Wednesday, May 8, 2002


by Mark Mayfield

Selling your dwelling

Nothing is more traumatic than selling a home. Okay, that's not entirely true. Actually, nothing is more traumatic than falling down and breaking your legs while running from a rampaging mob of drunken psychopathic skinheads with chainsaws. But selling a home definitely ranks a close second. The following advice won't help you outrun those pesky psychopaths, but it will help you understand why so many home buyers often exclaim, "Why did we buy this stupid place?!"
The first step in selling your home is choosing a real estate agent who knows how to use creative marketing techniques to turn liabilities into assets. For example, if your house has serious structural flaws that are easily seen during daylight, a skilled agent will suggest that prospective buyers examine it at night, "when the soft, romantic glow of moonlight magically transforms this lovely rustic hideaway into a cozy love nest." (A skilled agent is necessary only when you're selling a home. When it's time to buy a home, use an honest agent. There's only one in North America, and he's very busy.)
If you must do repair work on your home before marketing it, there's only one word you need to know: Spackle. That's right, the popular plaster-like stuff you use to patch nail holes and small cracks can also hide larger problems. If you have a toilet that won't stop running, or a shower with really scummy tile, simply fill the entire bathroom with Spackle, sand lightly and paint the former doorway to match the adjacent wall. No more bathroom means no more leaky toilet, and no more leaky toilet could mean a lucrative sale.
After choosing an agent and making any necessary repairs, you must determine the value of your home by asking yourself these questions:
1. "Should the price be influenced by the federal penitentiary and the all-night "Booze, Blades & Bullets" store that border my property?"
2. "Am I obligated to tell prospective buyers about the nearby biological weapons laboratory?"
3. "Will I be able to conceal that mysterious raw-sewage smell that constantly permeates the kitchen?"
4. "If my agent holds an open house, will the old man across the street try to show visitors his cat's latest litter of three-eyed kittens?"
When you've truthfully answered those questions, completely forget about them and set your asking price at 5.5 million. This enormous mark-up is necessary because you'll be paying hefty commissions for the successful sale of your property, including 1% to the company representing you, 1% to the company representing the buyer, 3% to the guy who put the For Sale sign in your front yard and 72% to Bill Gates. Besides, the asking price (also known as the "fake" price) is always slightly higher than the final sale price ($59,522).
Before finalizing the deal, the buyer may hire a home inspector, who will try to derail the transaction by pointing out your home's many faults, even if such faults don't actually exist. Home inspectors happily fill their reports with sale-killing phrases like Evidence of satanic sacrifices in attic, Deadly chemical leak in basement and Rabid weasel infestation in pantry. These godless communists, hell-bent on preventing freedom-loving Americans from experiencing the joy of home ownership, faithfully abide by the Home Inspector's Poetic Pledge:
We'll check out your roof, your plumbing, your wire--
then scare you with words like "holes," "leaks," and "fire."
We'll talk about damage that's not even real--
and we'll continue to lie 'til we've ruined the deal.
And at the end of the day, we'll take pride in knowing --
that through these inspections, our butt cracks were showing.
Fortunately, like any other godless communist, a home inspector will gladly become a godless capitalist if the price is right. For only $50.00 from the seller, he will give the buyer a special "fake-out" inspection report, which states that the examined home could easily withstand a flood, a catastrophic earthquake, a tornado, and a direct nuclear strike--all at the same time!
The final phase of the transaction is called escrow (a French word that means "torturous waiting period"). Escrow lasts between thirty days and 12 years, depending on how long it takes the participants to "sign, initial and date" the 159,000 legal documents involved in the sale. You can survive the ordeal by frequently reciting the wise words of a 17th-century real estate agent, who once said, "The road to a successful sale is long and perilous, but the monetary rewards for your perseverance will be infinitesimal."
Mark doesn't really believe there's only one honest real estate agent in North America. In fact, he suspects there are at least a dozen. Angry home inspectors can reach him at

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