A few months ago, my husband and I decided that it would be a really good idea to sell our house.
And it really did seem like a good idea when we agreed the plan. It’s a bit small for the amount of stuff we own. Because it’s small, it’s impossible for us both to work from home at the same time without wanting to murder each other. It’s kind of in the wrong place, in that it’s in the suburbs of London and we want to live in Bristol. Selling it was the logical thing to do.
So at the start of February, we put it on the market. I was filled with confidence; everyone told us it was a lovely house, and I’d watched so many episodes of Phil Spencer: Secret Agent that I knew exactly what you needed to do to sell a house. It was going to be incredibly straightforward – we’d hold an open weekend and it’d sell just like that.
This was not the case.
Instead, we found ourselves suffering through two mildly traumatic months of last-minute viewings, panicked tidying, and yelling at estate agents. And about a month in, I realised that it reminded me of something. It reminded me of dating.
It’s a very good thing that I’m married, because I hated dating. I was awful at it; I lacked the kind of bulletproof self-belief that you need to enjoy the experience, and instead spent the whole time nervous and horrified and convinced that everything was going to go horrendously wrong at any moment. Which it normally did, in no small part because my lack of self-esteem and over-reliance on wine would usually lead to my doing something a little bit psychotic and scaring away whoever it was I was trying to seduce.
And although I was sober throughout the whole house-selling experience, I still had the same feeling of creeping dread and horror. And I still seemed to go through the same kind of process as I did every time I decided to stop sulking in my room and listening to miserable indie and actually get out to an indie club and try and pull a miserable indie boy.
First off, there was the painting over the cracks. In the dating world, this usually meant as much eyeliner and mascara as it was possible to fit on my face. There’s a whole sequence of photos of me from late 2006 where I was feeling particularly downbeat about my romantic chances and so overcompensated through the medium of false eyelashes, huge eyeliner, and seventeen coats of mascara. I realise now that there were no real flaws in need of covering on my 21-year-old face, but at the time it felt vitally important to cover the ones I’d imagined must be there for all to see.
When it came to the house, this stage was rather more literal. Our house is 115 years old, and there were some cracks in the plaster. There were also some stains where one of us (we’re still arguing about who) had managed to throw a cup of tea at the wall. These very real defects needed to be dealt with, so we called in the professionals and got them to redecorate. In neutral colours, of course. Phil Spencer had at least taught me that much.
Then there was the initial excitement. Back in the dating world, this normally equated to walking into Snobs and realising there were hundreds of drunk indie boys to pick from. In the land of real estate, it was getting 15 viewings lined up on the first day that we were on the market. One of them was surely going to love me/our house! This was going to be simple! There was nothing to worry about at all!
Except, obviously, there was.
Because what I hadn’t banked on is the fact that ghosting isn’t just found in the dating world. I was very familiar with the concept there – the same man once disappeared on me six times, and yet still I forgave him every time he came back. It seemed to just be the done thing; you couldn’t quite be bothered to actually break up with someone, so you just kind of sloped off and hoped they didn’t notice.
But house buyers do it as well. You hear from your agent that this couple were super-enthusiastic and loved the place and will likely put in an offer after they’ve just done some quick maths. And then you never, ever hear anything about them ever again. You ask your agent, and they just say that they haven’t been able to make contact.
And so it’s onto the next stage. The couple have disappeared, and you just want to chase after them yelling “WHY DON’T YOU LOVE IT? WHY? WHAT COULD WE HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY?”
Thankfully, the existence of estate agents makes this one harder to do in real estate than it was in the dating world. Because, if I’m honest, it was normally at about this point that I would go a bit Knives Chau and terrify whatever suitor I’d briefly snared. I needed to know what I’d done wrong, and not knowing drove me mad and led to a series of ill-advised phonecalls. And yes, when it came to the house the ill-advised phonecalls still existed, but at least this time they were to professionals who I was paying to look after my best interests. So they had to put up with my telling them that I JUST NEEDED TO KNOW WHAT WAS WRONG.
And then, after all that, we inevitably had to try the whole thing again. Which, in houses, means more viewings. More people, all traipsing through the house and failing to buy it. And, much like in Snobs, sometimes those people would fall for something other than the thing I wanted them to. In Snobs it would be another girl. In my house, it was often my cats. They’d follow prospective buyers around being all cute and furry and purring at them, and people would fall in love instantly. I took to expecting offers for them, but not for the house.
The whole thing was frankly exhausting.
But, as both Phil Spencer and romantic comedies have led me to believe, we got there in the end. Our house went under offer about three weeks ago, and since then I’ve been attempting to force my desperation back into its box.
And find where I hid everything else I own during the course of the many panic-tidies. I know I put it somewhere. I just don’t know where that is.