We’ve come close to completing a room in our house just for me. An office. Gray walls, with girly purple and tropical blue-green trim, black switch covers, brushed nickel accessories. A huge window behind my computer monitor, a whole wall full of bookshelves. Soon there will be a futon, for guests, or for me for reading with a kitten in my lap. Custom made curtains, sewed together by a teacher and friend (and eventually, hopefully, matching throw pillows, just because Jeff hates them).
Having reached this milestone, I’m looking back on where this poor house was when we started.
The first time I came here, you could barely see it. The front yard was fenced in by a chain-link fence covered in ivy. The driveway was home to two falling-apart cars (one a Pontiac, the other a Saturn, for what it’s worth). The patio was covered – couches, a dryer, a dining room table. The yard, littered with the debris of humanity – a tile saw, a washing machine, children’s toys, a lumber rack for a pick-up truck. The garage, stuffed full, of recyclables and garbage and outgrown items. Even inside, one could barely see. The first visit with Alisha, my amazingly patient real estate agent, we ducked through the rooms, uncomfortable while we were clearly intruding upon a family gathering – mama, papa, tres ninos, una tia, la abuela, sitting around the television, dwarfed by an enormous entertainment center. This family, renting from their extended family, from some cousins, supposedly. Rooms, stuffed to the brim, walls covered (with family photographs, prints of portraits of saints), floors covered in clothes. It was an awkward visit to say the least.
I said I’d take it.
We couldn’t afford any other house on the market; this one was cheap, having been on the market for almost a year and having dropped in price by $80,000 to the measly price of only $110,000 (it’s public record, it’s not like you couldn’t find out if you wanted to).
My second visit there was for the home inspection. I pitied the guy, having to “inspect” the house while it was occupied, still full of family. I watched the mother of the family walk outside to find dirty dishes in a dishpan on that table on the porch, only to bring them inside, wash them in the crowded sink (in the middle of the counter, also covered with dirty dishes), to feed her children out of them. Signing important paperwork on the family’s dining room table, sticky with sugar, the residue of children. Speaking in hushed tones, discussing the house’s regrettable condition, hoping not to offend la familia.
The house was so crowded that the home inspector found the house to have three bedrooms, one and a half bathrooms, little else of note.
When the family moved out (initially leaving behind all the debris in the yard), we found that the house actually has two full bathrooms – and even a basement – the entry for which had been covered with furniture, or clothes, or something, so the home inspector didn’t see that it was there.
The buying process was a nightmare. I don’t think it could have gone any worse. We had to apply for an FHA loan, so more inspections were required – all of which the house failed, of course. It needed outlet covers to hide exposed wires, the whole garage was considered “unappraisable.” The roof needed a special inspection; at one point, rather than replace the old roof, they simply added a new one on top of the old one. Eventually the new roof settled, so the upper roof doesn’t sit in a straight line, creating worries that the roof sagged. As it turned out, this was a good thing, in a way; the contractor decided that, if anything, we had TOO MUCH roof for our little house.
The owners themselves were another story. The husband, in prison, for selling cocaine and illegal weapons possession. The wife, unable to speak English, unable to read or write even in Spanish, her native language, signed her name as “ + “, so she couldn’t be the only signer; a power of attorney was required, necessitating another visit by the notary. It would have been easier had he been in jail; notaries can go into jails, easily, but prisons are another story. Add to that, the prison was an hour or two away, and it’s more complicated still. For what it’s worth, he’s out on parole now, released the day after escrow closed, with a list of conditions a mile long.
Of course the loan process couldn’t be easy, either. Despite claims that my loan officer was really, really good, I felt like I had to do half the work – I was supposed to verify that an account was closed (even though I had already done that). I had to verify several large deposits into my account (aka, one time financial aid deposits that I had already provided documentation for). Hell, I had to call one of Jeff’s former employers – from before he even moved to Chico! – to get them to call her to verify his employment. Sorry, Dr. Traver, but I did that in the middle of your Victorian Lit class one day.
Close of escrow was shoved back time after time, for one thing or another. Loan issues, inability to get signatures because of language barriers, agreed-upon repairs delayed because of contractor issues. Said contractor added all the necessary outlet covers…except one… so an extra trip by the bank’s appraiser was required. Ultimately, we moved in, prior to close of escrow , after we convinced the loan officer with yelling, crying, and threatening to move all my business away from the bank, that we were going to be homeless if we didn’t move… we finally did.
I regretted it for maybe the first six months.
More to come.