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In the suburbs / Finally out of the fish bowl

Published 7:58 am, Saturday, January 12, 2013
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When our real estate broker Pamela called Monday morning to say we finally had a buyer for our house -- after five price reduction and more than a year on the market -- I didn't know whether to jump for joy or run for cover.

We suddenly face a March 1 move-out date and have to decide whether to buy again -- if we could even get a mortgage -- or just rent.

While I was thrilled that we'd managed to pay our mortgage through this miserable recession and that we finally had a pending sale, I couldn't help thinking about how long this house had been on the market.

We entered the goldfish bowl for the first time in September 2009, not long after the market began tanking, and we listed the house for a way-too-optimistic price. Our first broker was a good friend. I can't fault her although we incrementally dropped the price by $50,000 and listed with her through a fall market, a spring-summer market and another fall market.

She had plenty of showings of our two-bedroom house. Her open houses drew a mix of young families with one or two kids, empty nesters and several lookers who had a handicapped spouse or child -- one of whom came back for another look after she sold her own house.

But none bought.

When we parted company in November 2010, there were no regrets or hard feelings. We knew that the housing market in Fairfield -- and may other places -- remained a war zone, and we were just wounded sellers in a field of tough buyers.

Our new broker offered some excellent suggestions -- adding a third bedroom, possibly in the finished half of the basement, redoing our second bath, and other ideas.

So we listened, licked our wounds and reassessed our situation. We knew we'd have to put money into the house to sell it, accepted that we'd have to sell for less than we'd anticipated and didn't give up.

In September 2011, we put the house on the market again. We were armed with a new broker, new price, new interior and exterior paint jobs and what I have to say was an ingenious marketing idea -- a rendering for a potential third bedroom in our den off the kitchen.

Over the course of seasonal markets, more open houses than I could count and price reductions, my wife and I concluded that we could manage pretty well in our goldfish bowl -- where potential buyers could be coming on short notice.

Since this selling go-round seemed more encouraging, we allowed ourselves to begin looking for places to move. Sadly, the majority of those places were out of Fairfield, but whenever an open house with Fairfield properties came along, we visited.

To be frank, moving out is going to probably be a lot easier than our last move. Thankfully, after creating two goldfish bowls and two brokers, we've learned to live comfortably in less space and with less clutter. My wife has decreased the number of her little nests in our den, and we have canceled more magazine subscriptions than I can count.

We hope donate hundreds of quilting and sewing magazines and possibly some fabric to Fairfield's middle schools and, possibly, the two high schools. We may consider a mass book sale one Saturday to send our large collection of books to good homes.

I've finally accepted that business attire has evolved from suits and sport jackets in my closets to more business casual clothing. Between consignment shops and Operation Hope, I am hoping to really scale things down. That parting will be sweet sorrow.

My biggest regret is that our move will come before winter is over, and so we won't be able to have a large tag sale. But we'll figure something out. And despite the unknown -- whether we can buy or end up renting and where -- I am relieved to finally be out of the goldfish bowl. No matter what happens now, we can begin to look forward to our new life in a different-sized world.

Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his "In the Suburbs" appears each Friday. He can be reached at steven.gaynes@yahoo.com.