Sunday, May 22, 2011

Longing to Do Something... Anything

Just this week, we signed the papers to lease our house in Houston.  It's an immense load off of my mind, since it had become frustrating to pay a mortgage on a house we weren't living in.  The place had been on the lease market for just a few weeks, but it was on the sale market since January.  So for the past few months, we have just been waiting, and even though we had a real estate agent, she really didn't give us many suggestions to get the house to sell. Sometimes, I wished for some assignment or recommendation for action, even if it ultimately only served to keep me busy doing something.  Sitting around and waiting with nothing to do felt a bit helpless.

I'm sure there are a lot of people in the same position right now, the housing market being what it is.  Since I'm the kind of person who likes to stay busy, I wanted to know what I could do to improve the chances of the house selling.  What color should I paint the walls?  Should we replace the windows?  What kind of flowers should we plant out front?  Do we need to pressure wash the brick?  Will replacing the carpet make a difference?  Should we stage the house in a particular way?  It ultimately wouldn't have mattered what I was doing exactly, I just wanted to feel like I was doing something to contribute to the house selling.  Maybe one new task every month or something.  Enough for me to have a clear sense of action, plus a little breathing room in between to evaluate if it made a difference.

If it doesn't already exist, it seems to me that there is a great career opportunity for a specialist who crunches the numbers and determines what malleable features are consistent among a high percentage of homes that are bought in a particular geographic area.  The color of the walls, the texture of the carpet, the size of the oven, the type of flowers by the front door.  Sure, a lot of those things can be changed by a new owner, but I know from personal experience that if I decide I can live with something until I have a little extra time and money to fix it, it could be a long time before I have a little extra money and time.  There's a big advantage to having something meet my specifications right out of the gate.

Now, I'm not suggesting that any of the little cosmetic changes I could have made would really have had any impact on whether the house sold or not.  I'm simply saying that a big part of me wanted to have something to do.  I wanted to feel like I was moving toward the goal of selling the house, and sitting back and doing nothing didn't feel like movement at all.  Our real estate agent was trying to save us unnecessary hassle and expense, weighing how much of an impact various factors would have based on a wealth of experience.  I'm grateful for the honest and conscientious feedback about how little control I had in the situation, even though I didn't like it.

Even though I don't consider myself to be a control freak, it still bugs me when I am in a position of just waiting with nothing to do.  Sometimes, though, there really isn't anything meaningful to be done.  Our busyness simply serves the same purpose as blowing on a hot spoonful of food: It doesn't really change the temperature of the food, but it gives us something to do for a moment or two while the food cools off naturally.  If we didn't take that moment of ineffectual activity, we might burn our tongues a lot more often.  I think the trick for me is to honestly recognize the actual value (or lack of value) of my activity and weigh whether that time and effort could be more enjoyably spent doing something else.  I suppose there really is no harm in spending my waiting time in fruitless activity, provided I'm clear that I'm really just keeping myself entertained.

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