Saturday, August 25, 2007

How Not to Sell a House in Boulder

We have this huge problem. We have all this money. Really a ton of money. And it is just sitting in the bank. Every once in a while we pull up our account on line to check if it's still there. It is.

I'm sure you feel our pain.

We'd like nothing better than to hand this massive wad of cash over to some nice Boulder resident in exchange for a home for our family of four and (canine) half. You'd think it would be easy. But, in the words of the late John Belushi, nooooooooOOOOoooo. It's harder than we ever thought it would be. It's nearly September and we are still transient. And the way things are going, I'm wondering if we are looking at being extremely well-off renters into the distant future. God I hope not.

We have been watching the Boulder "housing" market for about six months now, seriously looking for two, and I'm here to tell you: it's grim. Yes there is a lot of inventory right now. No, it is not moving at all. FOR A REASON. If I could just for a moment point out a few things to our home-selling friends in Boulder:

1. Your house is not worth that much. It is not worth twice the value of the similar house at the other end of the neighborhood. It is not worth more than the bigger house west of Broadway. Yes it is awfully cute. And we love what you've done with it. But not enough to distance ourselves from any rational thought whatsoever and lose money for the next 10 years. It is, in other words, not All That.

2. A piece of land with a crappy little house on it is: a piece of land. If we were paying for just a lot and a bit more, we would be very excited to take your little house and turn it into something really amazing and big enough to see us into our empty nest years. But apparently that little house is worth about a half million dollars on its own. To realize the potential of the lot, we have to eventually pay more than we would to have a big brand spanking new house a half mile away in Newlands. Gosh, thanks but no thanks.

3. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but after close inspection, it appears that there is nothing holding your house up. Not a foundation, not a beam, not even a toothpick and some Band-aids. Did you know this when you bought it? Do you know it now, while you are trying to sell it to us for a small fortune? If not, well there it is. Let's say, hypothetically, we were willing to buy a house that is caving in on itself. Okay. That's one thing. But add the flaking exposed asbestos, the corroding boiler, the lack of closets, the complete absence of a garage, the see where I'm going with this.

4. Let's look into the future. It's 2016. We own the house we bought from you. We have a lovely green front lawn. Except it's not ours! It belongs to the city of Boulder, to whom you traded it 9 years ago so you could build this nice big house. Our property ends at our front porch. But we still get to use this nice green front lawn, right? Sure, until the city decides to WIDEN THE STREET up to our doorstep. It's okay though, we'll just set up drive-thru coffee stand on the porch and fuel up the commuters on their way from Longmont. It's a nice life. Except it is never going to happen. Give us all of the land, or don't sell the house.

Sellers, may I suggest that you occasionally read the Wall Street Journal. They've been talking a bit about real estate lately. Real estate on this planet. Not only is it not the year 2000 anymore, but never in recorded history has your house been worth what you think it's worth. I hate to shit in your Cheerios, but it's the truth.

The question I keep coming back to again and again is: do you really think we are idiots? Let me tell you something. We come from quite possibly the most insane real estate market in the country. You are dealing with professionals. When you behave in a way that makes the San Francisco market look sane, that is really saying something. I'm talking about a place where someone bought a house for a $539,000 that SLID OFF ITS FOUNDATION. Right down the hill.

A million-dollar house in Whittier, or the crappiest house in San Francisco? Guess!

Sellers, let's recap. This was a house with structural issues. In a truly pricey and tight market. And it still cost only $539,000. Is the math making sense yet?

If not, I guess we'll just sit tight here in our charming rented dump, where the walls are crumbling and the stove doesn't heat up. But that's not our problem. Thank god.

Note to self: call landlord.