“They’ve been here, and here… and here…”
I was almost on my hands and knees, my eyes glazed over with purpose, looking for any evidence: sweaty foot smudge on the hardwood, greasy fingerprints on the dark granite countertops, doors left half open, furniture askew, and staging pillows out of position. I was out to glean any sign of interest that would help satisfy my mounting need to be in control of the uncontrollable, to find any trace of intention left by the prospective buyers.
It was a futile exercise, and a point of tension between my agent and me.
“Tom, I’m going to ask you to walk away from this and let me do my job,” she had said on more than one occasion, as dark clouds gathered around the growing stack of business cards left in my kitchen by buyers’ agents. “Go out and keep yourself distracted. It’s only been one month!”
One month would not be a concern in a small town in Northern Ontario. But this was midtown Toronto, land of the 7-day property sale. And despite all her attempts to assuage my anxiety — “I promise you it will sell” — my agent could not help but leak out the hints of surprise and frustration even she was beginning to feel.
There were some issues with my property. It faced east, the parking pad was under the neighbouring building (don’t ask), and the unit had a view of a parking lot and a brick wall. Although my nephew had once told me “it’s a nice wall as walls go,” the fact that it belonged to the Rolex office didn’t seem to impress anyone who dulled the sheen of my hardwood floor with their vile end-of-day sock sweat.
“Who moves to midtown in any city for the view?!’ growled my supportive stepfather, who once lived in midtown Manhattan. “If you want that, move to the waterfront or a valley.”
Like Kelowna, for example!
“But your place is five minutes from the subway,” said shocked friends, family, and coworkers. Evidently this was not enough. So much for ‘location, location, location,’ I thought, too blind from my sulking to see that were it not for the sweet central location, I wouldn’t be getting as many showings as I was. The problems and peculiarities of my place couldn’t be that deal-breaking, could they?
As the weeks wore on, the buyer feedback grew more and more vexing.
“The buyers found the kitchen a little tight,” said the client services manager from the realtor’s office.
“You have got to be bloody kidding me!” I shot back. “It’s a 600-square-foot condo. It’s ALL tight!”
“You’re not going to please everyone,” said my agent, who was now working tag-team with the client services manager. “Buyers have changed. They are getting very picky. But just hang in there. It will happen.”
“What the hell do these Millennials want?!” I asked anyone (usually a coworker) who was hapless enough to encounter my verbal hellfire whenever the agent failed to answer the associated fusillade of texts. But it wasn’t just the Millennials.
There was just good old-fashioned economics at work.
The midtown market was experiencing a rapid spike in condo supply, just as I was daring to make a move on my dream of moving west. Solid boned office buildings had been converted into residential units (with liquor and grocery stores on the first floor), and within a week of my listing, upwards of 5 sandwich board ads for new development sales offices appeared like large wooden cockroaches at the intersection — the geographical centre of the city and the nexus of some of Canada’s wealthiest neighbourhoods.
So, I thought, there is a plethora of better options for people with good jobs, money, and a sense of entitlement. Isn’t…that…lovely.
I’d never wanted to take a blow torch to anything in my life (as an adult, anyway) until I saw those blasted sandwich boards at the intersection of St. Clair Avenue and Yonge Street.
Instead, I did something even more drastic and unthinkable (yet legal): I dropped my price.
Blood was now in the water, and a shark came. Of course the offer was way low.
Now this is where my agent showed me how she earned her money. Revealing seasoned negotiating chops, she brought the buyers up almost to my (albeit reduced) asking price. I was afraid of her when she was on the phone, and she was representing me! But we had a deal in hand. That is, until dinner time of the third day of conditions, when the wife came off the deal, the mortgage company came off the financing, and the wheels came off the cart that was to take me westward into the land of clean air, magical mountains, and brilliant sunshine.
I sat in my tiny den, stunned, stupefied, and staring at the unfeeling Rolex wall. What happened next can only be described as my inner Al-Pacino-in-Any-Given-Sunday speech. Resolve began to stir and grow inside me. The brick wall became a movie screen for every disappointment or setback I’d ever experienced, and years of bullies, naysayers, and opponents appeared as grinning faces on those bricks.
“I am a Kernaghan,” I whispered fiercely to myself, tapping into family lore and identity in a way that only seems to work during times of deep distress. “We don’t give up.”
I stood up. Rather than climb my own walls, I would smash through the one next door.
Nothing was going to get between the Okanagan Valley and me.
I re-armed for battle with fresh supplies: hardwood floor polish, bathroom caulking, bathroom cleaner, Pollyfilla, and paint. I dropped my price once more, re-listed, and the people came. It was now late November and we were up to around 65 showings. I was tired but had the 1,000-mile stare of battle.
Then I saw him, just feet away. He had glasses, dark hair, looked possibly Latino, appeared to be around 35 years old. He was locking his grey coupe (I forget the make), checking his phone, and walking with purpose toward my building, just as I was leaving for the latest showing.
I’ve always had a sense about situations and people. Blessed calm washed over me for the first time in two and a half months. I went to a café I’d never gone to before, got a coffee and pastry, and waited while looking at the cold, grey autumn sky.
The call came. If you’ve sold a property, you know the feeling and what it means before saying hello. We had another offer. Again my agent overpowered her opponent, got the low-ball offer to a respectable level, and then proceeded to strike almost all conditions! She never blinked.
It worked. Three days passed. The deal was final. At the end of January, the new owner would be free to smudge up the hardwood floor all he wanted. It would be his. I was moving on.
By early December, I was on another flight back to Kelowna, to find a new place to live.
A coworker said, “Wow, It’s REAL now — you must be scared!”
No, I had never felt more unafraid — nor happier.
I was going home.