Living in a house for strangers

iPhone, keyboard, notebook on white background. Text: White carpets? Be careful what you start, because you only THINK you're in control. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt


I have acquired a new job: living in a house with white carpets.

We made one of the two choices offered:

  1. Sell the house after cleaning it up and fixing the obvious and/or necessary problems, or
  2. Update the house as much as possible before putting it on the market.

The easy choice: sell more or less as is

Clean things up.

Touch up all the paint – I still have the cans of good quality Benjamin Moore paint in the basement, and a card file with a paint sample for each, and a list of which rooms are painted/trimmed in that color.

Have the carpets cleaned.


Add a credit to the house price for new flooring to be chosen by the new owners to their taste – and which it would be so much simpler to have installed when the house is empty between us leaving and them moving in.

Put on market.

Live in your own home, only tidier, until it sells.

The hard and expensive choice: upgrades

The lovely staging ladies we hired and the husband decided to go with alternative #2.

They say (and I hope they are right!) that homes that look dated don’t sell – because the homebuyers of today lack the imagination to see their own possessions in a house decorated by and full of the belongings of – someone else.

Our real estate agent said that the division among buyers was about 50/50, and we should do what we wanted to. That many people who might buy a four bedroom house were locals moving up, and would be buying for the school district and for more room for a growing family.

But she seems excited that the upgrades are being done, and is hopeful they will help sell the house more quickly.

Houses that don’t sell can hold up future plans

Which puts us in an interesting position.

Because we are looking for the best fit in a CCRC (continuing care retirement community), and will go to a lot of trouble to pick a specific one (or small number thereof) which will suit us, and they tend to be close to full capacity, we may be on a waiting list for a while.

This means 1) we need to get on that waiting list asap, and 2) we may be living like gypsies in a caravan, with this one sold, and no place to go for sure, for an indefinite amount of time.

After all our planning!

The supposedly accepted method is to wait until they offer you the place you want at the CCRC of your choice, and THEN put your house on the market and sell it in the typical 60-90 days it takes for the CCRC to have the unit you are offered ready for habitation.

The cart has gotten before the horse

On the theory that even if we were doing the ‘accepted method,’ we might as well get started on the known necessary repairs, and we did – but I never expected them to turn us out of our home, and to be living in a house – sans window coverings because the painter wants them gone and houses show better without them (!) – for an indefinite time, with NO unit offered to us for us to move to.

Not exactly sure how it has happened.

Part of it was the wish to get the house to market during the supposed spring selling time frame (which we will have missed).

Another, other houses staying on the market for a long time.

The third – get other people involved, when the one of the homeowners has very little energy and really needs help – and the juggernaut takes hold and roles on.

And now everything we own is in boxes in the basement – to get it out of the way of the carpet installers (here all day yesterday), the kitchen/dining flooring installers (soon), and the painter (thankfully scheduled while we will be away).


We’ll be living, for an indeterminate amount of time (hope it isn’t long), in a house with no shades.

And white carpets.

And white walls.

And everyone agreeing that it is much harder to get stains out of white carpets!

Learn from me: you can’t control the juggernaut, and you keep poking away at the things you can control (changing the carpets) before you realize what you’ve done.

Corollary to Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong will, and will cause a lot more work.

Another reminder to do these things sooner rather than later if you want to have any choice in the matter. I can’t imagine doing this ten years from now.

Sympathy and stories gratefully accepted.


9 thoughts on “Living in a house for strangers

  1. acflory

    Commiserations. We sold our house in the early 90s right in the middle of a recession, but we upgraded it a bit too. Nothing too big as we’d renovated the kitchen a few years before, but yeah…the house looked lovely and sold after the first open house. Very well worth doing, Alicia. Hang in there.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Thanks for your kind wishes!

      One advantage: instead of bringing food up and eating at my computer, I’m eating more slowly, in the kitchen. I do NOT want to have to clean tomato sauce out of a white carpet.

      Mind you, I’ve spilled very little over the years, and the original carpeting upstairs was flattened but not really ‘worn’ anywhere, but eating slowly is a plus.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. joey

    I absolutely agree that buyers have no imagination. Fortunately, we are not those people, because those people have to pay a lot more, lol! See, fortunately for you, going with option #2 will get you a more substantial profit and yes, it absolutely will sell faster.
    We bought our house while it was dusty and smelled like dank grandma attic and we hate almost all the flooring, preferring the cheaper, ironically. Our house was crowded, our garage filled to the brim. Appliances are pretty old. Hated every single wall color.
    I have the imagination and The Mister has structural knowledge, plus we are not bothered by hard work. Our house sat empty for the better part of two years before we made the offer. We just knew it was our house. Just knew it. Good chi, great bones, ticked 90% of our boxes. My dear friend bought a big ol colonial a coupla years ago, and it’s dated as all get out.
    And you know what? She loves most of it as it. There’s a family for every house. Someone will come to your house and feel the exact same way, and you won’t have to wait too long.

    Also, I think selling a house is right up there with having a colicky baby. Seriously. It’s SO HARD to be constantly tidy and ready to leave at the drop of a hat. And then to come home and hear the stupid crap people say about your house like, “I don’t like porcelain sinks” or “The pantry’s too small” or “Who can live with cats?” Bleh.

    Soon, I bet. Real soon 🙂 I’m excited for you!


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I sold our first house myself. Repaired the windows (some panes were fogged – I took them apart following a Popular Science article, and put them back together so they were restored to factory condition). We did what painting was necessary. I showed it – and made $20k more than we would have with a real estate agent.

      Now I can do nothing – it irks. And costs.

      I hope it does sell quickly – one of the CCRCs sounds very promising, and didn’t tell me they were too full. We’re seeing it next week.

      I’m exhausted, not excited. But I’m in this up to my nostrils.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Nita Thatcher

    We are in a similar situation. Downsizing to move to a retirement complex. From 2400 sq. ft. to about 1200 sq. ft. We may be on a list for a while as well. So, in actuality we are downsizing to a storage facility where almost all our furniture and belongings will be stored. We will keep only our beds, a couple comfy chairs, a card table and two folding chairs, very few dishes/pots/pans, and a couple suitcases of clothing. We will move to a small apartment while the house is selling (unless our daughter buys the house, which is a great possibility) and while we are on the list at the retirement complexes. We have decided on three complexes that are in the same general area where we want to be, first one with an opening wins! It will be like it was during the years I was tent camping for months in Canada. Good luck and I hope you get a quick sale!


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      We’re looking for that size, but ended up donating most of our furniture because it was neither expensive nor worth shipping to California – and we certainly won’t need it.

      From the tiny remainder of everything we’re living with now, each of us needs a desk. We need somewhere to watch TV and A table. And the bed. Not much more. It’s very freeing NOT having ‘all our stuff’ in storage. I’ve used my very limited energy to discard so much already – and aim to cut the hastily-packed boxes in the basement by at least half.

      Exciting to be ‘tent camping’ for a while, isn’t it?



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