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Life with a Smile: I will never be a real estate tycoon

By Kate Snyder

Contributing writer

There are people who see real estate transactions as a kind of sport. Buying, selling, renovating, flipping — some people approach these activities with an avid glee. These people mystify me. Deep down inside, I suspect they may not be normal. Having both sold and bought a house in the last two months, I can now say with confidence I will never be a real estate tycoon. 

That reality first began to dawn on me when I put my house on the market back in June. It was the first time I’d ever sold a house and I swear, I thought it was in pretty good shape. We’d only lived there for two years, we’d painted every room when we moved in, and we’d put in new carpet. So there shouldn’t be much to do, right?  Just stick a sign in the front yard and wait for the offers to pour in, right? Right?  Wrong. So very wrong.

My (dear, sweet, fabulous) realtor visited us and promptly burst my bubble. She marched through the house, listing all the improvements that needed to be made. Woodwork to be painted. Furniture to be rearranged. More light needed. Kitchen floor might need to be replaced. Shutters are terribly outdated. And let’s not discuss the mildew growing on the ceiling of the back porch! (Really, let’s not.) Her to-do list turned into several frenetic weeks of work before I listed the house. And then the waiting began. Even though it actually sold pretty quickly, I think I developed a nervous twitch waiting for the phone to ring. 

Concurrently with the house-selling, I was also attempting to house-buy. I had limited my search to one neighborhood because my parents already own a house there. I decided that if I’m going to embrace small-town life for the foreseeable future, I’m going all-in. With visions of my kids riding their bikes to their grandparents’ house dancing in my head, I refused to look anywhere else. Wonder of wonders, the stars aligned and I found just the right house.

I closed a couple weeks ago and everybody I see now greets me with a cheery “So, are you moved in yet?” Um, no. My dream house needs a little love and this is where my patience really runs thin because every project depends on a previous project. And those projects tend to snowball. You know how it goes. I decided that the formal dining room is going to become an art room. When I pulled the wallpaper down, I discovered paneling underneath — badly damaged paneling, including some that will need to be replaced. When I ripped up the festive gold carpet, I found concrete subflooring rather than the beautiful hardwood that runs through the rest of the house. Before I can replace the flooring, I should paint the walls. But before I can paint the walls, my contractor has to sort out the damaged paneling. And he’s busy for the next week with previously-scheduled outdoor projects. Everybody pray for rain!

But with each day spent filling nail holes, painting paneling and steaming wallpaper, I’m claiming that house. It’s OURS, darn it, and I’ve got the sore back and thumb blisters to prove it. The kids and I may not move in before Halloween but when we do, it’s not just going to be a new house — it’s going to be a new home. Our safe haven. Our fresh start. I’m not going to become a real estate mogul any time soon and that is just fine because I don’t plan on going anywhere for a long, long time.