When we decided to put Pilcrow Cottage, our Snohomish home of two years, up for sale, the first order of worry for my sister was the care of the two-year-old pear trees. She wanted to know (and was rather insistent about knowing): What will you do with them? Will you take them with you? Will you leave them here? Will they, the new owners, love them?
We turned these questions over in our heads (or, at least, I did), asking whether we ought to take money or love: what if the best owner turns out to be someone who can’t offer as much? What if the higher-offer people had plans to tear down the house and build seventeen more? What-what-what…if?
It turns out these questions were answered to satisfaction in a matter of days, a matter of minutes, really, once we got the offer (many, actually, but that comes later) and once the future owners were free to tour the property in our presence. It turns out they love gardens, fruit trees, old houses (a must, as Pilcrow was built 1915), and the charm of the original single-pane windows. But we didn’t know that when we accepted the offer, and we really weren’t prepared to answer my sister’s questions until after we signed the papers and sealed the deal (preliminary deal, but still). So it was with faith that we chose the highest and best and not the heartfelt or sentimental; we trusted that the trees, the gardens, the greenhouse, the porch and its new rail were going to a couple who really, really wanted to live here and–here’s the most important detail–were willing to pay for it.
For as I mentioned above, we had several offers. Seven in three days, as a matter of fact, and our agent began telling people after the first evening: highest and best will be accepted. And so, having been out of town the day we would have legally had to review them, we sat down with the stack on a Wednesday evening and began the elimination process. In reality, this really proved no difficulty whatsoever, as ‘highest and best’ meant little to four of the seven. While inventory in Snohomish is low, their offers did not have to be. As Maureen, our agent, said: “Don’t insult me.” There you go. The top three, however, understood that to make inroads and forge paths, one must come prepared. A pickaxe and a heavy pair of boots, yes. A jar of lemonade and a rocking chair, no.
So when the future owners of this little blue cottage stepped up and told us they would pay 20K over asking price we knew we had a deal. We didn’t ask whether the pear trees would make it, but we had a hunch. Anyone who was willing to make it worth our while financially had to know that the yield of the fields was included in the added Ks. And they were right. Since then, we have tended to our little trees and flowers and gardens as though they were still our own, weeding the beds, watering, pruning, intending to leave Pilcrow in good condition before handing it over to the couple who saw a good thing and refused to insult us over it.
We are closing the deal in the next few days and will miss a great many things about this little historic home, such as the fruit trees and the way the garage doors make the south side of the house look like a barn, or all the workspace in the nice, cool basement. But despite all this, we know it is our time to move. We knew this when we put it on the market, that our days as owners of this cottage were coming to an end. But what we learned between Listing Day and Now is that we were right to ask for–and accept–highest and best, and equally right to defend the fate of our pear trees. For it truly was ‘the fruits of our labor’ that led us to receive such an abundant offer: we put sweat and tears and money and blood into our home, and we have come to realize that a developer would never pay top price to rip down a house, nor would a careless or irresponsible person pay more in order to trash it. Quality costs; it has a price, and if we want it, we must pay for it. Otherwise we sell ourselves short. And if we don’t ask others to pay top price for the goods we value, we shouldn’t be selling them at all.