Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Real estate business

I made another offer and then revoked it. This time on a house in the Harbour.

It is a nice little house sitting on 19 acres of land, mostly abandoned pasture grown up in alders and a little bit of forest that has been clearcut. Its fatal flaw though was a drilled well and septic tank less than twenty feet apart. The water tested clean, it may be fine, I just don't know and I don't know how long it will be fine. Maybe forever. The not knowing, and not knowing even what it would cost to do something about it is the scary part.

Or one of the scary parts. The other scary part is the finances. I don't even know now whether I can afford to buy a home at all. If I had done it last year, I might have been OK, but this year the real estate market in Nova Scotia has taken off, prices are rising and I think I am being priced out of the market. I think I missed my window of opportunity.

So, I am thoroughly frustrated and depressed. I am even losing weight, a sure sign of things not being right in my little world!

When I started the process of making an offer on this little house in the Harbour, a friend and neighbour volunteered to inspect it for me and give me his opinion of its strengths and shortcomings. I appreciated this kindness very much, even though his opinion was ultimately fairly negative. He burst my little balloon of excitement about the place.

Later, when it came time to withdraw the offer, it turned out my offer to purchase contract required a signed statement from this friend stating what the problem was. My friend was a little reluctant---to say the least---to do that. I don't blame him at all, but it did put me in a bit of a bind. So yesterday, the day I was supposed to sign the termination papers, was probably the most stressful day of all, trying to gently convince my kind friend to sign on the dotted line to get me off the hook.

An onlooker, a mutual friend, listening and watching this whole process was wisely refraining from expressing an opinion on the matter, although at one point he ventured, You're looking to buy a place?

I turned to him and said, No, right now I'm looking for a hole to crawl into and hide in.

You know how when you get depressed everything in your whole life is connected and it's all bad? Right from the day you were born into this sorry world on down to the burnt toast this morning at breakfast? OK, it's like that.

I have two failed offers to purchase under my belt in as many months. Is the universe trying to tell me something? Other stuff as well, which I won't get into here.

Not to mention the rehash of the state of my finances and coming to the conclusion that perhaps I am screwed. Perhaps the recent stock market mess really did bite me harder than I thought. Can't buy, can't rent, and too many "assets" to even get into seniors' housing. Seniors housing! My god, has it really come to that? Never mind, I can't get in anyway.

Stupid thing is, I have all these friends here trying to help me. Friends I don't even know. When I was first realizing the septic-well issue, one friend said, Oh, you need to talk to Brian, he's the go-to guy on all things septic.

So on my way back up the Mountain, I stopped at Brian's house and his wife gave me his phone number to call later because he wasn't in. At supper time I called him, and he said, I'll be right there.

And not ten minutes later he was at the property in question examining the situation. This guy never even heard of me till I phoned him, and he drops everything to drive seven miles to check out a suspect septic.

Brian gave me his opinion of the situation, from both the legal and the "under the table" perspective. He actually was fairly optimistic about the solvability of the problem. He liked the property, thought it was worth trying to fix. I agree with him, I just don't have the resources to take the risk that the solution might turn out to be more expensive than I can afford. It's one of those things, it could be real simple or it could be real complicated, and short of actually doing the work, there's just no way to tell which way it will fall.

When the deal fell through, another friend got on the internet and immediately dug up another prospective home and even called the real estate agent to get the details. She printed off the pertinent info and got in her car and drove back in the woods looking for me. She insisted I go look right away.

By this time I had no appetite for anything real estate-related, but it's hard to resist the insistent kindness of a friend, I dutifully trundled off to look at this house.

The new option is a tiny house on the edge of the one town in the Valley I wouldn't mind living in. The instructions are to knock on the door of the neighbour to the left who has the key to the house. I pull up in front and before I am even half way across the road, the neighbour to the left is on his front porch enquiring, You lost? You lost?

I tell him I have come to look at the house for sale, he scrutinizes me for a minute, then looks at the for sale sign out front, then back at me.

Oh yes, it's for sale, the old lady just died. Go look around, I'll call the agent.

He goes into his house to phone, I walk around the house for sale. It is tiny tiny, the pink paint is peeling, and all the blinds are drawn on the little windows so you can't see inside. I walk around a couple of times before the old man comes out again and squints at the for sale sign to read the phone number of the agent. He dials the number. His wife comes out to see what's up. She sits down in a chair on their porch and proceeds to tell me the story of their lives.

They bought this house shortly after they got married over sixty years ago, and have lived there ever since. They love it there. Quiet road, close to town, nice place, nice neighbours. You know, they leave you alone unless you need them, then they're right there. Couple next door pretty much the same as them, bought the place almost sixty years ago too. They adopted a kid, raised her there, she got married and moved away. Then a few years ago, he died and she stayed on in the house by herself. Not a lot of money, couldn't afford to fix it up, lucky to have a home at all. Now she's gone too, died in the hospital only a couple of weeks ago.

The old man speaks to the phone, tells whoever is there that they need to send someone right away to let me into the house. His wife watches. She turns to me and says, All the men are dying. They're all dying off.

She shakes her head.

I'm not lettin' this one, gesturing to the old man on the phone with her chin, go so easily.

In a few minutes the real estate agent drives up in his red convertible sports car.

He gets out and shouts at the old man, Why'd you hang up on me?

The old man says something and the agent says, Why didn't you let her in? You have the key!

The old man looks a little sheepish.

The agent comes and shakes my hand and goes to unlock the door. Turns out he's never seen inside this house either. It is dark and smelly and small, the windows are tiny and they don't let a lot of light in. The kitchen is big but there are five tiny rooms arranged around it, it's kind of crazy inside. The house is essentially sound, but it clearly needs work, and it's right on the edge of affordability for me. I can't afford the work it will need. It is a good deal, just not for me.

God help me, I am eyeing the other house where the old man and his wife live and wondering how long before that one comes up for sale, that one I might actually consider.

This real estate business makes me feel like a damn vulture.

1 comment:

Barbara Anne said...

Oh, sorry things are more complicated than fun. Perhaps for the time being, you should enjoy where you're staying, enjoy your many friends, and get started on your summer project (kayak- done; outhouse - done!). Does that sound like a cozy hole for now?

When the time is right, I wish you a great house, at a great price, in a great location, in perfect repair, with great possibilities, and then a lot of bravery.

Big hugs!