Tag Archives: House Hunting

Race to the Finish: A Limping Victory

SHHHHHHHH! 

Shhhh with Clock
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/stockimages

I have been keeping a secret from you. Two really. I think it’s time to come clean. I have been emboldened by Karen Copeland, a writer who shared her struggles about being honest in the blog-o-sphere. Sometimes it is easier to write about that which is funny, or at least funny in retrospect, than it is to contemplate the scary that is the now or immediate future. As most of you know, I have been trying to buy a house…well…find a house first and then buy it. Who knew finding it was going to be the easier of the two prospects?*

I did it. I found the perfect, tiny house in Grandville, Michigan. Perfect in that it was way over budget and still had toxic gas seeping through the floor boards.** (Everybody chant: Mediation is Salvation!) Okay, so it was perfect in that it was still on the market and would actually pass an inspection. Why didn’t I just wait and see what the spring influx of housing would bring? Because, I was running out of time.

I have been juggling two major life changes. I have only told you about one of them because, to be honest, if I think about the second one, over which I have absolutely no control, I want to vomit. So instead, I have focused exclusively on the house purchase to the point of wearing blinders to the other big, scary thing in the hopes it would go away. It hasn’t and it won’t; and the stupid thing is, I knew that. I’ve known it for about four years. What I hadn’t known then was that I would be in a race between buying a house and facing the ‘Big Scary Thing’ and that the race would come down to a matter of days between the two cataclysmic events. Today, they collided.

I have been waiting on tenterhooks for a call from the mortgage company regarding the closing date. And waiting…and waiting… I finally get the call and I am chatting with my broker before he takes off for spring break. Bad news, he’s going out of town. The good news? I get to close this week. Yay! Which is critical because, if I didn’t, my two big secrets were going to meet and it was going to get ugly.*** And then I get the call…

“Hi, this is Shelly from Dr. ReallyDutchName’s office. I’m calling to let you know your total hip replacement surgery has been scheduled.”

I am mid-conversation with the terminally perky nurse who is informing me that my surgeon will be slicing and dicing me open at 1:30 p.m. Monday and that, oh, by the way, I can’t eat or drink anything after midnight the night before…the man hates fat people and this is his way of ensuring I know, at least once in my life, what raving hunger feels like…when my phone interrupts to tell me that my realtor is calling.

I get off the phone with little Miss Ray of Sunshine RN and find out that my closing can take place either Thursday or Friday this week, which would I prefer? So there you have it. Thursday I will be buying my Barbie Dream House and Monday I become the Bionic Woman—thus fulfilling two lifelong goals. Now I just have to figure out how to move into the new house without leaving my bed. The universe is a perverse bastard sometimes. 

Old-lympic Hopeful--my dreams of running in the Olympics aren't necessarily dead!  Check the story out at: http://www.olympischstadion.nl/en/53_news/?news_id=2028
Old-lympic Hopeful–my dreams of running in the Olympics aren’t necessarily dead! Check the story out at: http://www.olympischstadion.nl/en/53_news/?news_id=2028

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*Those of you who have read the past few (thousand) whiny posts about my poor judgment in housing prospects are rolling on the floor laughing. In review: Bad House#1, Bad House #2, and Lament for a House

**I got over my fear of mutant radon when faced with the fear of not finding a home in time.

***Like day-two in re-hab ugly.

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Requiem For A House

For your reading pleasure, please link to the appropriate soundtrack to this blog:

Mozart’s Requiem  

 

The perfect house is out there. Somewhere. Laughing at me. I have seen several that come very close. But, in each case there has been something about it that spelled ‘DOOM’ in big letters. It’s almost as if the universe doesn’t want me to find a home.

[Confutatis Maladictis – when the guilty are confounded]

There was the one house I told you about in October that was so close to a park you could almost spit and hit a baseball diamond. I had no problem walking away from that train wreck and, from what I have heard, it is going to auction. I pity the fool who buys it.

