What's more painful and more costly than natural childbirth and a medicated root canal combined?
Trying to sell my house. The process has lasted much longer than giving birth or having teeth drilled. No one insulted me during labour or at the dentist's office.
My house-proudness is getting pulverised like branches in a wood chipper. Many people sell their houses with ease, like my neighbour who got an offer within 10 minutes after the listing appeared on Facebook.
But my misery does, in fact, love company as I remember the couple whose Ohauiti sale has been delayed after they found a leak in their master bathroom requiring major renovation and expense; a woman who spent a year trying to offload her Whakatāne house during which time her pool imploded; another Papamoa friend who sold a house with spa pool had the new owner take her to court saying the pool's motor was faulty.
As soon as my property hit the market, small stuff started breaking: the washing machine, garage door remote, an exhaust fan … each week is a scramble of repair and replace roulette.
Facing the endgame is like sucking juice from lemons about to drop from the tree in our garden no one else appreciates.
Attempts to sell our four-bedroom, three-bathroom brick-and-tile Pāpāmoa home started in June and washed out with winter's rain. It poured during most open homes. A single offer came early; it was lower than we wanted so we counter-offered. Cue the crickets. The early bidders never returned. Not with a single extra dollar. You think how you'd respond in that situation, but fact is, I am not the other person who didn't love our home in the first place. I am just me - twisting in the gales between Phoenix palms and cacti with a sign in our front yard a constant reminder.
Numbers from the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) show 475 homes sold in the Bay of Plenty in August.
Ours was not one of them.
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Comments to our real estate agent from people after open homes read like a mean girls' Twitter feed: "Too much work"; "I don't like the layout"; "The exterior was untidy". In a panic, I hired someone to wash the house and edge the lawns, something I should've done eons ago but instead pretended weeding, sweeping, cleaning, tidying - and cleaning again would be enough. It's never enough. Nothing is enough until the property is sold.
Our home's main crime is age. It's elderly at nearly 30 years old when compared with its shiny new cousins down the road. The old girl lacks granite (unless you count the rocks outside); its single-pane window joinery is painted 90s sea foam green (was that ever in style?); two bathroom sinks have dual taps and - wait for it - the kitchen has laminate bench tops with rounded wooden borders and a peach-coloured tile splashback. Never mind we painted nearly the entire downstairs and installed a solar tube to illuminate a long hallway. Our house lacks the uninhabited veneer and shiny hotel factor favoured by nearly everyone who inspects it.
But Old Granny sits upon nearly 800sq m, which I challenge you to find in a new subdivision. It has a pool, room for a large trampoline and two lounges. It's practically a lifestyle block by today's Tauranga building site standards. Add some chickens and a goat and you'll be sorted.
I texted our new real estate agent in frustration after reading his report laying out the case I've been raising my children in a hideous POS the past four years. Maybe they'll need therapy after spending their formative years here. The agent (with whom I've placed a tremendous amount of faith, not unlike choosing a guru to guide you through trying times) tells me to sit tight: we can change the marketing strategy in a week if nothing happens between now and then.
Patience has never been my defining characteristic. Knee-jerkiness: Yes. Zen-like calm and the belief the only way beyond a problem is to plough through it? Yeah, nah.
And it dawns on me I've forgotten a key part of home sale prep: I've yet to bury a statue of St Joseph in the yard. I'm not Catholic, but the patron saint of workers and fathers is reputed to help sellers find the right buyer. I've read accounts of homes sitting on the market for months, only to sell in weeks following burial of St Joseph. The advice is to bury him upside down in the front yard facing the house.
I'm medicating my seller's psychosis with running, wine and chocolate. And beer, because I believe hops will balance my diet. Also halloumi cheese, which, thanks to Miss 15's new pescatarian (vegetarian who eats fish) diet, we ate for dinner this week along with sautéed vegetables and couscous. Even the Old Granny kitchen can produce a mean feed.
The bright side here shines in the kindness of friends and coerced help of my kids. A good friend this week created a flower and mulch garden beneath a tree where before, only weeds grew. Miss 15 has harnessed her OCD tendencies to organise our pantry, linen cupboard and garage into spaces I barely recognise, they're so tidy. Even Master 13 took a break from video gaming to weed for 90 minutes. I had to pay them both for their labour, but it's worth it.
I've also met new people - two cheerful couples I've hired to edge lawns and trim hedges and another guy who was recommended to wash the home's exterior. If anything, we're supporting local businesses. Thanks to house chores, Miss 15 will be able to buy herself a new appendage - the latest iPhone - within weeks.
I'm going to go check my teeth - a root canal doesn't sound too bad. It would take my mind off the pain of trying to sell our home.
Meanwhile, anyone know where I can buy a statue of St Joseph?
• Dawn Picken also writes for the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend and tutors at Toi Ohomai. She's a former TV presenter and marketing director who lives in Papamoa with her family.