We had put the house on the market on August 8th then opened it up to the public two days later. A Sunday.
I remember cleaning frantically. De-cluttering to get it show-ready. The first boxes we packed were for that open house. We woke up early, finished cleaning and then drove to the Ocean. To the beach. Leo Carillo. Friends joined us. We enjoyed the sun and the time together at the ocean. It was really lovely. And though we were just North of the Ventura County line, our house was never far from our thoughts.
We were definitely shell-shocked. What did we just do? We are actually selling our house? Where would we live?
At that point selling the house felt like the only thing we could do and the very thing that would save us from bankruptcy. The house would sell in a matter of weeks and we’d pay off our debts and just be renters. Jarring, yes. Unexpected, yes. Not my ideal birthday present, no.
In the back of my mind listing the house was somehow just a formality. A sign to the universe to let it know: We know this is serious and we’re willing to do what it takes. It would work like Murphy's Law. Someone would put an offer in on the house and then, just like that, jobs would appear. Money would fall out of the sky to save us and we wouldn’t have to sell. It was my birthday, after all. And I’m always optimistic on my birthday. Things were bound to get better. I didn’t want to sell. Nobody wanted us to sell.
I remember talking about the economy and how maybe things had to get bad before they got better. That maybe all of this was good for 'us.' I meant 'us' in a largely symbolic way. I didn't mean us. I meant, the world. Americans. This will teach us (Americans... other people, not us) to not be so wasteful. Yep. I said that. I still wasn't dealing with the fact that everything that was happening was actually happening exactly and specifically to us. It was too early. And I was too shell-shocked.
Right next to the sand in the parking lot was a camper with a little sitting area out on the beach. Wood benches, a little table and a grill, a multi-million dollar view of the Pacific and a sign that read: Campground Host. I pointed that out. What’s a Campground Host? Our good friend Jenna knew exactly the purpose of a campground host as she had always fantasized about being one. It’s someone who managed the campground in exchange for a free place to live and sometimes a small salary. Hmmm, I thought. At least there are options.
Last night after a lovely day spent on the little lake down the road near my mom and stepdad's house we were reminiscing about this first open house and my mom (the Realtor) said, “We should have lowered the price right away.” Yes. But we didn’t know. We didn’t know how bad it would be. How bad it would get. How LONG it would take. Bob’s theory all along had been to list the house at the price we paid. I was adamantly against that. This was August 2008. Things were bad for us, but didn’t seem so apocalyptic then as it did later. We weren't at that point yet. We were at the beginning and we had to start somewhere.
Bob was right, though. I know that now. I knew that when we received our first notice of foreclosure. Bob was right. If only we’d listed it at that price... we would’ve been out from under so much faster. Moving on. Cutting our losses. Not drowning. We would have avoided months of agony. We know that know.
Then? A year ago? We didn’t know. The feedback we got on the price from that first Sunday Open House a year ago today was that it was just right. We had close to 30 people come through on that first day. Everyone loved the house. Everyone thought the price was right.
The thing about price, though... it’s only right if someone is willing to pay it.
So we know that now. That day at the beach we didn’t. That day at the beach- my birthday- we sat in the sand trying to forget. Trying to look at the bright side. We looked at the ocean. The vastness and the power.
“I want to live by the ocean,” Bob said. And he meant it.
“I want to live in our house,” I said. And meant it.
One of us was going to get their way in the end. But neither of knew the journey we would take to get there. We will be living by the ocean. Not ON it, per se. A few miles away. Closer than we were, though, that’s for sure. On an island in the Pacific Northwest. I still can hardly wrap my mind around this twist of fate.
And that’s the thing. A year ago I never ever could have dreamed up this conclusion. That things would get so bad, that it would take almost 11 months to sell, that we’d sell it for almost 100,000 less than we paid, that we’d sell all of our possessions, end up living with my family, planning a future to take care of someone else’s house on... an island.
What can I say about all of this now one year later?
It is what it is. Maybe it is all good.
I'm grateful. For so much. Just grateful.
PHOTO: Bob took this picture of Mom, Tom & I having a little birthday sail in a friend's Butterfly on the little lake by their house.