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House flipper

How not to fall for a sower of dissatisfaction

Now that our money isn’t worth anything anymore, we see prospectors like flies around carrion making offers on our house. Sign of the times. As when Joe Kennedy discerned the signal to exit the stock market the day a shoeshine boy gave him stock tips.

My husband and I had talked semi-seriously about moving—nothing but inertia holding us down now—so when the latest door-to-door suitors suggested a tour the following Tuesday, we said fine, figuring we could at least find out what the house is worth.

A handsome, athletic-looking, business-casual-dressed young man (I give details because in hindsight I see that everything was calculated) came to the door on time, and once inside, looked at us and said peremptorily, “Do you have any questions or concerns for me?” as if we should understand that the deal was nearly sealed. When I stuttered, he intoned with mild disapproval, “Oh, you just wanted to find out what your house is worth.” One score on the board for the house flipper in this psych game.

I remembered how it’s the devil who focuses on the bad and downplays the good.

I have always liked my house—the way it flows; the goodly number of windows bringing light in; the gratuitous indentations and departures from a square; the heavy interior doors; the crown molding; the beveled glass in the diamond-paned built-in china cabinets; the many unnecessary embellishments, as they liked to do in 1912.

The walk-around completed, my husband David and I and “Antoine” sat down in the living room. He started, “Well, the house is in bad shape,” followed by some other words that I didn’t process because I was still wondering if I heard his opening statement right. He cited all the things his company would have to change and how much it would cost to change them, then dropped the bottom line, a price so low it was ridiculous to anyone who had a computer and could find Zillow.

“Wait,” my husband said, raising up a bit in his seat, “are you telling us that because you will have to spend $65,000 to make the changes you want, we should feel sympathetic and give you our house for your lowball price?” “Not everybody’s motivated by money,” he replied with studied icy calm (referring to us, not him, an unsubtle aspersion on our motives). “Your company is not motivated by money?” my husband asked. Good thing David was the spokesman because I don’t do well with illogic; I get tongue-tied.

But the poison was already doing its work. After Antoine left, I didn’t see my house the same glowing way I have for 35 years. I saw all the faults. David (who knows the house like the back of his calloused hand because he is my live-in home repairer and improver) had to do some psychological damage control, pointing out to me the tricks Antoine had used on us, psych tips from the home office: Antoine had focused us on all the negative features and none of the positive features. David and I then did a second mental walk-through of every room, he now showing me all the good that Antoine’s criticism had artfully blinded me to.

I thought of God’s prescription for seeing life, and other people, and our circumstances, and how looking at life this prescribed way produces contentment, while the seed of dissatisfaction produces unhappiness: “Whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). I remembered how it’s the devil who focuses on the bad and downplays the good (Zechariah 3:1-5).

I felt better again. Then I texted my son and told him about the visit from the house flipper guy that day. “Ma, don’t forget it’s in their interest to talk bad on your house to drive the price down.” He knows. My son is a house flipper too.

Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is a senior writer for WORLD Magazine. Her columns have been compiled into three books including Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me. Andrée resides near Philadelphia.


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