Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Adventures in Real Estate, part two

Even now, a year later, I get a pain in my gut when I think about that time. To say we went from zero to sixty doesn’t quite do justice to the situation. Because the fact was that we were committed to buying one house, but we absolutely had to sell the one we were living in first. We had to have the money from the sale of the house to swing it. And, since we had given up on the idea of selling four months earlier, we hadn’t done a thing to the house in preparation. Things were about to get very ugly.

I don’t think I overstate when I say that it was, plain and simple, seven weeks of hell. And I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that without our friends it never would have happened. For starters there was Kevin. Kevin is the husband of a fellow Bunco Babe, and the man is the king of the handymen. Not only is he handy, but he’s an artist as well, so everything he does has a craftsman sensibility to it. There does not appear to be anything he can’t do, I don’t care what his wife says. I bow at the altar of Kevin to this day, and I don’t care what my husband says either. The problem was that he had a full time job, so he did all of our stuff at night and on weekends. Our estimate from a local plumbing company to replace our plumbing was over $10,000. Kevin did it himself, with mostly copper pipes for around $1400.00. And replaced the walls he had to tear out to boot. When he was done with that he built a deck porch for us to replace the one that was falling apart. For one sixth the estimate for a vastly inferior porch. He was at our house so much that his poor wife Polli actually brought their kids over a couple of times just to see dad. Of course we were paying him, but his input was, as the commercial says, priceless.

I started packing as soon as I got back from signing the contract on the new house. As soon as boxes were packed we moved them to a storage space across town. It didn’t take us long to realize we needed a lot of help. Enter our friends again. I sent out an email that said HELP! and organized a workday for anyone who felt like coming over and lending a hand for a day. We bought a bunch of pizza, snacks, soda and beer and were astonished, amazed and grateful for the response. We had people everywhere. Some were in the yard with huge power tools they brought, some were peeling up bathroom linoleum with a blow dryer and chisel, there were groups in several rooms painting, and people with pickups were moving huge amounts of stuff across town. Kevin was moving through all of this lugging lumber and pouring concrete. I don’t think we had really understood how much there actually was that needed to be done, but the sound bite of the day was my friend Melissa who walked in, looked around and said, “Oh, honey. Where should we start?”

The fact that the Film Geek and I are still married is a testament to the fact that we were both too exhausted to file divorce papers. There were moments, however, that will live in memory for a very long time. There was the paint on the family room floor, for example. It was a concrete floor and the room was huge, like 16 x 36. We didn’t want to have to put a new floor down, so I came up with the idea of the high gloss concrete paint that’s so popular right now in lofts and urban type stuff. Well, the paint wouldn’t set. No matter what my husband tried, big chunks kept peeling up. Then there was the night he accidentally knocked over an entire gallon of paint in the downstairs bathroom and just laid down on the floor and curled up in a little fetal ball. This was the same night when he had earlier bellowed for me to come downstairs and bring him something. (First rule of doing home projects with the Film Geek is that whatever he is doing at the time is always more important than whatever it is I’m doing, so I always have to put my stuff down to fetch something for him). Well, he needed something or other, but the last time I’d stepped into his lair I barely escaped with my fingers intact. My friend Laurie was over inspecting the damage, and she valiantly offered to go in my place, since he couldn’t yell at her, could he? She cautiously went down the stairs calling out “yes, honey? What do you need?” I could hear the snarl from the kitchen. She came up, patted me on the back and made a wide eyed exit.

Then there was the kitchen tile that had started to lift, and needed replacing, but the pattern had been discontinued. Or the new bedroom door that I accidentally hit with a ladder and put a big hole in. We had sawhorses in our front yard and an industrial size dumpster in our driveway. We found out that one of our three huge picture windows had slipped in the frame so that there was now a two inch gap at the top. Our roof started to leak and the oven stopped working. The automatic garage door refused to work the day before we had to move out. The upstairs toilet had to be replaced unexpectedly when it started to spew water everywhere. The sliding glass door to the deck gave up the ghost. I could go on, but my ulcer is beginning to act up just thinking about it.

