Saturday, August 23, 2014

Moving East

Part of our dream: own a house.  Eventually.  Some time down the road.  Eddie and I went to several open houses over the past year to see what was out there.  What's out there is pretty scary.  We saw a basement "bathroom" that was clearly a makeshift handyman special since the toilet was up on a two-foot step in a small corner and the sink was on the other side of what seemed to be a wall but couldn't quite be defined as one.  We smelled lots of new smells that we did not want to ever smell again.  Smoke and cats prevailed over unidentifiable.  We saw a house that had a hole in the second floor.  The second floor was the "master suite" complete with chimney in the middle, the large hole next to the chimney, walls of closet space, and a new bathroom.  Apparently they thought the bathroom was the selling point.   Not if you can fall through to the first floor it isn't.  These houses were massive and needed massive overhauls.  They were priced in the high 3s to high 4s and needed at least half of that additionally in work.  Not being exactly handy (neither of us can use a paint brush let alone hang a door or take a drill to anything), Eddie and I put aside that part of our dream for a while.

Because just one town over can make a difference.  Because British lit was my specialty as an undergrad and all the streets in the neighborhood are named after places in London.  Because it was so darn cute in the pictures.  I sent Eddie an email with a link attached from Redfin saying, "I think we should look at this house."  Because we had nothing to do on that particular Saturday, we drove about seven blocks over to an open house.  It was packed.  We parked the car down the block, and when we got out, I said to him, "Now I feel like I'm in a competition and we have to have this house and no one else here can have it."  We hadn't even reached the front lawn yet, and I was devising a way to elbow people out of our path. 

We made it to the house and figured out which door to enter since we had a choice of two and we walked in and wow -- it did not smell, it was not dirty, we didn't skeeve it, and we didn't throw up our hands and give each other that look of "how do people live here?"  Instead, I called dibs on the front office while Eddie nodded in approval at every room, even in the master bedroom where there was a creepy doll sitting on a chair that we could see in the pictures online and was creepier in person.  I told him that if we were to live in the house, that doll would haunt it (more on that later).

The real estate agent showed us where we could knock down a wall and then reoriented me when I got confused with which door led to where--there was actually a third door on the other side of the house.  For a small house--one floor, six rooms, no basement--it has a lot of doors.  We talked about the neighborhood and then left. 

In leaving, the two of us got into a what if conversation and in the few minutes it took to get home, Eddie was figuring out numbers.  In half an hour, we made our way back and talked numbers.  She took all our information.  Eddie talked about mortgages in the language saved for only real estate people and mortgage people.  I ran around the house, flipping on and off light switches, turning on and off faucets, opening and closing doors.  We left in a little while with the promise that she would call us in a few hours.  We'd put a bid on the house.

In the course of a few hours, I slowly sank into the fetal position on the floor in our living room so when the phone rang, I was rocking myself to shambles and asking quite loudly, What are we doing?!?!? followed up by, We are not adult enough to own a house!!!! 

The first call was to explain that they'd gotten another offer that was for higher than what we'd offered.  We were going to wait it out.  That's when Eddie explained to me matter-of-factly,  You'd better get ready for the next phone call because that means we got the house.

I was like, But they offered more money.  Why would anyone turn down more money?

He explained, We're stronger buyers.  We're putting down more.

I answered, But it's less money.

He replied, We're better.

In any other situation, I'd be satisfied with "we're better" because that's my answer for anything else in this world. Why should I get something for free?  Because I'm the best.  Why should I go on vacation?  Because I'm so great.  Why do I get the answers right in Jeopardy?  Because I'm better than anyone.  But in this situation, it just didn't compute.

"But why would anyone take less money?"

"Because it's not guaranteed that they'll get the bigger amount with a weaker buyer."

And the debate ended there because the phone rang and I immediately dropped to the floor to roll around in the fetal position some more and I stopped rolling only to hold my breath and listen to one side of a conversation that I understood nothing about and then Eddie came into the living room and said, We're buying a house. 

I don't really remember exactly what happened next.  I was very happy.  I was very excited.  I might have blacked out because really the rest of it I simply do not recall.

Fast forward.  Eddie worked on our mortgage.  We had the inspection and our lawyer said it was the cleanest inspection he'd ever seen on a house.  We met one of the owners and her dog and were shocked that they owned a dog because there were no signs of it in the house.  We did paperwork.  I signed lots of things.  We found boxes.  We packed.  We packed.  We packed.  We packed.  Then came the closing.  We did a final walk-through and then went to sign all the paperwork.  We laughed and told stories and had a very pleasant time and I found out later that closings can take up to four hours and we were done in about an hour and a half.  We forgot to get the keys to the house and the now-prior owners forgot to give them to us so we all met up back at the lawyers' office to get them. 

Then we drove to our new house.  We went inside.  We walked from room to room talking about colors and furniture and what would happen where and when.  We were homeowners. 

The rest is a lot of usual moving stuff.  We cleaned.  We brought boxes and boxes over.    We met the neighbors.  We had a landscaper remove more plants and trees than you could imagine would fit on our very small property.  We had the gas company visit to tell me why the burner was cycling on and off non-stop (the gas company didn't turn on the gas when I'd asked them to so with no gas is no heat is no hot water is non-stop cycling until the gas is turned on).  We had the sewer people come to blast through the sewer that apparently hadn't been snaked in 25-30 years (real home ownership).  We had all the painting completed.  We had stuff hung on the walls. We hired a moving company to move the big furniture. We put our bed together, rearranged the living room several times, unpacked everything--EVERYTHING--in all the rooms.  I feared that I would not sleep that first night because whenever I sleep in a different place for the first time like on vacation in a hotel or at a friend's house, I can't sleep.  Apparently, hours upon hours of moving day after day is the perfect remedy for restlessness.  I slept so deeply for so long and it was so good.  Eddie woke up feeling the same way.

After that, the first few days I felt like I was on vacation, renting a time share.  Even so, it already felt like home.  As soon as we'd walked in that first day, we knew this was the place meant for us.  Despite some run-ins with spiders, cave crickets, and a silverfish that came crawling across my printer in my office, we are so settled and comfy.

Of course, there's lots to do still.  We're getting new doors.  We need to buy new blinds and curtains. We still need to figure out if we want to pull out more bushes (seriously, the amount of shrubbery is insane and the prior owner loved gardening, so there was actually a tree in the living room, I shit you not--hence, the attraction of the six-to-eight-legged critters that will soon learn there's no place to live here because we've gotten rid of all the plants and if they don't learn, the Orkin Man will teach them).  We have to have some minor things fixed and then some more major things reworked (like hanging the tv on the wall in the living room--guess whose idea that is).  In time, we need to pull down a fence, knock down a tree, repave the sidewalks and the driveway.  We'd eventually like to have a kitchen dining table instead of using a folding table with a tablecloth draped over it to hide the fact that it is a folding table (though the two metal folding chairs kind of give that away).

For all that to get done, it'll take a long time.  And as we cross things off the list, we'll add more things to it because that's what owning a house is.  But we're homeowners.  We're adults.  This is dreams coming true.

As for that creepy doll that I swore would haunt us.  I'm not kidding: the radio in the bathroom has turned on by itself twice so far.  I'm interested to see what else she has planned for us.


One of the treasures we found in the coat closet

Rabbit in the garden.  I named him Jesse.

Incredibly thick vine in front of our walkway, home to thousands of yellowjackets

The boy!

Rock face

A treasure we found in the linen closet

Post vine extraction.  Lots of the bushes are gone now, too.

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