I’m buying a house.
Well, I’m trying to buy a house. Well, we are trying to buy a house, my long-suffering roommate and I.
And we’re not having much luck. It’s turning out to be a lot harder than I thought, and in ways I hadn’t even expected.
I always expected the difficult part of the path to home ownership would be getting the mortgage loan. I imagined deep investigations into the financial history of my entire adult life, with additional inquiries into the dreaded Permanent Record I’d been threatened with in grade school to see how I spent the birthday money I got on my 12th birthday (I used it to buy a record of science fiction movie soundtracks, which I still have, so I think I’m safe.)
Turns out, getting a mortgage is not too difficult of a process, especially with a good credit score. I spent about 15 minutes filling out a form online and was surprised to hear back the very next day that we had been pre-approved for a mortgage loan. It happened so fast that I was suspicious. Very suspicious.
But a second application at a different lender went nearly as quickly, and nearly as quickly informed us of the same results. It was about then that I figured it was safe to stop trying to find my tax record from 1996.
But then, the hard part started.
Considering how many houses are purportedly up for sale, and how many houses have been foreclosed on by banks in recent years, I always thought finding a house would be the easy part of the entire process, essentially coming down to spinning in a circle with my eyes closed and one arm outstretched, then picking the house I was pointing at when I stopped, like a game of American Dream Spin-the-Bottle.
I could not have been more wrong.
Finding a house for sale is easy; there are definitely many on the market. Finding the right house, however …
We’ve looked at many, many houses. Nearly 60 now. We’ve eliminated houses just from pictures. We’ve found houses that we knew were not right for us as soon as we turned on to the street of the house. Some we didn’t even need to go into. Many of the houses we looked at were almost right, except for a few things that couldn’t be changed by a new coat of paint or new carpeting.
Such as the house with the washer and dryer hook-ups in the kitchen. Or the laundry room that I think must have been built into a closet, because the dryer and washer were on opposite ends and the only way to move clothes between the two of them was to back out into the living room and turn around.
Some houses had a living room that had to have been designed by a contortionist. That’s really the only explanation for the various wall angles that broke the laws of Euclidean space without even leaving a spot to put the TV where it could be easily viewed from the couch hanging from the wall in an Escher-like living environment.
I’m obviously exaggerating, but it’s only to make my point of how bizarre some of these houses are. One house listed as having a fourth bedroom that we were unable to find until we closed the open front door and found the missing room behind there.
Some houses have been older, but nicely kept. Some houses have been newer and obviously were used to house livestock. Some houses housed people who apparently thought they were livestock, as made evident by the shudder-inducing stains left behind on the stain-resistant carpet.
We’ve looked at houses that were absolutely perfect, but the lot was too small, or had a fence that was too short, or not the right material, or didn’t block the view of the less-than-desirable neighborhood that surrounds it. Conversely, we’ve seen a lot of perfect lots with the right fence and the right (or no) neighbors and a view that doesn’t include the backside of a three story apartment complex, but the house was not right, leading me to wish that houses and lots could simply be mixed and matched, a thought with which I’m sure many previous house hunters can empathize.
We’ve looked at tiny houses with big price tags and large houses with smaller price tags. Usually because they have termites. Or missing appliances and the occasional wall. Or were used to house feral children lost at birth and raised in the wild by wolf packs before being rediscovered and reintegrated into society via the process of moving into progressively nicer houses as they learned that it’s not okay to urinate in the corner even if they are picking and eating the termites out of the walls.
We’ve reached the point that our first question about a house with a low price listing is, “Wonder what’s wrong with it?”
Sometimes, the worst are the houses that matched all our requirements that we discarded simply because I couldn’t picture us living there for the next year, let alone 10 or 15. Afraid that we were being too picky, I even asked our realtor if we are terrible clients. She assured us that, as long as we don’t break her record of 129 houses shown to one buyer, we are not.
Searching for a house is frustrating, time consuming, and on occasion discouraging. Out of all the houses we’ve seen, there have actually been three that we liked well enough to put in an offer. Each time, we’ve been told there were other offers made as well. Each time, we’ve increased our offer to the maximum we thought we could do, trying to follow my rule of “Make an offer that looks strong without making us look stupid.”
Each time, we’ve lost the house. It’s like every rejection ever received when asking someone out happening all at once.
Regardless, I have hope. Given that we’ve found three houses that we liked, basic extrapolation dictates that there will come along more houses that we like as well. It just takes patience. I’d much rather wait to find the right house than settle for a home that is almost right as long as I overlook the need to carry my laundry backwards across upside-down stairs.
Buying a house is a definite learning experience, even when not brushing up on the feng shui of non-Euclidean geometry. Aside from the fundamentals, I’ve learned a lot about myself as well, especially about the sort of things I like (turns out I really like cathedral ceilings) and dislike (Such as concrete lawns. What kind of person does this?), as well as where I can be flexible (whether the front door is on the front or side of the house) and where I cannot (whether the front door has been broken down or not).
This house is going to be my shell; my curmudgeon-cave where I can shut out the world at large and grumble without repercussions. I need to have a room I can finally set up an office dedicated to writing; I’ve always considered myself a half-assed writer, and I want to give myself the opportunity to become a complete ass. It doesn’t matter if I end up living there for one year or 30, I want and need it to be the right space for us. I don’t want to buy a house; we need to buy a home.
It’s out there somewhere. We just need to find it.
Maybe we’ll hire a feral wolf-child to sniff it out for us.
Or not. I prefer my territory unmarked and my carpet stain-free.