Cue B.A. Baracus:

Then there was the gorgeous Victorian on Greenfield that called to me with its massive bedrooms and walk-in closets. Hardwood floors. Lovingly painted decor. Creaky original windows with actual rope-pulleys to open and shut them. I ached to buy this drafty barn of a building with its ancient furnace and cavernous rooms. I yearned longingly right up until I looked up the sex offender registry and found a pedophile living one block north. NEXT!

[flammis acribus addictis – and doomed to flames of woe]

I was tempted by a nearly pristine ranch located, most appropriately, on Eden Street. Paradise found! With its redone kitchen and the odd passageway between the garage and the house that had been turned into a dining area with crown molding, it was quirky enough to appeal to me. The price was right and the house wasn’t a wreck; but I knew, even before I entered it, I could never buy the place. I had sat out front before the realtor arrived. As I waited, semi trucks barreled past on Byron Center Road heading to nearby 44th Street. It spelled woe to any child who dared to get off a bus there. I tried to convince myself my son would be ‘safe enough’. (This is a child who runs into the street for fun and profit.) Because it was a corner lot, a fence could not be put up. Nothing stood between my child and certain death except wishful thinking. Even as I debated the possibilities, I admired the scampering squirrels who were enjoying the unexpected hiatus from blizzards. Tiny wrens popped from bushes denuded of leaves down to the ground to hunt for seeds. “I could live here. This could work.” I tried telling myself. (Cue the irony.) A hawk from a nearby tree swooped down and snatched up one of the tiny birds, killing it in seconds. (I hope. I really, really hope.) The hawk took its meal and parked itself in the small tree about five feet from my car. I swear the bird stared at me. It was as if nature itself had decided I needed a slap-to-the-face reminder of how quickly life can blink out. I was firmly pushed from Eden. (I’m sure I could come up with a Paradise Lost reference here, if only I had read the book.)

[voca me cum benedictus – call me among the blessed]

This week I found another misfit house to love. It is big enough to hold a rambunctious child and a woman with an inordinate love of books and cooking. The basement isn’t entirely creepy and the roof doesn’t even look as if it is going to cave in. In other words, it is perfect. Except for the pesky rumor of gang activity. No one can come to a consensus on the safety of the given area. Some people say this area is going downhill, there are gangs and crime. The receptionist who mans (?womans?) the desk of the local United Methodist Church tells me, “I’ve lived here forty years and never had a problem.” I asked her whether she was looking for a roommate. She laughed. Apparently she thought I was joking. When I asked the police liaison about the area and whether I should move there… Her answer? “No!” Even so, I am still considering it.

[Ingemisco, tamquam reus: culpa rubet vultus meus–

I moan as one who is guilty: owning my shame with a red face]

Every day on the news we are reminded that safety is an illusion that can be torn away at any moment. And yet, I cannot find the courage to move to a neighborhood that might possibly require safety bars on both sides of the windows. What is a poor house hunter to do? For now, I am prompted to sing, not just a lament for lost and dying souls, but a song that truly speaks to the season and the un-reason of my current desire to run and hide:

 “Let It Go! Let It Go!”

“You’ll Never See Me Cry”

House Hunting Blues: Part Deus Ex Machina

House Hunting for the Incredibly Inept–More of a How Not To For Those Who Learn Best by Example

Crime Scene
But it comes with a library and a really nice kitchen! Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.Net/ponsulak

I have been frantically searching for a house over the past month trying to find something I could afford before the snow flies. (Dangit) This week I made an offer on one and moments later had a panic attack that had me calling my therapist to talk me down from hyperventilating until I passed out. (I kid you not.) Why, you may ask, did putting an offer in cause heart palpitations and the desire to vomit food I’d eaten years ago? I’ll tell you. Because when it comes to finding, picking out and buying a house, I have come to a hard-learned conclusion that, apparently, The Idiot’s Guide to Buying a House doesn’t come with a guarantee. If you can’t follow their simple, step-by-step instructions well then, Caveat Emptor.*

Let me back up and tell you that, with regards to this house hunting expedition, I thought I was well prepared going in. (It’s a bit like getting married, you think you know what you are doing…at the time saying “I do” seemed pretty easy, right?) I attended a class for new home owners and everything. Then, I gratefully accepted the interest offered by the first mortgage broker who would even consider looking at a buyer who wanted a loan under $100,000. (Did you know the name for us in the industry is something like Time-Wasting-Applicant-Trouble-Seekers. I have been too busy to come up with an acronym for that.)

