Monday, July 02, 2007

Still Selling

Today I got very surly as we loaded the Cricket into the car, yet again, for another showing. Why do they always want to see the house when it's his nap time? And just as a matter of reference, this is how desperate we are: the showing today was not for a sale, but for a renter. And we mistakenly put the price for rent about $900 dollars cheaper than we should have. Who wouldn't want to rent our house for the price we listed?

Apparently it doesn't make a difference to the guy who saw the house today since his company would be paying the rent. He's coming back tomorrow to take pictures to send to his wife, who lives in a different hemisphere. I don't want to say more than that. (But I cooked lamb in the house tonight and am considering leaving my Wallabies tee shirt out in the closet, maybe a rugby call on the back deck...) But if they want to rent this house for at least a year, with the option of staying on for a year or two after that, maybe the Michigan market could rebound in that time and instead of selling our house for under appraised value, we might actually sell it for what it's worth.

You know the market in Michigan is bad when even the builder can't make money on her own home.

I get a little frustrated when I read blogs of other Michigan home sellers who are frustrated that their houses aren't selling and they've only been on the market for a few weeks. (Just FYI, I'm not talking about people I actually know.) I want to whine, "Look at me! Our house has been for sale for a year! A year! And now we own TWO houses for sale!" But realistically, I have to look at the house I'm living in. I can't complain. Really. I live in the type of house I thought I'd never live in. We're leaving behind this lifestyle for some time to come, perhaps forever, so maybe I should just enjoy the life of Reilly while I can. Mix up some martinis and sit on the back deck, look out over the backyard. Grill up with friends while we have room to mingle and then some...

The truth is that we're mostly moving because of money at this point. Michigan has the highest unemployment in the nation, and guess what? When people are unemployed, the real estate market tanks, and then guess what? People aren't really building homes either. Since our fates were hitched on the building star, which has now fallen in a blazing glory to earth, we're crushed under its weight.

But the fact of the matter is that we've wanted to change our lifestyle for some time now. We don't feel like we're living very responsibly. Before this point there have been two of us living in 3400 sq ft house. When we started planning the new house, we were going to go smaller, and somehow it ended up 400 sq ft bigger. (Although we were more "green" in our approach there; the geothermal heating and cooling rocks!) But there's no reason we need this much space or need to use as many natural resources as it takes to live in a house like this. And even with Cricket, we still don't need this much space. In fact, I'm positive I'd like less space with him. Less time cleaning/weeding = more time with child.

I also want to teach him different values about work. Right now we have someone mow our lawn, shovel our driveway, mulch our beds, etc. What does that teach him about ownership? I want to do those things as a family. Even though I complained as kid about things like raking, it was actually fun to be out in the yard on a crisp autumn afternoon with dad and a rake, and the delight of finishing a hard job. There was something almost magical going out to shovel the driveway late at night in the middle of a snowstorm. The snow swirling in flakes around your face lit up by the porch light and the muffled silence and scrape of the shovel on the drive and the promise of hot drink that would make your cold hands tingle when you got back inside. Warming up under the blanket was that much sweeter for the work you did.

I also want him to have friends to play with and places to ride his bike. That doesn't exist here. Brother K thinks I'm crazy-- our backyard is sizable and he thinks this is a kid's dream, but it wouldn't have been for me. I suppose I've always been social, but I think having a small yard with a kid next door or down the street is preferable to playing alone in your acre backyard. Yawn. Boooorrrrinnnggg. When I think about what I loved as a kid it was playing with other kids in the neighborhood. And I went everywhere on my bike: the library, the swim club, friends houses, my grandmother's, church, school-- everywhere. It was exciting when a parent would propose an after dinner bike ride to get ice cream. Now we'd be taking our lives into our hands to go bike out on the road next to our house.

