OpenHouseOpen House.  I say this through gritted teeth and a deep groan of agony. (And, might I add that I am pretty pissed at St. Joseph right now. He’s not living up to his reputation.)

And no; it’s not the come-on-over-for-a-holiday-drink kind of open house.  That would be splendid, right?

Yes.  We have stooped to a desperate level.  We are having real-estate open house.

The very thought of it makes me nauseous and brings back memories of the one and only open house we had back in Southern California over four years ago. In fact, it left such a bad taste that we vowed never to do that again. Yet here we are planning one in the hopes that we get at least one person to look at our house! It’s my eye-of-newt moment, if you will. Considering that It’s been over nine months and only three people have looked at our house (Astounding, I know!) we figure it’s worth a try.

99.9% of the time open houses are a complete waste of time for both the broker agent and the seller; rarely does an open house result in the sale of a home. It is however, an odd source of entertainment for nosy neighbors and a host of unqualified prospects who will walk through the front door and inspect practically every nook and cranny of the house just for the fun of it.   Naturally, security issues are foremost on my mind.  Allowing complete strangers to wander around my house is an open invitation for theft. I am not happy about doing this but it’s a long shot we had to explore.

Aside from the fact that its invasive what made our one and only open house experience so bad you ask? Well…actually we did get an offer…from a crazy person that is! The offer was well under our asking price but that was entirely expected…nothing crazy about that. The issue was that the potential buyer wanted all my dining room furniture, various framed prints that adorned my walls and…get this…a Terra-cotta rosary from Arizona that hung on the wall in a small alcove upstairs. The reason (and I quote) the potential buyer wanted them? “These items speak to me.  We need them to convey.”

Seriously? Well isn’t that nice… but um…no!

We— politely, of course—countered regarding price adding that none of the items mentioned would convey. Thinking that was the end of that we went on about our day. Our agent called later in the day. “ This is quite unusual,” she said. “They have countered but you’re definitely not going to like it.”

Sure enough, the counter offer was still considerably below our asking price—had barely budged in fact— but the craziness was that they added my patio table and chairs to convey and would not back down on the dining room set nor the rosary.  Wow.

“Do they not speak English,” I remember asking my agent. That was a valid question considering we lived in Los Angeles county. We countered, repeating, this time in more precise language, that nothing in the house would convey nor would any personal items be available for purchase. We are trying to sell a house; we are not having an estate sale!

Still, the (crazy) potential buyers persisted. (I kid not). Several days later we received a lengthy letter from the crazy person outlining in true soap opera fashion why it was important that they have our house and our various personal items. They referenced over and over how my things “spoke to them.”

Really? The  $200 IKEA table “speaks” to them? These folks are nuts!

I recall the evening as if it were yesterday. Rocket-man and I were out on the back patio enjoying a glass of wine as our pretty pink Bougainvillea that trailed along the stucco fence quivered every so slightly in the cool ocean-breeze. Rocket-man read aloud the tear-inspiring saga of their lives which included a very long story of why they couldn’t even afford our countered asking price so please would we have mercy on them.  Rocket-man, shaking his head in disbelief, looked at me and asked if this written appeal would make a difference.

Oh indeed. Over my dead body will I ever sell my house to this crazy person.

Folks, I’m not heartless, but for the love of chocolate we’re not in a financial position of practically giving away my house nor I am inclined to give up my cherished little treasures, say my rosary, to a complete stranger!  My kids–my loved ones–will be the ones to get first dibs on my personal property.  Heartless as it sounds, this home selling thing is a business transaction after all. So, number one: I’m not giving my house away…which means If you cannot afford it then find one you can. And, two: what don’t you understand about NO to my personal items? Jeesh!

It didn’t stop there. Seriously.

They came knocking at the door one mid-afternoon. Rocket-man was away on business travel.  I spied them through window blinds in my study upstairs. Even though I had not met them in person I knew instantly it was them: Husband, wife with a bunch of papers on a clipboard and two other adults (presumably the parents she had written about in her lengthy plea) and a child too.  The Poodle barked up a storm while I stood in the doorway of my upstairs study. My heart pounding, I wasn’t about to answer the door. Then my phone rang…and it was them. They left a voicemail message. “Have you read our letter?” Unbelievable (and how did they get my phone number?!) It seemed to me these folks were crossing the line; never had I been “harassed” by a buyer.   I suppose though that this kind of behavior isn’t new to folks living in rent-controlled areas in New York City.

Fortunately within a week we had several bona-fide offers. We ended up selling to a fellow relocating with his family from upstate New York due to his job (he would be working for the Los Angeles Times.).  Everything went smoothly.  No drama with that family.

But wait. There is more. If that experience wasn’t uncomfortable enough, we had to deal with a kitchen disaster caused by our real estate agent (well, to be fair; it was her assistant). Since we had the open house scheduled, Rocket-man and I decided to enjoy an overnight stay in Temecula, 90 miles away. Poodle in tow off we went. The agent said she’d have her assistant preside over the open house.

“Don’t worry about a thing.  Have a good day in wine country and we’ll see you tomorrow to discuss how things went.”

The following day, late in the afternoon, we arrived back home. I could clearly hear the beep, beep, beep even before I entered the kitchen.

Tell me I am imagining that sound! I thought to myself as I opened the door from the garage into the kitchen. “Oh no!” and a host of expletives erupted from my mouth. There was water everywhere. Water on the wood floor!  I nearly lost my mind.

We immediately called our agent.   During the open house someone felt compelled to check out the refrigerator and in the process neglected to properly shut both freezer and fridge doors. When the doors are left ajar the fridge alarm goes off (It was one of those “smart” refrigerators). A steady, annoying beep will continue for as long as the doors stay open. Isn’t technology wonderful!  It’s useless however if one is ….well….careless and clueless.

Rocket-man is normally a pretty even-tempered guy.  However, at this he was steaming-mad.  He didn’t attempt to sugar-coat his feelings.  Needless-to-say our real estate agent was in tears over the blunder. She was also embarrassed beyond belief particularly since her assistant had reported an odd beeping sound adding she had no idea where it was coming from. Are you kidding me?!  My then four-year-old nephew would have been able to tell you the source of the alarm in two minutes flat.

So here’s a concept. How about using the telephone? It’s quite the communication tool you know! it’s been around for about what…one-hundred and forty years. Wouldn’t it have made sense to place a call to inquire about the source of the alarm sound. The “mystery” would have been instantly solved and this mini-disaster would never have happened.

Our agent moved swiftly to win back our trust.  She offered to repair the floor (miraculously, it was not damaged). She also provided us with $200 worth of groceries as everything in the freezer and the refrigerator had spoiled overnight. And, on the day of our drive out of the South Bay towards our next home in the Sweet-Home state, she had two grocery bags stuffed to the brim full of goodies from Trader Joe’s for us to enjoy on our road trip.  I’ll admit to being in heaven over our goodies.

So there you have it. My one and only experience with an open house. Not entirely a positive one. And we’re going to go down that path again?

Desperation folks.  Desperation.

I’m taking it one calming breath at a time through this one.  And no, we will not head out-of-town for the weekend.  In fact, I’m thinking about planting a chair at the end of the cul-de-sac–and along with binoculars–we’ll have eyes and ears upon our place.  Let’s hope I don’t turn into a purple minion over this.

I didn't have Purple Minion-itis until time spent taking care of my mother.

Stay tuned.