July 6, 2021 – Keeping up Appearances

An old British TV show came to mind today when I was sprucing up the front yard. My realtor requested ‘more color’, so my husband built a planter box from some old scrap cedar and rebar, and I filled it with a bunch of clearance plants that I purchased at Lowe’s (see photo). The purpose of the planter box was not only to add color, it was also intended to disguise the busted brick enclosure that was built around the gas meter. The planter box and flowers actually look really good and I don’t know why we’ve only just thought to do it because it really has improved the appearance of the front walkway area. Of course, so has everything else we’ve done to ‘enhance’ our home in order to make it more marketable. After I get done writing tonight, I intend to complete another project I started yesterday with the desired effect of adding even more color and interest to the front of our home.

All of this effort towards ‘keeping up appearances’ is a full time job! I find it difficult to relax because I’m constantly thinking about what more I can possibly do to improve our home and make it desirable to people in the market for a new one. The British show I mentioned earlier was actually called ‘Keeping up Appearances’ and it originally aired from 1990-1995. It’s my all time favorite TV show. It’s a comedy about a woman who went to untold lengths to try and convince people she was of a higher social status than she really was. I absolutely love the show because it’s so ridiculous. Even though I’ve seen each episode from every season multiple times, I can never get enough! It seemed that no matter how hard the main character (Hyacinth Bucket pronounced ‘Bouquet’) tried to hide her ‘true roots’, something would eventually backfire (including her sister and brother-in-law’s car on a regular basis). That was one of the constant ‘gags’ that always sent me into hysterics when I’d watch the show.

There are so many hilarious episodes, it’s hard to name my favorite. Off the top of my head, the episodes that come to mind that made me laugh the hardest were the ones involving the ‘Commodore’, when Hyacinth decided to place an ad for her ‘services’, her niece’s daughter’s christening, when her ‘Daddy’ had an accident on his bicycle, the ‘bring and buy’ episode at the church, when Rose and her male companion were driving around in his van with the loudspeaker on, the riverside picnic with ‘riparian entertainments’ and…oh my gosh, there are far too many to list! In each of them, Hyacinth rarely acknowledges any of her family members. She is embarrassed by how ‘common’ they are. Sometimes I feel like Hyacinth, not that I’m trying to impress anyone (other than potential buyers). I don’t always like to acknowledge my family members but it’s not because they’re ‘common’, it’s because they’re mentally unstable and/or make me uneasy due to their erratic behavior.

And much like Hyacinth, I’ve gone to great lengths to make my home look its best. It seems like it’s a lot of ‘smoke and mirrors’ but if that’s what it takes to sell it, then I’m all for ‘smoke and mirrors’! I talked to my sister Cactus Annie tonight and she suggested that if an open house is held, that I either bake cookies or put cinnamon and apples in the oven on a low temp to entice people walking through to stick around a little longer. I know this is a common practice as I’ve heard it from dozens of people over the years; however, I’m not sure whether I’ll do it. My realtor doesn’t even have an ‘open house’ scheduled (which would warrant picking up a tube of oh-so-delicious Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and baking it in my oven). Last night, while wracking my brain on how to entice buyers, I came up with a not-so-unusual idea. I had noticed, while driving home one day, that my realtor had placed her directional sign in the corner of the yard of the former hoarder. The yard looks like something out of ‘Great Expectations’.

If you’ve read the book, you’ll know things were in quite a state of neglect. At the former hoarder’s property, I think I actually heard one of the few surviving blades of grass call out, “Help, I’m dying of thirst!” as I drove by the other day. What little grass that’s left is parched, and the yard is choked with weeds and looks like hell. No one’s touched it in months. And that’s not the only ‘turn off’. Some of the houses need some serious TLC and the street’s lined from one end to the other with old, beater cars. As I thought of ways to improve our odds of selling, I imagined what a potential buyer must think when entering the neighborhood at that particular location. I wouldn’t be surprised if some folks have changed their minds about viewing our home once they’ve laid eyes on the former hoarder’s house (and yard) along with multiple cars lining the street, parked bumper-to-bumper. “What if?” I thought to myself, “What if I were to move the directional sign to the other street that allows access to our home. Would that help our chances?”

