Buying a House: Or Not
One afternoon, about a week after we signed the purchase agreement for the house, I got a call from my real estate agent. This is what I wrote on this blog before it became legally advisable not to publish:
The sellers decided they don’t want to sell. After two offers (ours is the second), and four months on the market, and lots of back and forth about little things in the house, they think they might have to move back from where they are and they want the house to be available. I thought that this was going to be a cheery exciting process of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars and now we are back to square one.
Today we finally closed, so now I’m going back and publishing posts I wrote while we were in house-buying limbo. This post was written the day after this first paragraph.
I find myself in a strange period of mourning. At first, I was mourning the loss of this house, in which we have imagined ourselves having a certain kind of life. But now I am beginning to suspect that I’m mourning the loss of a happy house-buying process.
I really thought it was going to be happy. In January, when it was very cold, we first went to meet our realtors. As first time home buyers, we didn’t have any idea what we needed to do. Someone recommended a realtor to me. I felt like I was playing at adulting when we first met with them and they told us all the things we would face in the house-buying process. But the most amazing thing about it was that for the first time in my life, I felt like I had “people”–individuals whose job it was to consider my interest. It was intoxicating.
I’m the second of six kids. I grew up in a big city. My family never had much money. Life was a little chaotic. I had to be scrappy. If I wanted anyone to pay attention, if I wanted things to get done, if I wanted my concerns addressed, I had to make it happen. If I didn’t make it happen, it wasn’t going to happen. I still feel like that. So the exhilaration and the relief of having others who were going to get things done on my behalf was great. It was not without a little guilt. What had I done to deserve “people”?
We drove through Indianapolis in the snow and rain with our realtor over a collection of Sundays, and we laughed at the near-criminal interior design decisions people trying to flip houses made with little regard to what actual people living in a home might want. When we found the house we might now be seeing slip away, we had seen fifteen or so. It’s not perfect, but it’s charming, and it’s in a neighborhood that is walkable, close to restaurants and coffeeshops and a running trail. We went back a week later to think again about purchasing it. It was on the limit of our price range. But it seemed so right.
The fantasy of the happy process began to fade when we learned that the sellers were just ignoring our countercounteroffer. Our “people” told us that this was not how people usually acted, and she hoped we didn’t feel insulted. We didn’t know well enough to be insulted or not, we just wanted to find a way to make this happen. Two weeks later or so, our “people” worked with the seller’s “people” to finally get to a price we could all be happy with. Purchase agreements were signed. Mortgages applied for. Homeowners insurance quotes solicited. Our “people” responded quickly to texts and emails as if they really were looking out for our interests and concerned with our happiness! An inspection was ordered. And attempted. And postponed. And attempted again. And then, the sellers said, no. That contract we signed to sell you our house, we don’t want to meet its terms. The “people” called. I didn’t even know this could happen. I was sad. Disappointed. Upset. Angry.
The happy process fantasy fully disintegrated when I realized that we need lawyers because a contract is only a contract if someone is willing to force its signatories to comply. That was the day I realized the law is a fiction. More on that soon.