What’s the best you can do?

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Half a lifetime ago, there were several people in my circle of friends who had birthdays around the same time as mine, so we decided that we’d go to a comedy show to celebrate all of us at once. I wasn’t in a great headspace, so when the comedian asked if anyone was celebrating anything, our table erupted in cheers. The comedian asked what I wanted for my birthday, and I responded “nothing”. He countered, “Don’t be surprised when you get it then.” The fact of it was I just wanted to feel connected to my friends, to feel like I wasn’t being dragged into an abyss all the time, to feel normal – like someone in their mid-20’s should feel. But that didn’t make for good comedy, or depending on the caustic nature of this fellow’s comedy, it might have served to make me feel worse. So I wanted nothing.

My gentleman associate and I have learned that if you want something, you need to ask for it. That’s come in various forms. One particularly work-busy Christmas, I wasn’t going to have time to do a bunch of things that I needed/wanted to get done before the apex of Christmas celebrations started, so I made a list, and asked him to do some shopping, and bring up some decorations and wrap some gifts, and pick up some groceries. He did everything on that list, and boy howdy was I glad I asked. But I can try with every cell in my being to send him mental messages to bring home two boxes of Pop tarts and a watermelon, and every single time, I will get neither.

I was talking to a friend who made an offhand remark about the division of labour in their house, and she wishes her husband would just take some of it off her plate. But it’s something that she usually does, so she felt like it would never, in a million years, occur to him to do it. So I asked her, “Did you ask him for what you want?” She said she would eventually do the thing, but it would be nice if he just *knew* to do it.

That conversation made me think back to the comedian and the Christmas list, and I’ve been thinking recently about why asking for what you want seems to be so… what? Selfish? Hard? 

The house next door for me is for sale. The current owner took possession around Easter and gutted it right back to the studs, and made it really beautiful inside. When they listed it a few weeks ago, the owner (who we’ve gotten to know a bit) said that they were listing it low to generate interest. Low, at $499, 995. Fair enough. That’s more than he bought it for, and I don’t know how much the renovations and upgrades cost. The first week it was on the market, over a hundred groups went through. One couple said that their daughter was interested in the house, and she was going to offer $600, 000 and she didn’t expect to get it. That seems like a *lot* over asking, but I haven’t bought a house in over a decade, and none of the houses we were in the market for were listed that high. Back then, you offered lower than the asking price, and ping-ponged your way through negotiations until you landed somewhere that everyone was mostly happy with. The week after the offer period closed on the house next door, we saw the owner and asked him whether there were any takers. He said that there were 3 offers, but no one who was ‘willing to come up’ to the price, and people who had made offers obviously haven’t done this before. I didn’t say anything, but I was confused by that, since I knew about the one offer (which was going in at 100, 000 over his asking price), in the very least. He said that the three offers were from people who ‘obviously haven’t done this before’. Well, yeah, you priced it, in this market, as an entry-level starter home.

The next week, the house was listed at $699, 995, and they expect to accept it for more than that, even. I don’t understand why thought people would understand the game if they wanted 50% more than what they were asking – and then saying that the offers need to come up to the *real* price. Seems a little like bait and switch to me. And sad.

Why wouldn’t you just ask for what you want? If you need a certain amount of money to cover the money you put in, and you want to clear a certain amount for your trouble, you obviously have a number in mind. There are other houses in our neighbourhood going for $800, 000+ but they’re quite a bit bigger than the little house next door. So I dunno. Sure, housing market is wild right now, but really, why play such a weird game? How’s someone like that supposed to know that what you asked for wasn’t what you wanted? Why play coy about it – I feel like this isn’t a poker game. You want the person to know whether they’re in the game or not, don’t you? Sure, there’s negotiation, but if you’re just too far apart to get to a common place, why put yourself through that stress?

This week, I was on vacation. The house remains unsold. I’ve been thinking about whether I’m going to have new neighbours this summer, or whether the house will languish. I get that you want to generate interest, but it looks like he generated interest in the wrong demographic – and now, he can’t get any traction because that entry-level demographic is outpriced, and the amount can’t compete with a house with twice the square footage for a slightly bigger asking price. But who knows what those slightly bigger asking prices really mean, really.

I’m going to go ask my gentleman associate to take me to the garden center now. Because there is a stone planter wall that needs some flowers before my vacation is done. And if I don’t ask, well… yaknow. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

Be kind to each other this week, friends. And remember to use your words.

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