You see, the ‘other’ street is nothing like the one I just mentioned. The cars are all either stored in garages or parked in/on driveways, there are none parked in/on the street. All of the yards and homes are well maintained. Most of the homes are freshly painted and most of the yards have healthy green lawns and/or beautiful flower gardens. It’s like something out of ‘The Truman Show’ (another ‘must see’ film starring Jim Carrey). Ok, hang on. Since I mentioned Jim Carrey, I feel it necessary to recommend a few of his films. I know a lot of people aren’t huge fans of Mr. Carrey (including my mom) but he did an exceptional job in not only ‘Dumb and Dumber’, but in ‘The Truman Show’, ‘Yes, Man’, ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’, ‘Bruce Almighty’ and ‘Fun with Dick and Jane’ as well. Anyway, back to ‘the street’. Yes, the ‘other’ street is actually pleasing to the eye and I personally prefer to drive down it rather than the aforementioned one. With this in mind, from a marketing standpoint, I thought to myself, “This is where the directional sign should go.” I then sent an email to my realtor.

“Would you mind if I move the directional sign?” I asked her. I then explained why I felt it was a good idea and then added that if I was getting to be ‘too much’, just to tell me to ‘butt out’. She didn’t though, just like she didn’t ‘scream in my face’ when I all but expected it (after requesting to increase the asking price of our home). When she responded to my request about the sign, she indicated that she was all for it, but that I needed to get permission from the homeowner before planting a sign in his/her/their lawn. Fortunately, the homeowner was most agreeable so I didn’t waste any time pulling the sign out of the weed-choked yard and relocating it. The whole thing seems a bit deceptive but it isn’t really. I’m just guiding potential buyers down an alternative street to reach my house. It reminds me a little of what happened when my husband and I were looking for a place to live in Spain (but only in the slightest way). What we were subjected to was more of a ‘bait and switch’ deal and seemed very underhanded. What ultimately happened was when we toured the apartment (we eventually signed a lease on), we went during the day.

It was lovely and clean and most of all, it was quiet. We had just moved from Germany, and I was in my 2nd to 3rd trimester of pregnancy and wanted a peaceful place to reside while awaiting my baby’s arrival. Long story short, after all of our household goods had been delivered, and we’d found our box of bedding, made the bed, and climbed in (exhausted beyond words), the walls and floor started thumping. And when I say ‘thumping’, I mean it in a very literal sense. I had no idea what the hell was going on but someone was playing music at an incredibly high volume. I thought at first it was a fluke, and then it happened the next night, and the next, and the next. As it turns out, we had signed a lease for an apartment that just happened to be directly over a nightclub. We didn’t realize it at the time because the entrance to the club was on the opposite side of the building (from where we entered). When it dawned on me what happened, I was more than furious but there was nothing we could do, we were trapped.

I don’t think what I did with the sign is necessarily the same. The street beside us isn’t noisy, it’s just a bit of an eyesore. Just like baking cookies during an open house, or covering up a crumbly brick enclosure (for a gas meter) with a planter box, it’s using a little bit of ‘smoke and mirrors’ to get the job done. Goodness, now that I think about it, I should have called the blog post ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ rather than ‘Keeping up Appearances’. Although, had I done that, I wouldn’t have been able to mention Hyacinth and that’s simply unacceptable. And whether or not the sign makes a difference is hard to say. Our listing agent/realtor hasn’t contacted us to schedule a showing for days; the phone hasn’t rung once (aside from when Cactus Annie called). The longer the house is on the market, the more it’s going to put us at a disadvantage. I did text my realtor tonight and asked whether she’s going to schedule an open house but she hasn’t responded yet. If we do have one and nothing comes of it, our ‘move’ probably won’t happen (at least this year).

Oh, well. As I’ve mentioned before, there are worse places to get ‘stuck’. It’s all in the hands of fate now. I’m actually enjoying the house and all of its recent improvements, so if we don’t leave it won’t necessarily break my heart. Anyway, I’d better call it a night. I’m exhausted yet again from another full day. The project that I intended to work on will just have to wait until tomorrow. Thanks for stopping by and I hope to see you again soon!

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