10 Rules for Living With a 'For Sale' Sign

Warzocha is a Valencia free-lance writer.

Your life is perfect with one minor exception--there is a 2-by-3-foot wooden sign stuck into the front lawn that reads, "For Sale, Wescott Realty, 555-2000, By Appointment Only."

The addition of that sign to your landscape can turn an ordinary household into a frenzied one, because there are no secrets from prospective home buyers, and no time of day is exempt from invasion. You and your home are constantly on display.

There are steps you can take to prepare for the experience that will help you to keep your blood pressure at a medically acceptable level while your home is "on the market."

1--You must eat, breathe and think like Mrs. Clean. No longer can you collect dirty laundry on the bedposts, under the coffee table or on the bottom shelf of the kitchen pantry.

You must load and unload the dishwasher promptly. Nothing makes a kitchen look smaller than the debris of dirty dishes, unscoured pots and pans, and used glasses. The prospective buyer is unlikely to believe you are preparing for a dishwasher detergent commercial to begin shooting at any moment.

If you don't have a dishwasher, stock up on paper plates, plastic silverware and glasses, and quit using the real things.

2-- Always make the bed. You can save time by not changing the sheets, and no one will ever know. Wake up family members if you have to, or make the bed up over them. So what, if it's lumpy; it will still look better than looking at rumpled linen.

3--Send your children for extended visits with out-of-town relatives. Although the sight of toothpaste dabs in the sink used to be signs of encouragement to you, at least it proved they were brushing, seeing them now may trigger a migraine.

A teen-ager's stroll through the house can leave a trail that resembles the path of a hurricane; a 3-year-old can single-handedly reverse the effects of an entire day of house cleaning in less time than it takes to rinse out a sponge.

4--Sell your pets before attempting to sell your house. Dogs often drool; sometimes their drool can rival the flow of Niagara Falls, and when they shake their heads after drinking water, you might need a raincoat. A prospective buyer might think you have plumbing leaks with all the excess water on the floor.

Prospective home buyers don't enjoy birds either as they have a tendency to spit out seeds and shells indiscriminately, and without warning. Generally, home buyers do not like to be pelted by these flying missiles or dive-bombed by squawking parrots.

Owning a cat should be illegal when your home is on the market. Kitty litter cannot smell good, no matter what brand it is, and kitty litter is less appealing when tossed out of the box by the cat and onto the carpeting.

Go on a diet. While your house is on the market you should not cook anything that has a lingering odor. Brussels sprouts might be good for you, but they smell like used tennis socks when you cook them. That odor could drop the resale value of your home by hundreds of dollars.

Prospective buyers might not appreciate the aroma created by Uncle Bill's bass catch either; and you run the risk of offending the prospective vegetarian buyer if you are grilling T-bones in your back yard during their visit.

6--Stock up on vacuums. You can't afford to have yours break down during this selling period, because lint, cracker crumbs, dog hairs and grass clippings on the carpet seem to multiply overnight as quickly as rabbits during the fishbowl period.

7--Become close friends with a handyman, because anything that can break down will do so once that "For Sale" sign is up.

Electric garage door openers will react to a sneeze. The garbage disposal will decide it's better to give than receive. The bathtub and shower will clog and resemble wading pools, and the self-cleaning oven will forget how to clean.

8--Get rid of your telephone. If realtors have to write to schedule a showing, you'll have more time to tidy up before they arrive.

"By appointment only" is somewhat misleading. It sounds very polite, but at whose convenience is the appointment made? You are terrified to turn down any appointment, no matter how bizarre or inconvenient the time.

Some home buyers are out there so early Sunday morning that they are shopping before the morning paper arrives. Your realtor will often call with a hot prospect a) when you have just covered your face with an avocado facial, b) your husband's and your biological clocks finally mesh or c) when you have just filled the tub with the last drops of your favorite bath oil.

9--Prepare an emergency battle plan to cope with the "Can we come by in 10 minutes?" appointment. Decide in advance which family member runs the 100-yard dash with the vacuum, who is responsible for hiding the dirty dishes, who has to open the closets to check for fallen debris and who is on the wet towel and hairs in the bathroom sink patrol.

10--Leave the house as often as possible when appointments are scheduled to show your home, or at least wear earplugs while the prospects are there. Some of the comments you will hear about your home and its interior decorating might enrage you to the point that you want to inflict bodily harm.

The chandelier you cradled in your lap for 2,300 miles of cross-country driving is dismissed with "Oh well, it can be replaced." The bedroom wallpaper, which took eight weeks to find, reminds them of a Las Vegas casino bathroom. This couple wouldn't even consider sleeping in that bedroom until the wallpaper is removed.

If you leave while your home is being shown, you will save yourself the frustration of watching these people as they poke and probe into every nook and cranny of your home and personal life style. It is less embarrassing to have a pelvic examination.

Don't be shocked if the prospective home buyer surveys the contents of the vegetable bin in your refrigerator, even though it is not included in the deal.

Selling a home is not for the timid, but you should console yourself with this final thought: When the magical moment arrives and "Sold" is plastered across your "For Sale" sign, you have crossed the line and are now a buyer instead of a seller.

You must call your realtor immediately, regardless of the time of day, and schedule appointments to watch others squirm in their fishbowls as you look for your next house.

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