4. Camelot vs project house

(Written shortly after putting the house on the market)

What was he thinking when he made the appointment???

Our decision to downsize and put the house on the market was painful. We realized everything we were committing to: getting rid of stuff, deciding which furniture would fit in a condo, and breaking it to our 27-year-old son that his childhood home and basketball court were going away. But we knew it was the right decision.
We thought it would be easy to sell this home we still loved. A younger family would walk in, just as we did, and fall in love with the open floor plan, recently refinished kitchen, screened-in porch, wood moldings, Roman fireplace, and abundant natural light. Historic, well-kept-up, architecturally significant home in a village synonymous with architecture.
It would be love and earnest money at first sight.
We’d lived on the block for 20 years. Our son grew from a delightful second grader into a teenager and then a grown man, with Friday-night sleepovers, block parties and neighborhood capture-the-flag games embedded in his memory. I listened to those neighborhood games through my 3rd floor office window, and later shared the day’s victories and defeats with my wife over wine on the screened-in porch. I can still hear the echoes on the block and throughout the house.
This block and this house were our Camelot, where the rain would never fall ’til after sundown. Life was perfect here.
But we quickly realized that 30-somethings view things differently than we do. (Who would’ve thought that???) They might look at this beautiful historic home and see something else.
For starters, there are the old bathrooms. They look like… old bathrooms. (We prefer the word vintage.) And yes, there are places in need of paint, and some stucco work.
But to say on the feedback form that this is a project house… really? What was that guy thinking when he made the appointment? That this was Naperville???
When our perceptions of our home come up against other people’s perceptions, the collision can be painful.
Everyone doesn’t experience Camelot when they drive up the tree-lined street and walk into this house. They see big old homes. Maintenance costs. Real estate taxes. An expensive project house.
And 30-somethings are probably looking for something different than we were looking for 20 years ago. They’re looking to find the most house for the least money. They’re looking to buy low and sell high.
Nothing wrong with that, I suppose. It’s a smart way to invest. Maybe even a smart way to shop for a home.
It’s just different from our experience. We were looking for a comfortable home we would enjoy entertaining in, a neighborhood our family would love, a house that would cause our heart to beat faster every time we drove past it. We found that house, and we knew it the second we walked in the front door. It was love – and earnest money – at first sight.
So maybe we need to recalibrate. It might take longer than we thought to sell the house. Longer for the right family to walk in the front door, see what we saw, and know that this is the house.
We can wait.

9 thoughts on “4. Camelot vs project house

  1. Larry, as a former Realtor licensed in Virginia, Maryland and D.C., my experiences were that purchases of a house or apartment depend most on current or planned family size (with some exceptions, such as folks who want to fix up an historic dwelling, or plan to host a lot of parties, etc). As more or more babies are born or adopted, a one-bedroom apartment can’t last long. Two bedrooms won’t easily accommodate two children. I experienced this myself, living in 12 homes in 8 cities over 6 decades and counting, starting with what was called a one-bedroom apartment, where you walked through the small bedroom to get to the walk-in sized kitchen and small bathroom. By house number 8, we were up to 5 bedrooms with 3 kids and all their visiting friends, a swimming pool, wood-paneled study, 2 dining areas, and a pool room on 4 floors. We lived there about a decade when the kids were teenagers. Then the empty nest reality led us on the reduction path and all the downsizing nightmares, one by one, to a really nice one-bedroom condominium unit that is affordable.

  2. You hit that nail right on the head. My vision of a house is likely as far from what my parents looked for when we moved to Cleveland Heights. They were looking for a home to raise two kids, with enough yard space to accommodate us and enough space inside that we wouldn’t be bouncing off (all) the walls. When – hell, if – I get a house, it’ll be for more privacy (apartment walls are sometimes too thin to keep out all of the noise) and not about space and yard at all. It’ll be about design, ease of access, location (closer to work is better, since I walk everywhere). I’m not looking for a family and that avenue. And I can see very clearly how a house that works so well for that very thing might not be what my generation is looking for first and foremost. And as amusing as it is to admit, I do admit that presentation is 9/10ths of the law.

    1. Good insight Robbie. Old folks, like me, need to get better thinking of young people to live more fully.

  3. I agree with you about knowing immediately that your house was the right one. I have bought two houses and I knew right away….Did you feel the same way about the condo?

  4. I am so happy that you all have such a good experience in your home. I bet you will have wonderful memories in your new home. Think what fun it will be to fix it up and start making memories.

  5. I’m still in the process of learning to live in my 600 SF forest cottage with a wonderful deck and lovely view of the mountains and the valley. I admit that I had to create a basement for storage. It’s still a challenge. The basement is getting crowded. There are lots of things in there that I still need to go through and get rid of. I’m working everyday and I haven’t taken the time to really go through those things that I hauled down the stairs.

  6. Well…kinda been there. Seven years ago, my ex and I sold the old homeplace in accordance with the divorce agreement. I hadn’t lived there myself in several years, but three decades and a lot of sweat equity were invested…not to mention, the memories of great neighbors and a streetful of kids growing up together.

    Although I’ve long since relocated to another great neighborhood, in a different part of the metro area, complete with wonderful neighbors and perks anyone would dream about, I still find myself occasionally checking up on the old house.

    If I happen to be near the place, I drive by. Stop and have a chat with the old neighbors, if they are out. Recently, I looked it up on Zillow and found that it had been sold again. I got a look at the listing photos, and wow, what they did with place. Looked like a showroom. Stuff I never would have thought of, inside and out.

    As I said, my home now is everything I could ask for and I’ll never have better neighbors than these. I don’t know if I could ever go back to the old place, there are too many bittersweet memories. But just knowing that it is is still evolving and changing, sort of like a bird getting its adult plumage, is worthwhile.

  7. I loved that house and am sad it’s gone from your life. I had much less problem downsizing since I’d bought a house that fit my family but not me. We were living in Atlanta, my father was dying in Missouri, and I was house-hunting in Virginia. While making my way through this unholy triangle, I left my kids with anyone who didn’t have needle tracks and finally found a six-level split with a soccer field in the front lawn. It became an orphanage for 50 of my kids’ closest friends, and I have fond memories of every hole in the rec room paneling dented from a pool cue or head. Good times there, but it never fit me like the townhouse I moved to.

  8. I can relate Larry. When I talk with people of our age group who have not yet made the decision to downsize but know that they should – it seems that their biggest concern is: “how to get rid of all this stuff (usually they use another word beginning with s…) we have accumulated. They are overwhelmed by it. Our downsize plan took 3 years to implement which included modernizing the house for sale. Getting rid of S… – was #2 on the list. I found numerous sources for disposal – some we got a tax write-off as a charitable deduction – some we had to pay to be taken away – and some ended up in the garbage. Books ended up being donated to the library. Our grown children were not interested in our old stuff. There has to be a decision to “Let go” (the name of one helpful web site). Another is called “Offer Up.” People are cruising the internet looking to buy your old stuff. You just have to make that commitment to make it happen.

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