For two weeks after I got my pre-approval letter, I yapped at my poor realtor every single time a house came on the market that I could afford. I’d see something in my budget and shoot her an email. I strongly suspect by the fifth or sixth communication she wanted to shoot me back. When we met in person, she explained something I didn’t know…realtors cannot tell you that a neighborhood might not be desirable to live in. I guess I was sending her listings that apparently should have come with crime statistics. On her advice, I finally went to view the neighborhood that was offering such lovely houses at prices that seemed to be a steal. I drove past beautiful bungalows and cute cape cods until I passed a house with actual crime scene tape in front of it. I did a quick look around to see if the CSI officers were hanging about (no such luck), just in case they were as cute as Warrick on the original show by that name. (I still curse the writers who killed him off and sent Grissom away.) Where was I? Oh, right, leaving the house of my dreams in the location of my nightmares behind me as fast as the speed limit would allow.

Once I figured out where the safest neighborhoods were, the number of houses in my price range dropped dramatically. (You thought the DOW plunged alarmingly in 2011? If my house choices were stock options, I would have gone belly-up.)** Not only that, but the houses that did come up that weren’t condemned or had crawl-space basements just big enough to hide your average serial killer, the most likely homes disappeared from the market before I could get out to see them.

So, Thursday morning, when a house came on the market in an area that I would love to live in and it was reduced to a price I could almost afford. I nagged my realtor (a really nice woman who didn’t do anything to deserve a client like me) to get me into that house immediately. After probably the fastest walk-through in the history of house hunting anywhere, I jumped at the bait like a carp snapping up a juicy fly. Now I am worried that the hook sticking out of my jaw might possibly mean there is a frying pan somewhere in my future. “Don’t worry,” I tell myself, “You can always jump out of the pan!”

Right after I signed the digital dotted line (after reading the contract, I’m not a complete idiot) I start to dwell on all the negatives of the home I just told someone I could pay $94,000 for if they chipped in $2,000 for closing costs. (I felt like Wimpy in the Popeye comic strip: I’ll pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.) Negotiating a purchasing price of a home is like a really confusing shell game where you think you know where the ball is, but you’re still certain you are about to be conned. When the sellers leapt at my offer without negotiating anything, I was convinced I had made a mistake.

I honestly think I would have had an aneurism if it weren’t for my realtor pointing out the clause in my contract that says something to the effect that “If the inspections turn up anything of significant concern, the buyer has the right to repent at leisure that which she offered for in haste.”*** Or words to that effect. It’s the magic ‘Get Out of Jail Free Card’ of real estate. So, even though I have made an offer on a house I barely saw and am now chewing my nails that it will be a move I’ll regret for the next thirty years, I have the lovely prospect of an inspection to look forward to next Thursday which will either tell me that I have made a good choice or let me play my card. I may not be able to avoid the luxury tax for stupid people (i.e. loss of earnest money), but at least I can avoid jail. And, perhaps that’s the best a first-time buyer can hope for in a seller’s market.

Monopoly House
I’d like to live on Park Place, please! Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/ James Barker (And yes, I realize I could have taken a picture of a Monopoly house myself…but I’m busy being a blogger. So there!)

 Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

* Caveat Emptor in this case translates as: You just bought an empty cave!

**Fine, you write a better NASDAQ analogy—I still get NASDAQ and Nascar confused!

***Leisure lasts ten days, in case you wondered.