Is there any more daunting challenge than placing your home on the market? Finding a new owner for your house, your home, your shelter, your nurturing boards and batten, is surely at the top of the list of things that make your nerves feel like downed power lines, hissing and snapping wildly on a wet and windy and lonely street. It feels like being on stage, in a bikini and high heels, in a beauty pageant, flashing a big, phony smile on your face. It feels like trying to please a lover who is a complete stranger. Would they like it this way? Or that way? White walls or green? Blue towels or beige?
We property sellers are advised to wipe our houses clean of our personalities, so that potential buyers may envision themselves living here, with their own chairs and quilts and paintings. Mementos of living, of children, of friends and many good things that have happened to us, are referred to as "clutter" and "stuff".
First we made many trips to the Salvation Army Thrift Store. Then we simply put stuff out on the sidewalk, where it was gratefully carried off by passersby, to furnish their houses and dreams. And so we have stripped our house of anything evocative of our many years in Paradise. Our house now resembles a hotel room. Practical. Easy in and out. Temporary. Sensible. Just the facts, Ma'am. At its stuffed and cluttered best, our house is warm, cozy and ever so sweet, so full of the riches of love and laughter and life it should sell for a billion dollars. But, though it feels as if we are, we are not selling our love stories. We are selling a wooden house, a house built way before we were born, a house that will stand long after we are gone.
|Pregnant with Miguel and a new house.|
|411 Truman down to her Dade County Pine bones.|
|Then. . .|
Selling a house is hard on a marriage. Even the best marriages, therapists say, are prone to buckle under the weight of complicated fiduciary affairs. Every high-impact window, every appliance, every tile in the bathroom has arrived only when we could afford it. We have worked hard. None of it has come easy. There is pride invested in this place. We did not swoop into this house and make it a home in a week or a month or even a year. Our home has evolved. And evolution is hard-won and very often painful. A wooden house is demanding. Alive. It has needs which must be met. It is old, and a bit crotchety. But with age comes enormous strength and fortitude. This is a sturdy house; safe and sane shelter from the storm.
In strictly practical terms, our greatest attribute, a feature not to be viewed lightly by potential buyers, is our off-street parking. There is a driveway! Do you have any idea of the value of off-street parking in downtown Key West? It has occurred to us that we might put the driveway on the market and keep the house.
Our house has central air conditioning, making our lives much more than bearable. On the very occasional cold day, there is heat. No more warming ourselves by sticking our feet into an open oven! Our sweet haven is cool, calm, remarkably quiet and serene. What makes it all the more remarkable is the wonder of having Key West right outside our door. Walk a block in any direction and you will find something worth seeing or doing or just being next to. Or sit on the porch and watch the whole world go by, on their way to the Hemingway House or Blue Heaven. Planes fly overhead and we feel happy for the passengers, some coming home, some coming to visit, all about to bask in the special light that is Key West -- and only Key West.
There are ads for houses that state: "Make me move!" I want to post an ad that says: "Help me move on!" It has been a long struggle to come to terms with the cold, hard facts about retiring in a town where everyone's biggest problem is finding a cozy place to live, and a place to park a car.
Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose. Freedom's just another word for not having a mortgage. What we need now is freedom.
Selling our house is like having an appointment with the dentist to have our wisdom teeth pulled. We are ready. We are scared, but we know it must be done. When it's over, we will be happy, and healthy, and comfortable. Let's just do it!
From our back deck I can see the tops of Hemingway's trees, swaying in the breeze, and sometimes, his ghost, snickering just above the tourists lining up, with their cameras and their guidebooks, to visit the house he once called his own. When all is said and done, a house is just a house. Creating a story, living the dream, that's up to you.
For a virtual tour of the home click here: