tester box in your basement and leaves it there for two days. You continually go down there to hover over it, even though you can’t tell anything because the tester they use is cleverly designed not to show the reading. You can only guess that it’s working because of the green light, and you spend a few sleepless nights wondering if you are inhaling radon. Here’s the kicker though. In Wisconsin, radon testing is not regulated by the state. In other words, we have no state certification process, so pretty much anyone can test for radon. And usually the guy who is testing for it is also selling the mitigation system. They offer the test for free (how convenient) and what a surprise to find out you tested high. I’m not saying there isn’t radon in most homes and I get that it’s a real danger. I’m questioning the process when the same people who are testing for it are also making money by putting in the mitigation system. Which is basically a $650 pvc pipe that sticks out of your house, with a fan at the top. In our case, there was the choice of either having it go out the side of the house or out the garage. Our buyers choose the garage. When the radon guy was there, he made it sound like they installed a seal over the sump pump with a pvc pipe that came out of it, that would then run either out the side of the house or across the ceiling to the other side of the house and then out the garage wall. When our buyers choose the garage option, we expected to see a pvc pipe running along the ceiling. Um. No. What they did was seal the top of the sump pump, and then banged a 5” hole in the floor of our basement next to the garage wall, inserted the pvc pipe there and then ran it out the garage, up the attic and out the top of the roof. I actually don’t think the finished product is that bad-looking the way they did it, but it would have been nice to know they would be putting a hole in our basement floor. So now they are retesting it. I asked him if homes ever tested high again after the mitigation system was put in, and he said no – most homes built after 1940 never had a problem because of how they build the foundations since then. Oh, and the new tester whirring away in the basement is completely different from the one they used originally, and they are running the test in a completely different room. Fancy that. Result: Entire row of Oreo cookies. We were out of cake.
APPLIANCES: Okay, so you didn’t really mind giving up your appliances. They are a little long in the tooth, and even though you haven’t cooked a meal in 3 years and the primary occupants of your fridge are half empty condiment bottles, you rationalize that you deserve something new seeing as Dear Hubby got his insulated garage doors and floor drains. You decide to take a break from spazzing about house inspections and radon tests, and troop over to Sears, where you find out how much appliances have changed since the Jurassic period, which is obviously the last time you looked at them, based on those prices. Refrigerators have freezers on the bottom, stoves can bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan, washers don’t have agitators, and everything has an electronic control panel to rival Houston’s NASA center. You will actually have to READ THE DIRECTIONS, just to put your milk in the fridge or wash a load of jeans. With all these new fangled high-tech bells and whistles comes a much shorter appliance life expectancy. Not only will you be shelling out an easy 5 grand, you will be shelling it out again within 10 years. Result: No cake for you. You just spend 5 grand in appliances. Binge on Tums.
GOING THRU ALL YOUR JUNK: When a person moves, they tend to go thru all their crap and start tossing. A great idea, no? Well, it’s all fun and games until someone opens up the box of disorganized photos. I was in the process of chucking the whole works in a big Rubbermaid container when I had the bright idea to go thru them first. I completely ignored the little niggling voice saying “Don’t be a dumb ass. Now is not the time. Toss those suckers in the bin and walk away. You hear me? WALK. AWAY.” I did not walk away. Below is a picture of my first night of going thru photos. By the time I finished four nights later, I had a copy paper box full of double and triple prints to send to recycle and a serious respect for the digital camera. Think about it. The digital camera has changed our lives. We now delete the crappy photos instead of having them processed, groaned over, and stored for umpteen years because we won’t throw them away after we’ve paid for them, damn it. I once processed an entire roll, in doubles, of fuzzy pictures of my son’s model car collection, because I didn’t know what was on the film when I brought it in. My son was in the room with me when I was ran across them. I tossed him a few and said “You owe me $10 bucks for these pictures”. He had the nerve to laugh. Result: DQ ice cream cake.
This was the first night
APPRAISAL: The appraiser is not as bad as the inspector. He just comes in, sees what kind of shape your house is in, takes pictures, measures the outside, and then does a market analysis. However, just like the inspector, you are a slave to his report. If he decides the value of your house is less than what your buyers offered, the whole deal can fall thru. This is our final hurdle. I am hoping we have the results by the time I post this blog. Seriously – if this doesn’t go thru I will lose my shit. And then go buy an entire sheet cake from Uncle Mikes and eat it until I throw up. Result: Aforementioned Uncle Mike’s sheet cake. With chocolate filling.
A different Uncle Mike’s – this one is in Boston. Man, I wish I had gotten that piece of red velvet cake when I was there.
SAYING GOODBYE: As I said above (way way way above…if you are still reading this you deserve a prize of some sort), we have been in our current home for 16 years. We raised our two children here, and have a lot of wonderful memories. It has been such a good house, and an even better home. We will be leaving behind flowers we have planted, neighbors we have befriended, and Rocky-dog foot prints in the extra section of driveway we put in. I have walked this neighborhood with my dogs for over 22 years (our home before this one is only two blocks away), and all the locals know me as the “lady who walks her dogs while reading a book”.
These dogs were made for walkin…
It’s going to be tough to leave. I almost couldn’t do it, and in fact talked to Dave about backing out of everything about a month ago. But then, on my birthday, while driving past the turn to the spec home we wanted to buy, on my way to Door County, I realized how much I loved it out there. How connected I already felt. I said a little prayer then, and asked God that if it was okay with Him, to make it happen. Our buyers came thru later that afternoon.
Now, before I get all sappy and smarmy, I’m going to end this with the note that I really hope it warms up before we move. There’s about 10 inches of polar vortex encrusted dog poop in our back yard. I’m thinking I don’t want to leave that as our legacy to the new owners.
Stay warm, my friends!
PS – We move on the 14th. I may or may not have blog posts the 13th and the following 20th – it will depend on how organized I happen to be.
PPS – No cakes were harmed in the writing of this blog post.
PPSS- I can’t say the same for the Oreos.