Print Story Zen and Nausea
By Gedvondur (Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 12:42:28 PM EST) Fear, Idiots, Houses, Children (all tags)
In which I overreact and feel like an idiot child.

My lovely wife ‘Bix and I have been looking at houses. For her, it’s an obsessive hobby, for me it’s a game of what-ifs. First, a little background.
Way back in the mid ‘90s when we were only living together, ‘Bix and I had grown tired of our one bedroom 2nd floor apartment (flat, for you British types). Ever square inch of that place was taken up with our stuff and were were slowly becoming grown ups. We looked around at new apartments, thinking a two-bedroom place in a nice modern apartment. The prices were easily over twice what we were paying. My father, a man if infinite wisdom, suggested that we could own a home for the same monthly price and would subsequently not be only lining the pockets of a landlord.
At first, we scoffed at the idea. I was in my first professional job and while not doing badly I was far from making any real money. Bix was still in college and working part time. It seemed like a remote possibility. Still, the longer we thought about it, the more sense it made. The rental prices were equal to a possible mortgage or only a bit less. My parents loaned us a down payment and we sallied forth, looking at houses. At the end of the day we physically toured over 30 homes and seriously considered over sixty. 
The trick was to find a house that didn’t need massive repairs, wasn’t in a shit neighborhood and still managed to have more square footage than a standard two-bedroom apartment. Eventually we settled on a little late-40s built bungalow with a two-car garage and four (!) bedrooms that had just come on the market. We bid on the home the day after it came on the market as an estate sale.
The rigmarole that went into securing the financing of this place stressed me out so badly that at one point I went into an out of the way bathroom at work and cried. I still had the sins of youth, stupidity and recklessness from my early 20s on my credit record and we could not count any of Bix’s income because we were not married. The mortgage company dithered and dithered, missing the first closing date and threatening the second. The sellers were considering pulling out. I was so angry that I shouted at the mortgage officer for 20 minutes. I no longer cared whether or not I got the loan, I only wanted a yes or a no. I must have intimidated him, because when they came back with a yes later that day, he contracted the title company to do the final paperwork so he wouldn’t have to see me in person again. 
But the damage was done. The stress of securing the financing for the house robbed me of all the joy of the experience. I stood in my new home, the first home that truly was my own and felt nothing but stress and resentment. No pride, no excitement, no joy. The shame of the mortgage company’s questioning of my integrity, my trustworthiness, and it seemed worthiness as a human had left me with nothing but ashes.   It took years before I felt anything but resentment about my own home. 
This little post WWII home was supposed to be a stepping-stone for us. My career progressed; my wife graduated college, and eventually got her master’s degree. We figured that we would stay in this nice little house for maybe five years maximum. I purchased this house 17 years ago. Every time we approached the idea of a new house for the first 10 years, I shied away; I couldn’t go through what we went through the first time again. 
A few years ago I found a house I loved. But I worried about financing. Despite a now excellent credit score and real professional job, I hesitated. I blamed it on the stability of the company I was working for at the time, but really I was just terrified. Someone else bought the home and I’ve been kicking myself ever since.
Bix, the wonderful woman that she is, has been ensuring our financial house is in order for years. We are in a position where we can afford a new house. It won’t even hurt that much. And that brings us to where my neurosis brought is close to making a mistake again.
We found a nice house, just listed on Friday. One of those places that wasn’t going to be on the market for long. We quickly scheduled a viewing for that very evening. I even took my parents with for a second set of eyes on the property. I liked a lot of things about the house. I really did. I also knew that it wouldn’t be out there long and there were at least three other parties that were going to look at it that very weekend. So we signed and offer right then and there. I was afraid to lose the home, much like the one I had lost a few years earlier. I jumped.
Over the course of the weekend the decision began to sink in with me and with Bix. We both liked the house, but the lot and location….well not so much. We talked about it a lot, these problems were not insurmountable and we could cope. Then with a shock we realized late Saturday afternoon, in a moment of total honesty that neither of us would be upset if the owners rejected our offer. As a matter of fact, we would feel relieved. This lead to a lot of honest soul searching and discussion, what did we really want?
Later that day, the owners counter-offered us. This was irritating; we had offered them their asking price. But most of all it gave us an out. We talked about it and slept on it. Sunday morning we rejected their counter-offer and withdrew our offer. The owners will still sell that house before the month is out, I have no doubt about that.
While I’m certainly relieved that we didn’t go through with it, it made me feel like a reactionary man-child, governed by his past wounds and irrational fear, not an adult governed by savvy reason and self-understanding. 
I think that despite the frustration with myself that this weekend’s events gave to me, I like to think I’ve learned. I think it provided Bix and I some clarity that perhaps we were lacking before, to cut out the bullshit and get down to it. What do we REALLY want? We are talking about that now, really talking about it. I find myself planning more projects for this house, fixing things I had decided to let go for another house. I hope the feeling lasts and I hope that typing this monstrous polemic out here to my imaginary internet friends makes me feel less like an idiot ape. I think it will.

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Zen and Nausea | 15 comments (15 topical, 0 hidden)
Been there by marvin (4.00 / 1) #1 Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 05:54:30 PM EST
Funny how one or two things can make it less magical. I've found for me, that putting effort into the house is what makes it mine.

We put a ton of effort into our first house over four years (98-02), and I still miss it, even though we outgrew it with kids. Our second house, for which I had zero love from 2002-2010, started to grow on me a bit after 8 years, when I started doing some updates to sell it.

