Eight years ago, I decided to sell my house. My youngest child was soon to be a junior in college and my three other daughters were off with careers and families and homes of their own – it was time. And I had a plan.
I hired a decorative painter to paint the kitchen cabinets and replaced the Formica countertops with honed granite. I upgraded the baths, removed old curtains, reduced clutter, and applied some fresh paint. My house was going to be a perfectly marketable property, sensibly priced with the right kind of features to attract buyers. I was confident, prepared, and most important, a Realtor®; I was the consummate professional.
But then came the exhaustion of constant upkeep, the frustration of not having showings, the disappointment and feelings of rejection when prospective buyers didn’t love the home I valued so much. Despite my so-called professionalism, I was thoroughly human and utterly stubborn – this wasn’t just some house for sale, it was my house, my beautiful house, and I wasn’t going to just give it away!
In February 2011, after lowering my asking price, I accepted an offer. I began to pack up the house my family and I had called home for over 20 years, rounding up the possessions my daughters had left behind and removing items from their proper place to wrap them in newspaper and stick them in a box, preparing them for use somewhere else, somewhere new. The furniture I had taken from my mother’s house and great-grandmother’s house was finally removed from my garage, decisions I had put off making for ten years needing at last to be made. I left my house experiencing the nostalgia and slight melancholy that comes with needing to downsize, with needing to leave the home my youngest daughter had lived in her entire life, with needing to say goodbye to the backyard where my second eldest daughter had held her wedding reception. I felt the way we all feel when we leave behind a beloved home.
I’d felt this way before. Half a lifetime ago I had packed up homes in states halfway across the country and packed up a house halfway across town. But this time, the first time selling my own home as a Realtor®, the grief was compounded with the need to remain professional, the need to pack up boxes while drafting a Purchase and Sale. I realized how hard it is to remain rational in what we as Realtors® experience as a business transaction. I’d forgotten exactly what it felt like to go through the pandemonium of showings and deal with the reality of saying goodbye. I’d forgotten what it felt like to mourn for a house while signing documents and calling appraisers and going through a home inspection, trying to keep things together while hoping the people who have your house next love it as much as you did.
That May, the first May in over 20 years I was not be able to enjoy the rhododendron blossoming in my yard, I became a more compassionate Realtor®, acutely aware of the tension and tragedy that factors into selling a home, even when the destination, the next home, is something wonderful. The reality is that my business binds me to the lives of my clients, and by recognizing their stresses, exhibiting empathy, and providing them with quality of service that is synonymous with the Realtor® name, I know I have become a better practitioner of my profession.