Tales from the dark side of house hunting
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There you are, an adorable young couple — with your little one in tow, another on the way — out for a leisurely spring drive with your real estate agent.
And then, you see the house. The car screeches to a halt. You all leap out, barrel up the front path, smashing past the for-sale sign. Trembling with excitement, your greedy eyes turn to your agent, as if to say: “We want it. This is our house. Failure is not an option.”
The Espositos, weary city condo dwellers, have seen your kind before — many times. But we’ll be ready for you this year.
That house — the “delightful,” three-bed/1.5-bath “Cape Cod,” the one with the “cozy kitchen nook,” the one that coos “Welcome to the home of your dreams” every time you unlock the front door — it’s ours this spring. Got it?
Because you’re going up against professionals. We’ve dragged our own little tyke — screaming and scowling — through 200, maybe 300 such perfect homes. He no longer begs us to buy this house or that one. He thinks house hunting is a sadistic game without end that Mommy and Daddy like to play on weekends.
Are you ready for the dark side of house hunting? Because we’ve seen it.
Have you arrived at a property too early, startling the tenant, whose underpants sit — tent-like — on the floor, held up by their own crustiness? What would your precious little one think about that? Have you stepped inside a “charming Georgian,” only to discover it’s home to a psychopath who likes to punch holes in the wall and then cover them over with blank copy paper and tape? True story.
Listen, I know there are a lot of houses out there. And my wife tells me all the time that I’m part of the problem. I shouldn’t be so fussy, she says. The trouble is, I grew up in the Old Country, where houses don’t come with plastic on the outside and tar on the roof. And those streets around here — the ones in the suburbs that are as straight and as long as an O’Hare runway, the ones lined with identical yellow-brick boxes — not my cup of tea either. But you know what, your family would look great in one! Seriously.
Speaking of serious … are you familiar with the term “bamboozle?” You will be. I don’t want to give you an edge here, but beware of the seller’s agent who crouches down beside your child and whispers, “Would you like to see a secret hiding place where grownups aren’t allowed?” And then the same agent asks you, the parent, to picture that space — the attic — as a third bedroom.
Want to know what I pictured? A kitchen fire, a smoke-filled stairwell and my “little guy” saying, “Uh, Daddy, how do I get out of here?”
Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that you somehow find the house that you’ve always wanted at a price you’re willing to pay (a highly unlikely event). Let’s continue this fantasy: The home inspection passes with flying colors. Ditto for the radon testing. Speaking of colors … the homeowners have such good taste, you won’t even need to re-paint.
The finish line is in sight. You see yourself reclining on a lawn chair, sipping a mojito. Your little guy (wonderful news — he’ll soon have a playmate!) is building a Lego fort a few feet away. A pair of squirrels scamper up a tree. A flash of red — a cardinal swooping by. The wailing sirens, the let’s-only-have-sex-at-four-a.m. upstairs neighbors in your condo building, the crackle of gunfire are all soon to be distant memories.
Then you get a call from your long-suffering real estate agent — as we did last year. She’s mortified. She explains that she’s just got word that the sellers, without explanation, have pulled out. They no longer want you to buy their house. They’re staying put.
You’re shell-shocked. What now? The baby is due in two months.
Briefly, you rage against the injustice of it all. Your spouse says nothing, but you know what she’s thinking. You blunder through a life lesson talk with your kid, who wanders off to play with his Legos.
You, would-be home owner, don’t need this kind of grief. Stay where you are. Think of the gas you’ll save, the weekends you’ll have to yourselves, the summer festivals you’ll enjoy.
You’ve been warned.