I’ve been thinking a lot…

I've been thinking a lot about why the last negotiation went the way it did, and about our condo sale, and the pricing of the homes we're considering now. I watched a lot of HGTV, especially in the last few months, and one thing has become very clear to me about the whole home buying/selling process -- people are totally irrational.

You probably already knew that. :-) But I mean in a particular way -- the way that we get attached to the places we live. And I think the longer you live there, and especially, the more repairs and improvements you put into your house, the harder it is to see it clearly.

Here's an example. When we first moved into our place, there were no window treatments -- just lots of big French doors. We got some curtains eventually, but for the doors that faced west, we eventually decided to put in blinds, a much bigger investment. The ones we ended up with were actually named 'Ceylon' blinds, which was pure coincidence, but of course particularly pleased me. And I loved them. They did a great job of insulating both the cold and the sun, and they made both our dining table and my writing chair much more functional in the afternoon sun/heat. Plus, beautiful wood. Just a great choice, and we wished we'd done them when we first moved in instead of waiting three years.

The point of all this? When we sold the place and were moving out, I found myself wanting to take those blinds down and take them with me. Which made no sense -- after all, I didn't know what size the windows/doors would be in the new place, and odds were that these blinds wouldn't fit. Plus, the new buyers were almost certainly expecting those window treatments to be there when they arrived. But I felt like we'd added beauty to the home, and the new people probably wouldn't appreciate it properly, and so maybe I should just take that beauty with me when I went.

I had a hard time repainting our bedroom to neutral colors too. And don't even get me started on all the containers and trellises and plants we left on the roof deck! My honeysuckle! My roses! My hydrangea!

Over and over, watching the HGTV shows, you see people who just can't believe their home, that they love, isn't worth more than it is. (Especially right now, in this economy.) They want to move, because they have a new job, or want to be near family, or they have more kids, or they now have fewer kids at home -- they have good reasons to leave. But at the same time, they look around their house and they're invested in it. They like their neighbors. They love the tile they chose for the bathroom, or the granite for the kitchen counters. And they just can't believe that other people won't walk in and love their home just as much as they do. And if those buyers don't appreciate the fabulous details of their home sufficiently -- well, then maybe they don't deserve this great house!

It's a completely unhelpful attitude to have when you're selling your home, of course. What you want to do, ideally, is just detach. If that means repainting all the gorgeous murals in the kids' rooms to a bland taupe because that's least likely to turn off buyers, then that's what you should do. If it means acknowledging that that fourth room that you somehow managed to cram a bed into and which has been totally workable as a bedroom for your youngest son really isn't big enough to be labelled a bedroom, then you've got to let it go. If the buyers want a massive credit to redo something that you slaved over installing -- well, depending on how badly you want to sell your home, you should at least seriously think about it, and ask your realtor and lawyer and anyone else with a semi-objective opinion whether they think that's a fair request. Cultivating a zen-like detachment is key.

But it's hard. I walked into one of the houses we were looking at today and I just started crying. I loved it, even though there were multiple reasons why this was not at all the most practical or sensible house to buy. And even though I can sit here and tell you, and every realtor will probably tell you, and HGTV will certainly tell you that you should try to be calm and objective when considering the worth of a house -- in the end, it's just an emotional thing. Homes are important to us. They're more than just a roof over our heads -- homes are time and care and beauty and love, all wrapped up in four peeling walls, a creaking floor, and a damp basement.

Maybe it's too much to ask, that we be rational when buying or selling a house. Maybe you have to allow for a little irrationality in the end.

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