Balancing Act: Coronavirus hits home amid house swap
As the title of my column suggests, I have a habit of taking an ordinary life event and complicating it.
But back in February, on the eve of a pandemic, I had no idea I was about to take my specialty to the next level.
Long wanting to trim my square footage, I made an offer on a charming, vintage Cape Cod.
Looking back, I suppose I can recall a few reports of a virus swirling around China, but at the time, I was thinking more about the fireplace and how much it would cost to convert it from wood-burning to gas.
It did occur to me that if the offer were accepted, I would need to sell my current home ASAP. But it was a hot seller's market, right? And I was in house love.
Four months later, I am staring moving day in the face. But first, a peek at my life behind the for-sale sign -- the alternate reality that has distracted me from cable news.
Round One: the house-showing dilemma. How to word the "welcoming sign" cautioning tourists to wear masks and visit the "hand-sanitizing station" at the kitchen sink? How long to stay out of the house after the showings end? And how dangerous is it to use a public restroom while waiting three hours for any virus particles to clear from the air before my return?
Weighing the risks, I once sneaked back in to use my own guest bathroom while potential buyers were poking around upstairs. (Lysol might have done the trick, but it was selling online for more than $100 a can.)
As a result, each showing involved the usual "house-beautiful" preparation time, plus showing time, plus three-hour exit time, plus reentry with hard-surface wipe-downs in case anyone touched a counter or doorknob.
At the other house end, my sellers were COVID-stalled in their attempts to move to Spain, so we negotiated a month-to-month lease for them to stay in their house while I sold mine.
Before a month had passed, much handwashing had occurred at my house, and it sold. The transaction was so pristine that a notary watched me sign through the front window.
That brought Round Two, a trail of contractors now entering the house for requested inspection remedies. I greeted each one through the front window -- wearing and pointing to my mask, which sent them scurrying back to their trucks to get their own.
To keep my distance, I taped the applicable part of the inspection report to the applicable area, stayed in my office with the door closed and gave them my cellphone number in case there were questions.
Around this time, my son, who did not need a mask reminder, showed up in his pickup truck to schlep 55 boxes of donations because the Salvation Army was not picking up.
I waved and blew kisses to the grandkids, who stayed put in the back seat.
As soon as my sellers' lease was up, Round Three began: a parade of contractors doing pre-move work at the new house while I was packing up the old one.
Thankfully, by this time, my daughter had driven cross-country from Oregon (flights being dicey) to help. For the journey, she lugged all her food, a tent and a portable toilet and camped overnight in friends' backyards.
By the time this column hits print, Round Four -- the actual move -- will be behind me, with five masked men hauling a third of my stuff -- the part that was not donated or auctioned or trashed -- to my new place.
Soon, I will join the rest of the world in battling social-distance boredom, weighing the risks of attending protests and expanding my social bubble a little further for my own mental health.
But for the moment, I'm going to revel in the fact that I have bought and sold a house during a pandemic.
I'll take a deep breath -- at a reasonable distance -- and maybe attack the ambitious garden the previous owners had installed. Like the virus, I hadn't noticed it when I made the offer on the house.
No worries. I'm sure that returning to nature will simplify my life.
Balancing Act author Pat Snyder is a life-balance speaker and coach. Find her at PatSnyderOnline.com.