12 May No Thanks, I Live Here
First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 10.5.21
Real estate agents round our way are extremely well dressed. This is probably true in every neighbourhood, though I can’t say for sure – this has been my only neighbourhood for 25 years. But I guess if your business is the buying and selling of the most expensive thing most of us will ever own, you’d want to look the part. Tidy, respectable, well-maintained. A bit like a house, really.
Anything between one and four of them knock on our front door on any given week. At weekends, they come in the morning, and late afternoon or early evening on weekdays. Three of them over Easter weekend. They have different logos on their business cards, but always a photo so we will remember, I guess, who made the best impression.
Back when we had a landline, it was just phone calls. Eventually, they were the only people who used that number apart from aggressive men who said there was something wrong with my computer which they could fix if I gave them a password and credit card details. Every time it rang, we knew it would be one of the two – about the house we didn’t want to sell, or the computer that wasn’t broken. So we did away with the landline and enjoyed the peace.
It’s not that they’re terrible people. It’s just that we have nothing useful to say to each other. They tell me they have families keen to buy in the area. That’s nice, I tell them, I like it here, too. These people would be specifically interested in buying my house. Really, I think, that’s kind of creepy, are they out there watching us and having these thoughts?
Would I like to have this piece of paper that lists what neighbouring houses have sold for in the last few months? Not really, I say, I feel like what my neighbours paid for their house is none of my business. Would I like to arrange for someone to come and give my house a market assessment? No thanks, I tell them – I don’t need to know what I could sell it for if I’m not selling it, right?
The last chap was as nice as can be. His is smiling from his business card right now, top of the pile by the dish where we keep our car keys. Well-fitted jacket, perfectly trimmed beard, coiffed hair. The kind of man who, if I’d taken half a step out my front door and breathed in deeply, looked like he would smell good.
I liked him so much, I took the time to explain the gap in our thinking. This, I said, waving my arm at the jasmine by the door and the lemon tree my father planted and past the cat lying in the sun, is not a commodity for buying and selling to make money. This is our home. We live here. My daughter, now 28 and off raising her own kids, grew up here. Her name is still spelled out in tiles on her bedroom door.
There is a strapping cabbage tree just outside my office window, taller than our two-storeyed house, which was given to me in a tiny pot as a present after a comedy debate in Whangarei before the turn of the century. We have tūī in our garden, and kererū, and recently a family of sacred kingfishers have started making morning visits. We’ve been here so long, I’ve forgotten what lives in the far reaches of the cupboard under the stairs and there is no one left alive who knows the contents of the garden shed.
Which, yes, suggests a clean-out is in order. Maybe a week of Marie Kondo-ing to see what brings us joy. Must arrange that. But what I am really thinking as the nice man talks property prices is how weird it might be if we approached all things in life like a real estate agent, as though everything was a commodity to be bought and sold. That’s a lovely jacket – I know someone who would buy that jacket from you. The man at number 17 just made an amount that would impress you on a jacket just like it. Also, your watch and your wedding ring. And are these your children?
I am keeping a tally of door knocks from real estate agents. When it comes time to sell, I plan to give the business to whoever has been least annoying. Counterintuitive, I know, to hook up with the salesperson who has been less pro-active, but currently, this is as far as my thoughts on property investment go.