Myrna’s clean house gave us a real head start

#476 in a series of true experiences in real estate
Novermber 2004, Hills Newspapers

We couldn’t believe how clean Myrna left her house when she moved. Immaculate.

I stood in the bathroom and looked at all the surfaces thinking about my own bathroom at home. This room required nothing. No new paint, no bathtub swishing, nothing.

The kitchen cupboards, too, were amazingly clean. We expected to find, as we do in most houses, an old jar of molasses on a top shelf, dusty, forgotten. Or a tarnished chafing dish, long out of use. But no, it was as if all contents had been removed and the cupboards scrubbed before we got there.

We asked Myrna’s friend, Bethany, about the fine condition of things. We knew that Myrna had had knee replacement surgery a few months back. Surely she hadn’t been climbing on a stool to wash out cupboards. Had she hired a housekeeper? No, she’d never had help.

Maybe elves had come in the night, we thought. Whatever the explanation, it was nice to find a house so orderly. Full of belongings, to be sure, but clean ones.

A crew embarked on getting Myrna’s house clear and ready to sell. First the good women who removed from drawers, closets and cupboards all that Myrna had decided to leave behind when she moved to assisted living. They sorted, did research on silver and china patterns and their values, then affixed price tags.

On and off for a week they worked laying out the smaller goods on tables. Then it was time for the two-day sale where quite a lot was sold, including clay pots from the garden and a ladder that had been resting alongside the house.

Next a crew arrived to remove what remained. Some would be discarded or donated but most would be taken to a local flea market. And now, our hauler, plus assistants, arrived to load up old stray lumber and fence boards, rotting wood long used in the garden but unneeded now, tree prunings, rusted patio furniture.

Our stager selected paint colors, a lovely soft shade of meringue-like yellow, and some white. The painter arrived to talk with us about what we’d like painted, and to give us a bid, and the floor people came to discuss the wooden floors.

Repairs would be made, too. The water heater was to be strapped, a weathered plywood overhang at the back of the house removed, and after some discussion, we decided to have the washing machine moved from the kitchen to the finished basement area adjacent to the clothes dryer.

With the washing machine gone, the kitchen would have extra space – with hot and cold water and waste line intact – so we and the stager and contractor talked about what might be put there. We could leave the space open, use it for a prep table, or add a second sink, but in this 1950s-era galley kitchen, we thought the best idea was to install a dishwasher.

For not a large expenditure, a dishwasher and cabinet could be added, and we all agreed, these would be a very good addition.

But first, before we made recommendations about spending money on renewal and upgrades to Myrna, we wanted to have the health of the house checked out. Over a period of about 4 hours, the general physical inspection was made, and just about everything the inspector found was good.

Roof, foundation, seismic work, furnace, central air conditioning, fireplace – all good. There are a few minor items that will require attention someday but nothing screams for immediate remedy.

And so we made a budget, listed the bids and our estimates for paint, newly sealing the wooden floors, dishwasher and cabinet, garden work, hauling, window washing, and light staging, and we conveyed these to Myrna and her friend, her helper, Bethany.

All was agreed to, and we made a schedule, made dates for workmen to begin, and then, that very day, when it happened that it was raining rather hard, we got an alarming phone call from the “estate sale lady.”

By fantastic good fortune, she was at the house removing the last few things when water began to pour onto the bathroom floor and into the finished basement rooms.

“It looks serious,” she said, and we went at once.

As we drove, we telephoned a plumber, and for the second time that day, there was a miracle. The plumber was already in the area and would meet us shortly. Now we prayed that the wooden floors were not wet.

There was a lot of water, but none on anything wooden. And it wasn’t sewer water, thank goodness, but rain water misdirected by a sump pump.

The plumber stopped the flow, diagnosed the problem, figured how to fix it. We dumped buckets and wiped up.

Close call, and so very much thankfulness. Sometimes things really do turn out extremely well.

The painters started their work the next day spreading soft, smiling yellow on the inside of Myrna’s clean house.

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