And I hate that if I want to go for a walk with Cricket, I have to load him in the car seat from hell, drive to a neighborhood or downtown, unload him, and then stroll. I tried walking him on our cul de sac; it was like watching paint dry. It would be so much fun to just go out the door with him and, voila! Sidewalks and neighbors-- what fun, oh my! When we walk through the neighborhoods I covet, I love to look at the kids toys out in front of houses, sidewalk chalk drawings, strollers parked in driveways, and imagine our lives in such a place. Once when we were taking an evening walk I overheard another child leaving a friend's house. "Goodnight, Henry-who-has-to-sleep-soon!" he called out. Other children were busy spraying each other with a hose. I want those memories for Cricket, not playing alone in his big backyard.

The logistics of our downsizing are something to consider though. In all likelihood we'll rent while I'm in school. Even we don't rent, we're planning on moving from a 3400 sq ft house, not including the basement in that footage, and a three car garage to something probably around 800 to 1200 sq ft. (IKEA here we come!) We won't have a formal dining room and kitchen nook, so what do we do with two tables? No more four bedrooms, so two there's two extra beds to contend with. It highlights the excess we've been living with, and it's a hideous addiction. Even in the quest to downsize, do you see how I call for even more consumption? (The IKEA reference.) I don't need to buy more stuff to downsize, but it's so how we get used to living. It's time to break the cycle.

So rent my house. Buy my house. It's horrible and sad and scary and exciting and liberating and new all the same time. I think I'm ready.

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Blogger Anna said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7:34 AM  
Blogger Anna said...

I hope your houses sell soon! But I strongly recommend you reconsider the square footage your looking to move into. We live in a 1100 sqare foot apartment (which we own) over a 1000 square foot office (where we work). It's just me, the hubs and the bee, but we would really love more room. We have a good sized kitchen, 2 bedrooms, and another room that we use as our library/dressing room/playroom for the Bee. A living room has been split wuth the use of one of those huge wall separator bookcases from IKEA into a dining room and a living room. As it is, I can't ever host our play group because there's not enough room for the kids. We can't effectively entertain more than 5 additional people at a time. I think 2000 square feet would be a better fit.

That's just my input, from someone who's been living in smaller space, but I completely undersand why you'd like to move to a neighborhood. I think that would be good for everyone in your family, too.

Best wishes!

7:37 AM  
Blogger Nico said...

I have to agree with Anna - we're in 1300 sq ft right now and feeling extremely cramped. It could be better if those 1300 were laid out differently I suppose, but the entire living room is now taken up by kid stuff, it would be really nice to have a slightly more separate area that could contain the toys. Perhaps if we had a formal dining room we could use that as a playroom for now but all we have is an eat-in-kitchen.

In fact, we're just getting started on building something a bit bigger because if we feel cramped with one, we can't imagine what it will be like with (hopefully!) two.

I would really like to use the geothermal heating/cooling in our new house - any chance you could point me to more info on that? noperiodbabyATcomcast(d0t)net. :-)

7:59 AM  
Blogger Nico said...

P.S. I hope this renting thing works out for you!

8:00 AM  
Blogger Tanya said...

Vegemite in the cupboard might lure the southern hemisphere renter...

8:44 AM  
Anonymous calliope said...

sooo hope today's showing goes super well. Renting out actually sounds like such a smart idea while the housing market is so shit right now.

downsizing is hard, but there is a nice peace with it. I can not wait until I can leave a house with so much STUFF.

4:06 PM  
Blogger portuguesa nova said...

This is such a wonderful post and, holy crap, can I relate.

I have more or less been unemployed most of the time we've lived in Michigan, though, if I tried hard enough, I would not be unemployed, only underemployed.

Nonetheless, our one-income household employs landscapers, a cleaning lady, a daycare provider and even more if you count professors and adminisrative people at WCC.

It is crazy. I don't know how this became our life.

4:18 PM  
Blogger Emilin said...

For whatever it's worth, we thought 1100 sq ft (plus a full, partially finished basement) was just the right size for us--two adults, a kid, and two cats. We're moving into a much smaller space, and it's going to be a bit tight. But we gave a lot of stuff away, and we're looking forward to simplifying: our possessions, our space.

8:58 PM  
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