Once my husband accepted his “retirement” package, we needed to make decisions, and fast. He had two weeks of employment and I didn’t want to squander a day.
I thought we should list our house right away. We live in the Santa Cruz Mountains and summer––with its long days and tourist traffic––is the prime season for real estate transactions. We’d seen our first house in this town on an August afternoon and the hundred redwood trees we could count from the front porch provided welcome shade from the heat. We moved in on an October day, and those same towering trees blocked the sun until mid-March and dripped water for hours after rainstorms blew through. Damp doesn’t sell houses.
We spoke to my sister––who lives with us––first, and then called our daughters who are college students. We told them we didn’t know what was coming, but we believed it would all work out. And it seemed to me we were being divinely guided. The rumblings at my husband’s work proved true––the program he managed was being drastically cut. The package he took was more generous than a layoff package, and his leaving would allow some (not all) of his coworkers to stay.
We reassured my sister that we were not abandoning her, but that our help would look different than it had in the past. Our oldest daughter is happily ensconced in a condo we were fortunate to buy a year ago as a way to cut our rental costs. She offered to come home and finish cleaning out her old bedroom and help me sort through games and children’s books. Our youngest, on her way to Europe for a month of study was concerned we’d be moved into another house before she returned to California. She needn’t have worried.
We listed our home on July 4th, at the end of a long weekend recycling broken lounge chairs, taking down thousands of Christmas lights and repairing broken household items that add to the clutter, if not the character, of one’s home. Items you plan to attend to someday, things you cease to notice, but know that strangers touring your home will not gloss over them with benevolent eye, but will instead label them junk and enter your home thinking dilapidation not opportunity. In our frenzied preparations, we missed for the first time both our Fire Department’s pancake breakfast, town parade, and fireworks in nearby Scotts Valley.
We met with our realtor, an associate of my husband’s sister, who is also a real estate agent (they’re working together on this listing), who toured our house and property, suggested a price, and wrote up a contract, all within two hours. That Thursday local brokers toured our home. On Friday, an interested buyer. The following Thursday, a few more brokers. That same Friday, the same interested buyer. No one else has set foot in the house since. The potential buyer lives in Los Angeles and needs to sell her house first. She hasn’t put her house on the multiple listing, or made an offer on ours.
In the meantime, my sister packs and looks (with no luck so far) for another place to live in her price range, choosing to remain in Santa Cruz County. My husband creates order in the chaos of our garage, sorting e-waste from recycling and donations. I pare down household belongings, driving a minivan load of donations to the thrift store each week, while I search websites for real estate listings in another city I hope to call home.