I still couldn’t tell you how, but we officially went on the market April 3rd, even though we had to cancel both of our realtor walk throughs because of the family room floor. My folks were visiting on their way through to their new lake house one state over and they had problems of their own. They had ordered a bunch of furniture, arranged to have it delivered and planned their entire trip around that delivery date, only to find out at the last minute that the store had completely lost their order and couldn’t (or more appropriately wouldn’t) do anything to fix it. Our Open House was scheduled for that weekend and we still had doors down, electrical outlets hanging and a sticky family room floor. We were a bunch of people on the edge.

Then the phone rang. It was a local realtor who wanted to bring some people through that afternoon. I said hell no. By chance our realtor was there and she said hey now let’s not be hasty and asked me which realtor it was. When I told her she told me firmly, like you would speak to a rabid dog, to let him come and look. She said he was a good guy and would understand why the house looked the way it did. Barb had helped us buy this house, our first, and I trust her completely. I told him to come on over. For the next hour we all ran around like crazy people trying to make the house look like something other than a house of horror. We decided that we would all leave except Barb when they came through. On our way out, the Film Geek and I had a screaming fight in the middle of the street and he got in his car and peeled off. My folks and I got in the car to make ourselves scarce. I'm sure they were questioning our sanity.

An hour later my cell phone rang. Barb asked me how I’d feel about having a contract for my house in my hand by the next morning. I told her it wasn’t nice to mess with crazy people, and she replied that while I might indeed be crazy, she wasn’t messing with me. We had sold our house to the very first people who looked at it. For basically the asking price. It was our nineteenth wedding anniversary, and we weren’t even speaking to each other.

The song Bad Day was really popular during that time and it kind of became my anthem. The line about “where is the passion when you need it the most” really stuck out. I kept telling myself that we were doing this for a new house we both adored, and tried to keep in mind that this really was a good thing. I reminded myself of this when the kids and dogs were all having nervous breakdowns from the chaos. I chanted it like a mantra during a move that made getting the house ready to sell look like a walk in the park. To this day when I hear that song I go back to that time and still, in spite of a generally optimistic nature, can’t laugh about it at all. This is why we drag our feet now about anything home repair oriented. Even with a years perspective it’s still too fresh.

Although…last night my husband read yesterday’s post and chuckled. We started comparing notes and before I knew it we were trying to top each other’s horror stories. I think we may finally be approaching closure.

Time to go buy some paint.


Happy in the Abyss said...

And I imagine Tom Hanks slowly sinking into the hole in the floor, his feet dangling above Shelly Long in "The Money Pit".

m@ said...

Time allows us to laugh at this- even if the laughter is a little crazy-maniacial-insane at times. The dulling of the pain during this period is the same loss of memory of pain that enables a woman to have more than one child, right?

You left out the last night in the old place, with the whole family sleeping in a pile on the living-room floor (because we moved the beds without thinking about maybe keeping one matress back)... or the next morning, with the gallon of yellow paint in the trunk on its side and the new owners standing there impatiently waiting as we wiped paint out of the trunk with your already-ruined black winter coat (which ended up looking like a smashed bumblebee)... or the same pair of painting/patching/fixing clothes I wore during all of my waking hours ALL WEEK during Spring Break, that could walk by themselves at the end of nine days of sweat and grime and paint, and how much I looked forward to going back to work after my "vacation"... or patching the roof after dark like an insane man, watching the rain and lightning approach from a distance, only to have the new owners ask for a new roof... or breaking a kind stranger's (FOAF) 3/4 ton truck gate by using it to haul a ton of wood... or passing tools downstairs through the hole beneath the kitchen sink... or the doors that wouldn't close (including the one that my friend managed to destroy while learning to use a hole saw)...

Seriously, though, honey, the next move I want to make is across the street... to the assisted-living retirement condos. (Preferably with you.) XOXOXOX

pursegirl said...

It's a good thing you were too tired to file divorce papers, b/c Film Geek wouldn't have stood a chance at getting the new house in the settlement. I'm glad you posted this today. Now I don't want to move. Thanks for saving me.