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  • Jan Flynn

Live Like Everyone’s Watching

The weirdness of selling the home we live in

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Our house doesn’t feel like our house right now

We’re selling it — in fact, it goes live on the market in a couple of days — and that means it’s no longer our home, our refuge from the crazy, chaotic, COVID-corrupted world. It’s now a product. A fungible asset, which we have decided to liquidate, and while that does not mean we are literally shoving the whole contraption into a blender, at the moment it kind of feels that way.

Our house is only seven years old and is in excellent condition. But in the piping hot Bay Area real estate market, expectations understandably run high, so our agent recommended some touches here and there to get the place up to market snuff.

Those touches translated into a few solid weeks of labor, mostly for my husband who has the dubious gift of being handy, although I got my mitts dirty too. We embarked on cleaning, window washing, power washing, painting the front door, sprucing up the garden, and removing all evidence that people who clean or paint or garden or do anything but summon unseen servants might live here.

And then there was our stuff. This isn’t my first rodeo, so I knew that personal clutter had to go. But by the time our realtor determined our house was camera-ready, there wasn’t a hint that the two of us had ever been here.

It’s like we’ve joined the Witness Protection Program. Every family photo, banished for the duration. It doesn’t look as though nobody lives here. Just nobody identifiable. 

And that, I realize, is the point. Prospective buyers should be able to imagine themselves in o̶u̶r̶ ̶h̶o̶u̶s̶e̶ the property, without having to look past our personal detritus. What remains  — furniture, rugs, paintings, a few objects, bright fresh flowers — functions as staging. Basically, we live in a catalog photo.

All to the good, and exactly what we asked the realtor to do. Now, however, we tiptoe around, unsure if it’s worth it to cook a real meal and risk messing up the pristine kitchen or just do take-out yet again. I keep reaching for a Kleenex and realizing I’ve stashed all the boxes. The dog is under orders to refrain from shedding.

This is all our choice, after all, and in pursuit of what we’ve decided is the best move for us. But already it feels like our lives are in escrow, held in some transitional limbo between the life that had grown so familiar here and the life we have yet to create there. Meanwhile, we’re hanging out in the interstices between becoming market-ready and the frantic activity that will be unleashed once we find a buyer.

Who doesn’t love packing?

That photographer really knows what he’s doing, though. We got the link to the photos yesterday, and we think they look pretty damn good. Judge for yourself, if you like:

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