Sellers must be ready to ‘let go’ if they want to sell

#605 in a series of true experiences in real estate
July 2010, Hills Newspapers

I knew John when he was an insurance broker. I was only about 30 then and had bought an Italian sports car, cute and light yellow, but was having trouble getting insurance. John got it for me.

After that we all got older and we lost touch until John called one day saying he and his wife wanted to sell their house. John told me he was sick and wasn’t going to live for long. His wife Carol had had a stroke leaving her unable to dress on her own or do her own makeup, both important to her. Their kids were grown and living out of state. They thought selling and moving to independent living nearby made most sense.

It was quite an interesting house, a “contemporary” as they are referred to by agents, which John and Carol had bought 40 years before. The house was new; it had a bay view; it was just their style; they bought it.

One neighbor down hill of the house now had large trees obscuring the view but John and Carol said they didn’t intend to ask the neighbors to cut them. John was sure that a Cal professor would want the house and he’d already decided what that buyer would pay for it. We thought it unlikely that a professor could afford the price, plus we thought the price was too high. But it hadn’t been decided when the house would go on the market yet, so we agreed to agree.

For the next month or so John and Carol visited nearby independent living residences. But they did not like what they found. Some cost too much. At others there was a long waiting list. While John’s activities were not limited by his illness yet, he knew they would be and he was anxious to get on with things. Still, they couldn’t move “just anywhere”, and who could blame them?

John joked that the best place was run by the Baptists because the Baptists would allow a cocktail before dinner. John and Carol had lived in their house during the cocktail party era and had built an impressively stocked bar on the main floor near the large entertainment areas. Rows and rows of beautiful bottles were displayed on glass shelves, destined to be given away, John said, but while they were still there, he’d fix a cocktail just for us.

He made us one we’d never had before: a mint julep. John stood behind the bar and muddled fresh mint leaves, adding simple syrup, shaved ice and bourbon. It was quite a show.

We talked again about the future. We had all hoped that they would find something suitable; locating a place they could look forward to would be the best possible situation. But it just wasn’t happening.

They now wanted to sell the house first and figure it out later. For a number of reasons we thought this was not the right thing to do but we agreed. We had the house cleaned and the windows washed. Some of their furniture was rearranged or put away. Anet and I hired a floral designer who delivered a striking arrangement for a low table under a vaulted ceiling. We thought it was exactly on mark but John and Carol came home one afternoon to find it and John was instantly on the phone to us. “No, never. That bouquet must go. We don’t like it.”

The truth was they didn’t want to go. They were hoping to stay forever. The house wasn’t selling anyway. At first they were not worried about it. “Lots of people will love this house,” they said. “It won’t be long.”

But more weeks passed without an offer. Now they were concerned. “Why doesn’t anyone like our house?” they asked.

They still hadn’t decided where they would be moving. They hadn’t yet parceled out belongings to their kids. But it seemed to us that they were now ready to let go. We believe that it is sometimes the case that a house does not sell because the sellers are holding it back for themselves. Visitors feel it and they go away.

The house did sell soon afterward. Carol and John did not end up with the Baptists but rented an apartment instead.

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