The third house, which we've been in for all of two months? It's mine. I've just begun on the work, but it's more home for me than the last house ever was. My wife experienced too much stress selling the last house (60-80 showings over 18 months), and has the same issues here as I had with the second house, unfortunately. This one is still not hers, and she just views it as work. She doesn't see what is better, and only notices the things that are worse than our last house.

You are no more an idiot ape than the rest of us.

Thanks by Gedvondur (2.00 / 0) #11 Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 10:17:32 PM EST
I really do appreciate it.

I think we are going to do some things that needed doing in this house anyway for now.  Then we will see.

"So I will be hitting the snatch hard, I think, tonight." - gzt
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wait by dev trash (4.00 / 1) #2 Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 06:37:40 PM EST
you offered asking price and they countered that?  Seems like there was some indecision on both ends.

It's pretty a pretty common maneuver by lm (4.00 / 2) #3 Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 09:00:07 PM EST
Usually you only see it in "hot" housing markets. In some markets it's relatively rare to see houses sell for below the list price.

Kindness is an act of rebellion.
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Yup by Gedvondur (2.00 / 0) #10 Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 10:15:06 PM EST
They were being pissy about the radon remediation and a couple of other minor points.  They thought I was being picky because the radon levels in the basement were only "slightly" over acceptable levels.  Fuck you, that's where I'm putting my office.  It's a binary proposition, either it's above the standard or below. 

While they didn't have another offer in hand, they knew they would.  The realtor even warned them about countering us.  Worked for me, gave me a chance to reconsider.

"So I will be hitting the snatch hard, I think, tonight." - gzt
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We went back and forth a couple times by notafurry (4.00 / 1) #14 Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 05:42:31 PM EST
And ended up at the asking price, but with the seller paying all closing costs and a couple of other concessions. Then again, this isn't a hot market right now, although it's heating up.

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Best advice I ever got by yankeehack (4.00 / 1) #4 Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 09:11:31 PM EST
from a realtor...houses are like buses, another one will come along.

That being said, I had a similar experience to yours when I bought my house in VT. I have no desire to go through that again...and in 20-25 years I'll be inheriting my parents house anyway.
"...she dares to indulge in the secret sport. You can't be a MILF with the F, at least in part because the M is predicated upon it."-CBB

Heh by Gedvondur (2.00 / 0) #9 Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 10:10:46 PM EST
Yes, and it's good advice!

"So I will be hitting the snatch hard, I think, tonight." - gzt
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WTF? by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #5 Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 09:14:20 PM EST
we could not count any of Bix’s income because we were not married.

This never seems to be an issue for folks out here in Cohabitania. Is there some sort of religious zealotry at play?

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

In 1996 by Gedvondur (4.00 / 1) #8 Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 10:10:16 PM EST
It just wasn't done in 1996.  At least not in Wisconsin.  Today, it would have been simple.  Back then when we asked the banks and mortgage companies all looked at us like we had asked their daughters into a three-some.

"So I will be hitting the snatch hard, I think, tonight." - gzt
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Remodels by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #6 Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 09:27:53 PM EST
We bought our starter home in '96 and over the ensuing years have found it cheaper to just remodel to get the house we want.  The Lords of Finance willing our refi to redo the kitchen has gone through today like they said it would.

We look at houses a lot.  Open houses are fun.  But we've realized that the best way to get what we want is to build it.  We've yet to see one we like as much as what we have now.

At this point, the only question is whether we'll bail the area when we retire or die here.
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

I hear you by Gedvondur (2.00 / 0) #7 Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 10:08:36 PM EST
As always you are correct, sir.  The only problem I have is that my little late 40's bungalow has been added on to.  Twice.  It now has the characteristics of a rat maze.  The original house was only about 800 square feet.  With the two additions (one of which wraps around the other) it's at about 1500 square feet. 

To fix things like the galley like nature of the kitchen or the maze-like layout, I would need to run a bulldozer through the middle of it.

But what you are saying does have a lot of truth. We are still discussing how much more we can do to this place to keep us happy. 

"So I will be hitting the snatch hard, I think, tonight." - gzt
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You could always do by lm (2.00 / 0) #12 Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 06:48:55 PM EST
A complete teardown and rebuild. But that's usually reserved for places where the land is more valuable than the dwelling.

Kindness is an act of rebellion.
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and is, from what I hear by bobdole (4.00 / 1) #13 Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 08:52:54 AM EST
a really tiresome process. I had a colleague who bought a fairly expensive house (for the land) and built a new in the exact same site. It took two years, and in the mean time they had to rent.

Guestimations and subtle hints points to this being one of the more expensive houses in the area, they can afford it, but still it was objectively not a good way to spend money. Subjectively? They got their "dream" house, drawn and built to their specifications.
-- The revolution will not be televised.

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Cambridge MA by toxicfur (4.00 / 1) #15 Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 05:44:04 PM EST
This seems to happen quite a lot in my neighborhood. My next door neighbor house was one of those -- granted the neighbors apparently threw a fit when the "historic" two-family was torn down. The house recently sold for in excess of $2M though, so I guess the fight was worth it. Alternatively, I see a number of houses that are completely gutted and rebuilt, leaving just the frame. I am not the right socioeconomic class for my neighborhood.....
The amount of suck that you can put up with can be mind-boggling, but it only really hits you when it then ceases to suck. -- Kellnerin
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Zen and Nausea | 15 comments (15 topical, 0 hidden)