Friday, July 31, 2009

F'ing Finally!

Well, folks, I think (I hope, I cross my fingers that I am not jinxing myself by writing this sentence) that it's all over. I just heard this morning that the sellers of the house we'd like to buy, and are deep in to negotiations with the mortgage company about, have agreed to take less than our formerly agreed upon price, based on the low assessment. It's taken about a week to get to this accord (think Yalta), but here we are.

It occurs to me that there are two ways of looking at this all-consuming, debacle of a summer project that we've engaged in.

1) If you subscribe to some sort of deterministic, happy-go-lucky, faith-based universe, someone could argue that this has all turned out for the best. Despite the fact that we are selling our house for less than we think it's worth (and, perhaps, at a loss, given what we've done to it in the past 5 years), the price reduction on the new house will actually give us a narrow margin of overage that is the beginning of a renovation budget. Or, in the eternal response of my parents: it all worked out in for the best, right? Well, sure, if you don't count the hours of sobbing and nail-biting, and my continued intense hatred of the buyers of our house. [Just between us: I'm far more lax about spills on the carpet than I was a month ago. It may even be the case that a small yacked-up hairball sat in a corner of the carpet for a day or two before I did something about it. And in the meantime, the weeds continue to grow, because I'll be damned if I'm going to expend one ounce of energy on behalf of the buyers. Note to future homeowners of America: it's not the best idea to piss off the people who are going to live in "your" house for a month before you settle.]

2) If you subscribe to an O.Henry, pain-is-entertainment universe of dramatic irony, however, I'll simply note that we've resolved our summer housing project on precisely the last weekday before I go back to teaching.

Choose your own adventure, kids. I'm tempted to spend the day doing whatever I damn well please as a sad substitute for the past two months of summer that I've missed out on.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Holding Out

Look. It's not like I'm purposely holding out on you or anything. It's just that I can sum up the last three weeks of my life like this:

No LOLz here, my friends. I mean, sure, I got to take a much-needed and delightful break to see friends in the big city. But the tenor of July, for the main part, has been a combination of rage and despair, hope and dashed hopes, flavored with a soupcon of "seriously, this has to be over soon, right?"

Tense updates in the negotiations about selling our house continue. The going consensus of our realtor and lawyer is that the buyer's realtor is invested in squeezing us for every penny she can. My favorite quote from Friday: "it's clear that they're not going to do the work on which they're basing this estimate. It's just about getting you to give them the cash." To wit: despite the fact that they based their original offer on visible structural issues, they now want us to take more money off of the final price of the house for those same issues. I spent much of the weekend entertaining various revenge fantasies, in which both the buyers and the realtor have infestations of mold in their respective houses. But those, I think, are probably healthier than the whining that I often find myself falling back on: what is wrong with these people? Is there absolutely no point at which they'll consider, even for a second, acting in a way that's honest and/or fair? And when did I turn in to such a Pollyanna? As my contractor likes to say: "People are scumbags, Fluff. Haven't you been around long enough to figure that out?"

Meanwhile, we found a house we're very interested in. Does it need aesthetic updates? Yes. Does it violate my requirement for a post-'84 kitchen and bathroom? Yep. In addition, I'll just say one word: paneling. But, bless its heart, it's on a half acre plot and it's a 12 minute commute to work. The owners accepted a very reasonable offer with no haggling, for which I thank them profusely. Forge ahead, says I. Pay for yet another structural inspection (on top of the one for the house we lost to contingency). The result from the inspector: it's sound, and it has a nifty, brand-new furnace. The result from the appraisal: it's worth $10,000 less than you think it is, which will affect your financing.

Thus, on this happy Sunday, I wait to hear whether the owners want to amend our contract to adjust to the appraisal. Meanwhile, however, the house we're living in is going to go, assuming that there's not some other way the buyers have of nickel-and-diming us to death. Rock and a hard place, anyone?

My summer class begins in a week, and will be immediately followed by a very full fall semester of teaching and service, and a couple of conferences to which I've committed. Of course, I had planned to spend the summer drafting out those conference papers, so that the fall wouldn't be so hectic. Instead, my entire summer has been consumed by the house. Assuming (and this is a big assumption at the moment) that the purchase of our house-in-need-of-renovation goes through, we can also assume that I'll spend a good part of this coming year, and perhaps the much fought for sabbatical coordinating reno rather than writing. All of which, I think, leads up to a big career FAIL on my part. My big post-tenure plan was to reinvigorate my research agenda, and not only have I f'ed that up for now, but seemingly for later as well.

Truly, I hate everything. Except you, readers, despite the fact that I've made you wade through my solipsistic whinging above. I'll be back with some sweetness and light, I hope, or at least some of the snarky sarcasm I'm too self-indulgent to locate right now.

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Saturday, July 04, 2009

Ain't No Drama Like a Housing Drama

'Cause a housing drama don't stop!

After eighteen days of maintaining a perfect showroom of a house, we were told that someone was going to make an offer on it. And that was good, because at the same time, someone had made an offer on the house we wanted to buy, and so we'd have 48 hours to close the deal on our own house and thus maintain our contract with the sellers of the house we wanted. "Well," I thought. "This is either all going to fall into place, or it's all going to fall apart."

In this, as in so many things, I'm painfully naive.

Because when the offer on your own house is $20,000 below the asking price, it makes for a long and tense negotiation. And when you're staring down a ticking clock on buying a different house, it can make for a particularly nerve-wracking scenario. As a friend said to me: this is the REAL 24, yo. Where's Jack Bauer when you need him to waterboard someone? Of course, I seldom see JB figuring amortization schedules on the fly. (In truth, I seldom see Jack Bauer at all----I hate that show.) Finally, with 20 minutes to go on the deadline, I told the lawyer to drop the contract on the house we wanted. The offer just wasn't going to clear the amount that would make me feel comfortable with the mortgage and closing costs. (Oh, and BTW: living in the state with the highest closing costs is no picnic. Just saying.) The lawyer, in his pithy vernacular, calls this "killing the deal," as in "Fluff, don't call me at 10 of to tell me to kill the deal. I need more time to write up the letter." or "Fluff, the clock is ticking. Should I kill the deal?" Yes, goddammit, kill the deal, and with it my last month of fantasizing about having coffee on the sunporch of that house, looking out into the wooded backyard. Kill my vision of a small, pristine turquoise office with white furniture. Kill it all.

Ah, but it the midst of that, another decision still needs to be made!! What about the offer? Hello, long night of the soul, and thank you to the 3 people who were patient enough to listen to me running them through the various considerations governing the sale. I'll spare you the outrage, the sobbing, the sleeplessness. We'll just say that it's done, and that I'm confident it was the right decision, even if a disappointing one. Oh, and that when my cat missed the litter box this morning and peed on the floor, I was sorely tempted to leave it there to soak into the floorboards in all of its cat-pissy odiferousness.

So now, we're frantically looking for a house to buy before we're turned out on the street. Now, of course, I remember how hard it was to find something that I liked in the first place. Now, I'm considering living in places I've never thought twice about, because it appears to fit our bizarre criteria. Would it have been better to have let the deal live and have eaten ramen for a few years? I suppose we'll find out in the next month or so. Meanwhile, keep your eyes open for a house that's really quiet, but within easy driving distance to work, that has a post-1984 kitchen. Preferably mid-century modern. With a combined living/family room. And a fireplace. And hopefully central air. And hardwood floors.

How hard can it be?