Selling your First Home

A house is one of the most emotional purchases a person will ever make. The phrase ‘your first home’ carries tremendous weight. It is the vault in which you store all your incubating ideas of marriage and family, of what your daily lives will look like, your bliss, your toils. You work hard and save for a long time to make that purchase and once you own it, you work even harder. You clean its corners, paint its sashes, slam your fingers in its doors. You pay the mortgage, the insurance, the taxes, the utilities. Your children are born there, pets are buried there. You love and lose and sleep and feast under its eaves. It is the place where you can breathe most deeply, relax fully, be the most utterly yourself.

And then life changes. A lot. For me it was a move, a change of careers, a divorce, and it meant selling our first home. We came to this decision reluctantly, but it became clear that loosening our ties to our old life was the only way to really move forward in our new ones. The decision was partly financial, partly logistic and partly defensive. Neither of us wanted to be tied to this brick and lumber reminder of the hopes we had for our lives. Once we knew we needed to sell, a new debate began.

Though I am a licensed Realtor in Florida, our home was in CT. My ex-husband wanted to try to sell it ourselves. I am a Realtor. I thought, if I can’t convince my own family of the merits of using a real estate professional, what chance do I have with all the unknown reluctant FSBOs out there? We fought. The compromise was a time limit: he would try to sell it on his own for 3 months. Then we would list it with a local agent. He did a very nice job with the listing, but we got only mild nibbles. Without it being included on the MLS, we just couldn’t get the word out enough. The costs of keeping the home continued to compound and the stress of winter looming (and our home looking much less desirable with leafless trees and gray snow mounds) took their toll. After 3 months we listed it with a local agent.

Still, it took a while. We had to drop the price, twice. This home that meant so much to us was not the right fit for a lot of people. It had 3 flights of stairs, a rental unit, a half-acre city lot with extensive gardens to maintain. It was historic and the on-going restoration a constant demand. Finally we got an offer. The only one. After extensive negotiations and 3 more months, several extensions and one rebuilt stone wall, it finally closed. As the date approached, we had to say goodbye to all the hopes we had pinned to its walls, my baby’s nursery, our kitty’s grave. It hurt. The dismemberment of not only a household but a family, a life.

Now that it is over, the pain has given way to a sense of gratitude, a lightness. We did the right thing for this house that we loved so much. It needs a hardworking and devoted family to live in its walls and maintain it. We couldn’t be those people anymore. Letting go provided some financial relief but also made room in our hearts and minds to hang new hopes, dream new dreams, arrange the furniture of our lives around new separate spaces.

There is a saying in real estate that happy people don’t sell. And while I think that is a bit extreme, selling a home is rarely just a business transaction. We are trading in family histories.