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The Problem With Listing Your House For Sale While Still Living There

By Rachel Wallace

Faking your own death and removing all evidence of your own existence is, unsurprisingly, both stressful and exhausting. I know this because we are currently trying to sell our house while still living in it.

To suggest that I underestimated how difficult this would be is like saying that I was slightly wrong when I suggested some years back that no one would ever vote for a reality TV star and failed businessman, not even Americans.

Fortunately, my wife is my polar opposite and has thrown herself into the microscopically granular process required to turn a house that people actually live in into a display home that other people would desire to live in.

There’s a lot of expunging involved, as it turns out. All the things that gave our children’s bedrooms personality had to go for a start. There is a van Gogh painting on my teen son’s wall that sits where his Nirvana and Pulp Fiction posters were. He looks baffled and slightly lost every time he’s allowed to go in there.

Family photos and mementos had to go. Photo: iStock

My daughter’s room — which usually looks like a sideshow-alley tent has exploded, resulting in a maelstrom of soft toys, balloons and toppled wooden clowns — is so empty that I’m not sure she ever lived in it.

It’s a similar if even more sparse story in the lounge room, which no longer features our favourite comfy couch. Along with plenty of other furniture, it was given away so as to create the illusion — sorry, improved perception — of space.

Now, when we are allowed in there at all, we watch TV by sitting on the floor. Or at least on towels on the floor, so we don’t make a mess.

The bed is covered in new sheets, which, apparently, look classy, but are about as comfortable to sleep in as a concrete sleeping bag. Photo: Anton Zhouk

As for my study and desk, I came home one day to discover that all of the extremely important detritus, Star Wars droids, trophies and scribbled notes that I had carefully collated into what less enlightened people might call a mess, had been destroyed in a mysterious fire that left no burn marks.

In the bedroom, my favourite pillow has also vanished — apparently people would smell my sweaty head from the front door — and the bed is covered in new sheets, which, apparently, look classy, but are about as comfortable to sleep in as a concrete sleeping bag.

I have seriously considered sneaking out to sleep in our newly hired storage cage, where all of the beloved stuff we were allowed to hold on to is now huddled, suitably ashamed of its shabbiness, in the dark.

Cleaning products never seem to leave my wife’s hands. Photo: Stocksy

Just this morning, I was asked to consider whether I really needed a shower, because having one would create a “wet-towel situation”, not to mention the need to remove every drop of water from the walls.

I’m not saying that my wife has developed an overwhelming case of OCD, but only because I’m quite frightened of her at present. She smells of cleaning products, and I’m worried she might be eating them, because they never seem to leave her hands.

You may have sensed that there’s some friction between us, but I know that’s my fault. I should never have suggested that how neat your cupboards look when a prospective buyer idly opens them during an inspection could not possibly affect how much you’re going to make when you sell.

Apparently, your house should not look like you live in it — it should feel as though you never did, but that someone much cooler, and cleaner, than you now does.

I was a fool, and I see that now. Just as I was obviously not thinking clearly when I thought that selling your house in this boom market would be a joyous adventure, something akin to leaping naked into a pool filled with $100 notes and chocolate.


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