Worshipping The Real Estate Gods

This is the first time I’ve used a real estate agent to sell a house and it’s been… interesting.  In fact, it’s startlingly similar to joining a religious cult.

First comes the proselytizing:  We can’t possibly achieve salvation (oops, ‘sale’) without the divine intervention of a home stager and real estate agent.

Chastened by our mortal interior-design sins, we allow the home stager to show us the Holy Way.  The most heinous of our furniture is banished to the outer darkness (the garage), while the remaining pieces are rearranged and sanctified by the addition of area rugs, cushions, throws, table lamps, and fresh flowers.

We are admonished to go forth and sin no more, and assured that if we adhere faithfully to the Holy Way we may merit admission to real estate heaven:  a profitable sale.

Accordingly, after the home stager departs we walk through the house snapping photos so we can correctly recreate each detail, in case (gods forbid) anything should get accidentally moved.

The beds must have brand new slightly off-white (not white) duvet covers, with so many pillows, cushions, and throws that the bed itself is mostly invisible and completely unusable.  Each time the house is shown, the giant heap of bedding must be reassembled precisely as shown in the Holy Photos.

There’s only one upholstered chair where I can sit, and I use an old cushion for back support.  Before showing the house, the cushion that has been defiled by my body is returned to the garage and replaced with a designer-consecrated one.  All other furniture is off limits, since using it would leave footprints on the area rug and/or disturb the designer’s arrangement of cushions and throws; which would then take half an hour to re-fluff and rearrange correctly.

The Articles of Faith (the designer’s tchotchkes) must be arranged just so.  The fruit bowl must contain oranges, green apples, and red apples.  Bananas are strictly verboten:  Only spherical brightly-coloured fruits are pleasing to the real estate gods.

We have to comply with dietary restrictions, too:  only bland odourless foods are allowed.

For each showing, the gods must be propitiated with music and delightful scents.  Since I can’t bear the smell of chemical air fresheners, I have to pop a couple of pieces of apple cinnamon cake in the oven half an hour before each showing.  Then the oven is opened to distribute the tasty aromas, while I walk around swinging the baking tin into all corners of the house like a censer.

We carefully check to be sure we’ve complied with each commandment, as though one misplaced pillow will cause all potential buyers to leave in disgust and cast our house into eternal ‘Days On Market’ damnation.

Finally, we turn on every light to welcome the gods, and humbly depart lest our presence offend them during the showing.

I’m doing my best in all this; but I suspect the gods can see into my sinful heart, where I’m secretly planning to reinstate all our tacky-but-comfortable furniture and indulge in a Bacchanalian orgy of roasting garlic as soon as the house is sold.

‘Scuse me; I have to go and remake the beds as penance now…

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P.S. I’m poking fun at our situation, but I don’t mean to ridicule the home stager – she was great, and the results are amazing!  Her accessories make it look as though we actually have taste, and the new furniture arrangements make the interior look bigger and better.  And we aren’t really forbidden from using the furniture – it’s just that we’re too lazy to redo the designer stuff every time.  🙂

P.P.S. This may look normal to most people, but for us it’s the height of designer fashion!


The only things that are actually ours are the loveseat, dining table and chairs, and the painting. And, of course, the giant fern. We may have to sell that with the house…

Riffing On The ‘Raff

Every now and then reality smacks me upside the head and shouts, “Hey, get a clue!”  This has been one of those weeks.

It started the other day when I was in my gym uniform of yoga pants and T-shirt with a fleece jacket over top.  I looked down and realized I was colour-coordinated from my shoes to my sunglasses:  Black sneakers with green and turquoise on them, black yoga pants, turquoise T-shirt, black jacket, and sunglasses with the same green as my sneakers.

It was a wholly unnatural state, and I felt like a poser because I’m normally neither yoga-panted nor colour-coordinated. (Granted, pairing black with black isn’t much of a fashion achievement, but it’s still far more presentable than I usually look.)

Other than a momentary twitch of surprise, I didn’t think much of it at the time.  But it came back to me later while I was talking with a real estate agent who had apparently mistaken me for a member of the DINK upper-crust.  (That’s an acronym for ‘Dual-Income, No Kids’; not the lowercase ‘dink’ as in ‘prick’.  But I suppose some might dispute the distinction.)

Anyhow, she was promoting a property that had stringent architectural controls and restrictive covenants.  She dropped the name of a big celebrity who lived down the road, and rhapsodized about how wonderful the restrictions were because they maintained the property values.  She didn’t actually go so far as to say “It keeps the riff-raff out”, but the subtext was clear.

