Sales aversion

3431 Wheat Street
3431 Wheat Street

In the movie “Say Anything,” Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) tells his girlfriend’s parents that he doesn’t  want to “sell anything bought or processed, buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought or processed, or repair anything sold, bought or processed – you know – as a career.” I think it’s one of the great film moments of all time and a succinct expression of my own aversion to the vast majority of what’s generally termed “sales.”

Yes, I spend a great deal of time each week selling theater. But I make a distinction between what I do now and what we all did as fundraising conscripts in high school. Maybe it feels so different because quotas aren’t involved. Or maybe it’s different because I seldom have to press customer flesh.  There’s no clear connection between pitch and purchase. I don’t “do deals.”
Or maybe I’m kidding myself.

Anyway, I mention all this because I’ve been trying to sell a house for almost five months and hating every minute of it. It’s an extremely desirable house in a great neighborhood and potential buyers queued up the moment it first appeared on the market. But the law allows me to sign with only one buyer at a time and all the buyers I’ve invited to the table thus far have failed the skittish mortgage industry’s stepped-up tests of financial reliability. They’ve all arrived at the process pre-approved and all left the process doubled-back on by their banks. The most recent buyer, for example, found out 24 hours before closing that her bank wanted more documentation of her assets … documentation she didn’t have. So I let the contract die a natural death because I no longer give extensions. I granted the first buyer nearly two months of extensions (beyond the initial one-month discovery period prior to the first closing date), only to have the deal fall through when necessary paperwork couldn’t be obtained from – of all places – Kuwait. (Long, sad story.)

I now wonder if pre-approval signifies anything more than a lender’s willingness to take a closer look at a borrower when and if he ever actually tries to borrow money. All the buyers with whom I’ve signed contracts were pre-approved.

When I bought the house in 1999, I thought I’d closed on the last place I’d ever live. I loved that house with its plaster walls and oak floors, its tile bathroom, glass door knobs, heart-of-pine rafters and chunky granite exterior. Now I want nothing more than to be rid of it and, with the proceeds from the sale, rid of my current mortgage. Debt-free for the first time since I arrived in Greenville three years ago.

Of course, as the economy is recovering, property value is increasing and so things could be worse. I’ve heard the horror stories. In the meantime, though, I’m slogging through the long slow-motion sale of something very much sold, bought, processed and repaired … and it’s starting to feel like a career.