At 35 houses in, like 35 homes we have physically walked, I’m a glazed over, bug eyed zombie. Each of the four tours with our realtor since January 31st (and three open houses on our own) began with a stack of papers featuring the home and all the exclamation point riddled realtor comments you can handle like, “Magnificent ranch!” “Newer, amazing teared deck (yes, spelled incorrectly)!” “Totally remodeled!” and my favorite, “This is the one!” Pat and I came to find out that these actually translate to, “Turd ridden rathole!” “Smaller than the first apartment you ever lived in!” “Cheap, shitty flip!” and “Go fuck yourself, sucka!” Our realtor is great and warned us, but wouldn’t it be nice to live in a perfect world where realtors were honest with each other?
After a jaunt through each house, Pat and I have been making notes on the corresponding homes’ sheet of paper to keep track of what we've seen that say things like, “Dirty,” and “Nice kitchen/living, but basement smells like butthole.” Mind you that when we say “butthole,” we really mean sewage, which translates into, “Hell no, we’re not buying this house.”
This experience has made me wonder about people’s mental state. It’s like accidently peeking into people’s fucked up personal lives when all you want to do is find a place to live. We’ve seen some of the most ghetto fabulous, jerry-rigged atrocities and structural horrors ever known to man like, what exactly is this half built room you’ve tried to construct off the back of your original house, sun porch FAIL. Or, I’m getting vertigo walking around in your slanty, funhouse of a home. Or, perhaps you should remove the broken, therapeutic walk in tub for geriatrics and put in a shower before you sell your house. Or, maybe you should find a tub that fits into the bathroom instead of slicing a notch into the wooden vanity next to it to make it fit. Or, why are there seven different kinds of filthy carpet in this 1,500 square foot, three-bedroom house? Or, update your goddamn home so we don’t flash back to 1958 when we walk into it! And, the list goes on.
Of course, those were just the giant projects we’re not willing nor can afford to take on right now. Staging is now this huge, proven-to-help-you-sell, industry that you’d think people would pay attention to somewhat. I’d be willing to redo a bathroom, put some paint on the walls or even rip 1970s wooden paneling down if I could just look past things like this:
Oh, can we pleeeease write this into the contract? I’m not leaving this house until this terrifying, clown-like monkey creature is mine. Holy shit, why does this thing exist? Remember how I used to like monkeys before this horrid thing began haunting my dreams and now I fear they will all hack off my face in the middle of the night with banana shaped knives? I really just hope this person was trying to be funny and has that twisted sense of humor only people like me can appreciate, but I doubt it. Good thing we didn’t like that house anyway.
Of course, the monkey gave me only a fraction of the heebie jeebies that the next house gave me. I’m not religious, but I understand that those who are find it quite important and might like to place little nods to that religion around their home. I think a small, tasteful cross above the door or something is just fine. However, when I walked into this house, the first thing I saw was an enormous crucifix hanging above the couch in the living room. Like, the giant kind that hang above the altar in Catholic churches. Like, so huge that if you were sitting on the couch watching TV and it decided to wiggle off its flimsy nail, you would die immediately of blunt force trauma to the head…or just disintegrate into a pile of dust all together. It is Jesus, after all. Smite, smite, yo.
Then, I turned around to see these on the wall:
Is it a little strange to have large photos of the last two Popes prominently displayed on your living room wall ever, let alone when you’re trying to sell your house, or am I just being a dick?
The theme continued throughout the house – Jesus, Mary and Joseph figurines in every lighted alcove in the basement and this odd laser Jesus that greeted us at the top of the stairs…and in literally EVERY other room of the house. Plastered everywhere…watching you.
BEHOLD LASER JESUS!
It was worse than going to your boyfriend’s parents’ house, walking into the room that you two were supposed to inhabit for the weekend and finding twin beds with a larger than life likeness of Jesus watching over the very clearly separated sleeping arrangements (true story, but not associated with my future husband). I felt like I was in one of those Catholic-laced exorcism horror movies and I was so deeply disturbed that I almost had a panic attack. I understand that these items would not come with the house and this wasn't the house for us anyway, but that first feeling you get when you walk into a house is a bitch – for buyer and seller. Staging people…perhaps slide the Pope in a drawer for a few weeks. He won’t mind.
Maybe the only thing more frightening than the houses we’ve seen is the Denver housing market. It’s batshit crazy. First of all, our budget buys us a modest sized home in the suburbs with the aforementioned crap attached, while it would buy a beautiful McMansion bigger than my parents’ house in Kansas City. Finding one that doesn’t require major work, but with enough space for us to live is like a needle in a haystack. One of the notes we put on a house said, “Chubby,” so obviously we liked that one. But, after talking about it, we realized we were just mesmerized by all the high end finishes. It was way out west and we’d be so isolated, but more importantly, there wasn’t enough space. That’s what happened to us with our apartment and we’re pissy about being on top of each other. We’re not making that mistake again. Another house we liked was beautiful and spacious, but was the most expensive house on the block smack in the middle of a neighborhood full of shitty little used car lots and pawn shops. Life wouldn’t be great there and neither would resale.
Second and third of all, people aren’t selling and when they do, houses are being snatched up the DAY they’re put on the market. There is no such thing as paying below asking price right now and some areas are so cutthroat with bitter bidding wars that the inventory is gone before we even see that it’s for sale. It’s difficult to be at the mercy of three different people’s schedules in this kind of situation and the raging insomnia coupled with bitten down nubs for nails is evidence that it’s all wearing on me.
The urgency is there as our apartment lease is up on April 30th and factoring in the time it takes to close as well as our week vacation at the end of March gives us about three weeks to find a place to live. In fact it’s such a priority that on our last tour, which consisted of 14 houses on a Saturday morning, I battled through a migraine instead of staying in bed, crying in the fetal position like usual. The nausea eventually overwhelmed me and I christened the toilet of a stranger in their shitty, 80s-tastic house. We joked that it was a “sign” - yeah, a sign to get the hell out of that crappy house.
I think part of the uneasy feeling is that we’re just so close. In fact, we’re looking at a house tomorrow morning that has what we like in a great neighborhood that already has an offer on it. Somehow our realtor talked the other agent into letting us see it for a counter offer if we want. I’m prepared to take the ghetto hoops out of my ears, rip off my gold, sparkly Lee Press-ons and throw down if need be. But, hell, who knows? Maybe the basement smells like butthole and we won't want it anyway.
Like with all huge, life altering decisions in your life, people feel the need to chime in with advice as if every market, personality, need, want and experience is exactly the same across the board. Walk a mile in these threadbare, Denver house-hunting shoes and ye would sing a different tune. The one piece of advice that I really liked was from Pat’s dad, “Get what you want and don’t settle because if you do, you’ll regret it.” I threw up my hands and yelled, “THANK YOU!” Finally somebody sees it my way. We’re spending way too much money and time to settle. I never do anyway.
Our updated dream house of right now, sans killer monkey and laser Jesus, is out there, but just like dating, when you’re house hunting, you have to go through a bunch of duds before you find marriage material.