While she nattered, I was thinking, “But what’s wrong with having a flagpole?  And if it’s a 20-acre property surrounded by trees, nobody will ever see the house anyway – so why should it matter what colour it is?  And what’s wrong with leaving a dirt bike parked beside the house?”

That’s when reality jumped up and bitch-slapped me.

Well, shit.  I’m the riff-raff that they want to keep out.

I’ve always thought that someday I’d grow up and develop taste and sophistication, but y’know what?  I’m over fifty.  If it was going to happen, it would have already.

The stark realization is staring me in the face:  I’m never going to wake up in the morning with a burning desire to wear expensive designer clothes.  I’m never going to want to live in a fancy gated community where the cream of society looks down on people who are gauche enough to park their recreational vehicles… wait for it… outside the garage where the neighbours might see them!  *gasp*

I’ll always be the woman who, when Hubby asks if we need to fuel up before driving out of town, replies, “Nope, I’ve got gas.  Oh, and my car’s fuelled up, too.”

So maybe it’s time to leave my matching gym ensemble in the drawer and embrace my inner riff-raff in my baggy faded work jeans with the contact cement on the knee and grease smear on the ass.  And maybe I should get some ratty T-shirts with obnoxious slogans like “Love me, love my dirt bike” or something equally shocking.

After all, if I’m gonna take my place among the riff-raff, I’d better do it right.  It’d suck if I wasn’t good enough for them.

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New discussion over at the VBBC:  How important is realism in fiction?  Click here to have your say!

Putting The ‘Real’ In Real Estate

One of my hobbies is shopping for land. It’s a bit of a pipe dream since it’s so expensive around Calgary, but I keep looking just in case there’s a bargain out there. Hey, if it made sense, it wouldn’t be a hobby, right?

Over the years I’ve gradually learned the language of real estate listings, so I’ve decided to share some of my hard-earned knowledge. Here are translations for some common phrases:

“Pristine recreational quarter”: It’s swamp.

“Beautiful creekside property”: It’s swamp.

“Perfect for hunters and sportsmen”: It’s swamp, with scrubby black spruce and gnarly undergrowth.

“Enjoy the beauty of nature and watch the wildlife from your window”: It’s mostly swamp. And if you try to grow a garden on the part that’s not swamp, a herd of ravenous deer will devour it.

“All the space you need”: It’s bald-ass prairie.

“Stunning views”: It’s bald-ass prairie.

“Perfect for your horses”: It’s bald-ass prairie.

“Seasonal creek”: It’s bald-ass prairie, but there’s a low spot where the runoff collects in the spring.

“Over 500 trees planted around the building site”: It’s bald-ass prairie, and the ‘trees’ are six-inch twigs. They might be taller than you by the time you die, but only if you have really severe osteoporosis and you shrink to under five feet.

“Spectacular mountain view”: You can see the very tips of the mountains if you stand on a ladder in the far northwest corner of the property next to the neighbour’s barn.

“Oil lease revenue”: There’s a sour-gas well smack in the middle of the only habitable part of the land. The rest is swamp.

“Ideal location to build the walkout of your dreams”: It’s a 45-degree grade with a ten-foot strip of level land at the top.

“Owner is motivated to sell”: There’s a feedlot and slaughterhouse on the next quarter and the stench of concentrated cow shit and rotting innards will slag your sinuses from two miles away.

“Wonderfully secluded property”: There’s no road access. To get to the property you have to build half a mile of road, or else dodge an evil-tempered bull while you four-wheel through the neighbour’s pasture.

“A half-mile of beautiful river frontage”: It’s a flood plain.

“It’s been handed down from generation to generation but now the owners must regretfully pass it on to someone who’ll enjoy it as much as they did”: A giant sawmill has been built on the property to the south and a bunch of nutjobs have established a ‘sporting society’ on the property to the north. The owners are fleeing like rats deserting a sinking ship.

“There’s a sign on the property”: No, there isn’t.

“No, really, there’s a sign on the property”: Okay, there is; but it’s invisible unless you approach from the correct direction and glance over at exactly the right moment.  You will only discover this after driving a systematic grid pattern for at least an hour.

“Fenced and cross-fenced”: …sometime in the 1930s. Now it’s a gap-toothed line of drunken-looking fenceposts with a couple of strands of rusty barbed wire concealed in the grass, just waiting to wrap around your ankle and trip you face-first into the nearest cow patty.

…But I have to admit that after hundreds of disappointments, I’ve developed my own double-speak. It’s only one phrase, but I use it over and over:

“It’s not quite what we’re looking for.”

I’m sure you can guess the translation. (Hint:  If your guess includes an f-bomb or two, you’re probably pretty close.)

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P.S. Book 10 is sailing along!  It’ll definitely be released early, probably in late summer.  Woohoo!