Buying a House: Learning Not to Trust
I wrote the quoted part of this the week after we learned that the sellers were trying to back out, before inspections, and the second part about five days after the inspections, when we learned that the sellers had been in touch with their real estate agent and were now planning to go through with the sale.
Growing up in Philadelphia, I’ve met my share of con artists. People who were down and out might stop you on the street with their sob story. A classic was that someone was in the hospital and they needed money to get the SEPTA regional rail to the hospital in New Jersey. Everyone was always going to the hospital in New Jersey. Or their car broke down just down the way and they somehow forgot their wallet that day and they needed twenty bucks to get to the gas station and buy gas. These stories worked because they could have been true. Sometimes you would brush them off, because eventually, you knew it was just a story, and sometimes you would pay because it felt like they had done some creative work coming up with the story, and sometimes you actually thought, maybe it was true. Because, like I said, it could have been true. One time, I had enough money at the SEPTA terminal to pay cash for one ride, but I really needed just another quarter or something so I could buy tokens and get a round trip. I don’t remember why I came to the station without the change, maybe I thought I had it when it turned out I didn’t. Or the change machine was down and I only had dollars. I had to ask people for change at Fern Rock. I was explaining why I didn’t have the money and I was thinking, I sound so full of shit. But still, I’m a believer.
I tend to believe. In people. In things working out. In somehow, against all odds, gleams of justice and truth shining through.
I think buying a house might have finally taught me not to believe. Or rather, it taught me not to be sure that I could or should believe.
The people who sold us our house said they were going to withdraw after twice refusing access to our inspector. So as I said in the last post, we hired a lawyer, and the sellers responded directly to our lawyer, sans realtor, that there has been a misunderstanding and they are not refusing inspection. So we’re back on right? Now it’s this odd stage, where technically, they haven’t actually withdrawn from the purchase agreement, and the only evidence we had that they were planning to is from their realtor who told our realtor that they had decided not to sell. Can we believe her? We don’t know. Our realtor keeps saying that despite all the strangeness of the sellers, that really, she’s good at her job. Now this makes us suspicious. Are they trying to save the realtor from a suit that we could bring if the sellers do finally renege on the sale? At first I thought it all good because I had people. Now I think the people just produce distance that makes me more skeptical about who should be trusted. Now I’m wondering if they have agreed to do inspections but are going to sabotage the inspections to prevent us from wanting to buy.
Now post-inspections, when we learned that the house is not perfect by any stretch, I wonder if the sellers will damage things just to spite us. I wonder if they pulled these shenanigans because they knew things were wrong with the house and didn’t want to have to fix things post-inspection. But more, I worry now about whether we should trust ourselves. The house is charming, but it’s old. It’s charming in part because it is old. But it needs work, real work right now before we move in and possibly work on things that could likely break down in the near future. And we love the idea of working on it, but we’re not really working-on-our-house kind of people. It could be a money pit. I had to keep asking whether I was just wanting to win a fight or if I really wanted this house. I think I want this house. If it were in much better shape, we probably couldn’t afford it in that neighborhood. Plus, looking is exhausting. But now, when we move in, we have only ourselves to blame.
It’s this feeling, this feeling that the house-buying joy has turned to second-guessing and uncertainty, the joy of “having people” turned to the skepticism of who to trust, even ourselves, that has dampened our enthusiasm at joining the propertied-class. I guess that’s good.
Ayup. Wait til you get to the contracting. Our place took months longer than we thought to move in, and what with stages of financing the whole process has dragged on a year. So there have been lots of frustrations and it’s been hard to find that one special moment of joy. But there have also been many little triumphs. The one piece of advice that worked wonders for us is to think as much as possible in terms of puzzles rather than problems. The people aren’t an indictment of Humanity, they’re just people and so the puzzle is to get their wants and needs aligned enough with yours to make it work. And there are crooks too, but mostly not. More often when there’s real trouble it’s incompetence, inattention, or both. Well, we see this with students, colleagues, and admins too, and wrangling them is a puzzle.
I agree completely about the distancing of representation. It’s enormously frustrating, but there are trade-offs in expertise and emotional buffering and division of labor. Well, like admin. And politics. Again if that can be a puzzle rather than a problem it helps. Good luck!
Oh man, please no. We are doing a lot of the work ourselves, but we do have one contractor that we need to do the work at a particular time for us to do other work. So this does not make me feel good about that situation. I’ll keep you posted.
DIY helps a lot. And mostly it all goes well; but we learned that nobody in the industry is surprised when it doesn’t. We also learned it’s hard to get the A list to work on an old house, because it’s always something with old houses and they’re dirty and shit, whereas new construction is clean and easy and the A list get to take their pick.
I’m so curious about your sellers, so of course I have confabulated a story about them loosely based on what little you’ve said and using my own experience as a template. The house sounds like the kind of place someone would love. Our farm is such a place. We bought it as a foreclosure. It has all the signs of having been loved, and from the property records and local gossip we know the previous owners irrationally went deeper and deeper into debt loving on it. When they got way underwater they did try to sell it, but for more than the market would bear. IN the end they went over the cliff with it. We can easily imagine them acting as your sellers are, putting the property on the market out of desperation but pulling it back at the slightest hint they might find some money to hold onto it a moment longer because then maybe a moment longer…. Even though it’s heartbreaking, I like this story about your sellers much better than the one where they’re just chainjerky assholes.
You have to tell us if you find out more. My little stories about things so often turn out to be false I just take it in stride.
Oh sorry! I missed the post before this. Yeah, I still like my story better.