Heather Christie, associate broker at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices HomeSale Realty in West Lawn, Pa., has written a beautiful piece that will speak to any real estate professional who’s dealt with a painful transaction. She worked with sellers who had fallen on hard times and had to sell their home last fall after 30 years living there. They were emotionally fraught, but Christie was their guiding light. Here’s what Christie writes about her experience:
Last fall, I watched an older woman, a wife and a mother, slide her life across the settlement table with a worn set of keys to a younger woman, also a wife and mother.
“It was a good house,” the older woman, my seller, said as she bit her lower lip and tears welled in her eyes.
Her husband, who had become crippled from a botched operation, turned away, fighting tears, too. This man, who had every right to be bitter, softened as his wife’s voice shook. He fought to keep his composure, refusing to look anybody in the eye, the pain etched across his strained expression.
“We had a lot of good times there,” she said, sniffling and pulling a Kleenex from her purse. “But, it’s just too much now.”
The young woman reached, her hand touching the older woman’s hand. “I’ll take good care of it,” she said, her voice soft and cracking. The two women looked at each other, and in that moment, the hopes, dreams, and memories of one woman — her entire life — passed to the other.
And I was there as a witness.
Sometimes we forget what a house represents. It’s more than a place to live; it’s where people create a life. It’s a place a family calls their home, until one day it becomes somebody else’s home. It’s borrowed and loved, and then it’s gone. The people inhabiting it are only visitors passing through, transitory beings. The sticks and bricks hold something intangible, something that defines what it means to be human: a home.
Buying or selling a home is not just a financial transaction; it’s an emotional and symbolic beginning or ending, a definite marker in one’s life. As the gatekeepers, real estate professionals wave buyers and sellers through, pointing the way.
These are life-changing events real estate agents witness, events to which we’re made a party. We hold the distinction of being there. A buyer or seller invites us into his or her life to share in this — to shoulder the burdens and the joys that accompany passing the torch from one family to another.
We see people at their best and worst, in happiness and sadness. At the settlement table, a buyer celebrates a step into adulthood by purchasing a house, or a young couple solidifies their commitment to each other by signing a mortgage together. Sometimes, a family is disintegrating and the house is the last tie that binds. Or a parent has died and siblings need to settle the estate, the house being the final remnant of their childhood. And sometimes, a house just becomes too much, like with my sellers. The weeks turn into years and the years into decades, and then it’s time to go.
That fall day, my seller shook hands with the woman who would borrow her home for a while, maybe a lifetime. But one day she, too, would pass it on to another young person. As we stood to leave, my seller turned and hugged me, her tears falling freely.
“Thanks, Heather.” She caught her breath and wiped her eyes. “Thanks for everything.”
I paused in her embrace, a lump forming in my throat.
So this is why I do this.