Selling off realty can be a fiasco

Sunday, March 14, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 11:11 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 14, 2008

My husband and I decided that it is time to sell our lake house. With three levels and five bedrooms it was the perfect place for our children and their children to visit. But now that most of the grandkids are in school, they’re far too busy to spend time at the lake away from their friends and activities.

Putting a house on the market is a pain in the neck. First we had to fill out a six-page disclosure that I didn’t have a clue as how to answer some of the questions.

“Were we aware of any radon in the home?”

I don’t know what radon is, let alone how to check to see if we have any.

I thoroughly cleaned the house and called an agent. When figuring out a selling price most folks add a few thousand emotional dollars to the price tag. And I will say we did the same. Our agent nicely told us we were just a bit high — say $20,000 too high. We agreed to lower our price, secretly thinking we were giving the property away.

The worst part of selling a house is showing it. Although you live there, you have to make it look like you don’t. I go to the lake to relax and doing mundane chores takes all the fun out of my “retreat.”

Two weeks ago, my husband and I went down on a Thursday. My husband has an office there and after he went to work I started sorting the box of documents I had saved during 2003 for tax preparation. Instead of filing canceled checks and receipts each month (a habit I promise myself every February that I’ll begin) I throw all of it in a box along with other assorted stuff that I don’t want to throw away.

I began my task at 8:30 a.m. I hadn’t showered or even changed out of my PJs. The dinner dishes were still sitting in the sink and the bed wasn’t made. There were catalogs on the coffee table and strewn over the floor. But I was in my own little world. The last thing I was thinking was that someone would want to show the house, it was Thursday after all and people didn’t look at lake property until Friday afternoon or the weekend.

By 1:30 p.m., my kitchen looked like a paper bomb had exploded. I had piles on the table, the counters and the island. And I had a big mound of trash on the floor. I was almost to the bottom of the box when the phone rang.

“Hello, is this Mrs. Harl?” a woman asked, very business-like.

Thinking it was a telemarketer I responded impatiently, “Yes, this is she.”

“We would like to show your property at 2 p.m.”

“But that’s only 30 minutes from now,” I said panicking.

“Actually, our notes say you come down on Fridays, so we didn’t know you were home,” she said, sounding perturbed that I had the gall to be there a day early. “I’m afraid the realtor and client are on the way.”

“Fine,” I shouted, throwing the phone and racing to the bedroom.

I found a pair of semiclean sweats and put them on. I stopped at the mirror. Good God, I was a mess, but I had no time to comb my hair, let alone apply makeup.

I ran to the bed and pulled the comforter up, trying to smooth the lumps. I found a pair of shoes on the living room floor, but had no time to find socks. I wedged my feet into the shoes and started picking up the catalogs. I threw all of them in the trash, even the ones I hadn’t read. I raced to the kitchen sink and started piling the dishes into the dishwasher. I had a frying pan with congealed grease a half-inch thick. Not stopping to wipe out the excess fat, I just threw it on top of the glasses. I ran downstairs and checked all the rooms, putting the lid down on the toilets.

Back upstairs I looked at the clock: I had nine minutes before they were to arrive. Without thinking, I started throwing all of the paper piles back into the box. I picked up the trash, took the bulging liner out of the can and threw it into the front seat of my car. I grabbed my two dogs and put them in the back seat. Then I raced back inside for one more look through. I found some air freshener and sprayed like crazy. I grabbed my keys and left the house. As my garage door was opening I spotted the van at the end of the block headed my way.

For the next hour, I sat in my car with a garbage sack as my passenger. The dogs whined, wondering why I was sitting in an empty parking lot staring out the window. I had spent five hours getting our tax information sorted and in two minutes I had destroyed my efforts. My husband gets to go through the box next. And no, the “client” didn’t buy our house.

If you have a comment or want a nice lake house on a quiet cove, please e-mail me at

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