24 March 2007

HouseHunt '07: Kiss My Ass, Cute Little House!



I know I haven't written in a while, but that's only because I've been looking at houses. I have no time to do anything else. Seriously. My plants are dead. My apartment is a landfill. Somebody keeps calling me and telling me to "come back to work" - whatever that's about. And I think perhaps I had a dog once, but that recollection is getting fuzzier as time goes by.

So we've looked at about 225 to the third power houses so far, and have made an offer on one, but that didn't turn out s'good. As a matter of fact it turned out kind of weird. Mind you, this is the first time in my life that I've ever made an offer on a house so I don't really have a basis for comparison. But you and your wife are in the dirt-peddling business so you can tell me if this is usual or not.

Okay. So. On Wednesday, I was hiding in my office and screwing around on the InterWeb instead of working, and I found a cute little house online (how did people look for houses before the InterWeb existed, I wonder?). I decided to do a drive-by and see if it was as cute as it seemed to be in the pictures. This whole house-hunting thing has become like Internet dating except that you get to stalk without getting arrested or being shot by somebody's husband. I digress. And yes, it was not only as cute as it was in the photos, it was cuter. And nicer. And cleaner. How often does that happen?

Here's the stats: stucco, built in 1947, up and coming neighborhood, 2BR 1BA, 790 square feet with garage & shop, 2-story newly built outbuilding (which was also unbearably cute), gardens and fruit trees on an 8,500 square foot lot. It was formerly owned by an artist, so the color palette was perfect, and there were all kinds of really nice little artsy touches on the inside. I mean, c'mon, it even had daffodils in the window boxes. It looked like it was all dressed up for Easter, for bleeding Christ's sake! And the price was right: $364,950. (Those of you reading this from outside Seattle who are not used to seeing grossly inflated prices should probably take a shot of rye at this point to calm your nerves. -Ed.)

Naturally, I did the only decent thing, which was to call Award-Winning John L. Scott Realtor Gloria Lee and tell her that I would probably die if I did not own that house immediately. She informed me that there was another offer being written on the house at that very moment so there was no time to waste. We wrote up an offer - unbeknownst to my long-suffering wife who has weathered many of my hare-brained schemes over the years, and somehow sees fit to continue in this marriage. Rest assured I told her all about it...after I picked her up from work...on the way to show her the house. "Hi honey! This is the house we made an offer on!" Surprise is sometimes good for marriages. Sometimes.

Good thing she liked it as much as I did. She signed the offer all on her own without me having to wrestle her tiny hand to the paper. And it was a decent offer, too. We gave 'em the asking price, put down $5k earnest money, and put in an escalation clause up to $385,000. We've been approved for what they call in the mortgage business a "shitload" of cash, but I have a moral compunction against compromising every other facet of my life while slaving to a mortgage. We're working on a cap of $400. (Which, owing to the remarkable number of shitholes in that price range, just crept to $425. Mortgage slavery is getting closer at every moment. -Ed.) After we signed the offer, we went home to chew on our nails.

The offer was set to expire at 10PM that night. At 9:40 the phone rang. It was our agent, telling us that our offer was declined in favor of the other party. Apparently they came in at $390,000 - $5k higher than us - and put down (get this) $117,000 in earnest money. And I'm thinking "who are these people that got that kinda cash hanging around for earnest money? Colombian drug lords? Meth lab contractors? Coffee growers?" But the listing agent said (allegedly) that hey, these people just might be nutso-ballo, so have a backup offer ready.

But you know something? Teresa and I thought about it after we put together the backup offer, and we both just said, "You know what Cute Little House? Fuck you. You cheated on us with some Colombian Drug Lords, you little ho. Why don't you just take your cute little window boxes and your crown molding and your sweet little gardens and stuff 'em up your soffits, you bitch. And you know what? That paint job makes you look fat. And your porch is probably stuffed." And then we spat on the ground. And then we left.

Suffice it to say we're still looking. We're over it. We've moved on. We're dating again. But still, it's gets tiring, you know? I swear to Jesus the Finish Carpenter that if another cute little house cheats on me, I'm going to shoot it square in the transom.



18 March 2007

HouseHunt '07: The Place Where Evil Dwells

4 BR, 3BA $349,950. You don't have to have a ton of dough to own
a palace like this in Tacoma. However, you do have to have wicked
paint-stripping skills. And be bullet- and hobo-proof.


So we went to Tacoma looking for a house yesterday. We were going in search of a few turn-of-the-century gems we had found online. What we discovered was the reason why the Salish named it "the place where evil dwells".

Not that Tacoma is all bad, mind you. My sensibilities may have been softened by living in Seattle all this time. Seattle is A) clean, B) rich, D) stunningly beautiful almost everywhere and C) populated largely by honkies whose sense of entitlement borders on megalomania. (I'm painting with a broad, racist, self-hating brush actually. I'm just about the only honkie in my neighborhood and I like it that way. When I see another honkie, I'm like a budgie with a mirror. My eyes dilate, my crown feathers stand on end and I start hissing. Why? Two words: instinct.)

Anyway, as it turns out the places I looked at were not really hellholes. They were actually grand old houses that could do with some cosmetic love - stripping the paint off the woodwork, getting bloodstains off the floorboards and whatnot. But at least the walls hadn't been rearranged and they hadn't been turned into toilet farms. The downside was the neighborhoods surrounding the houses we looked at. (And the fact that they were about a 40 mile commute. -Ed.) A couple of times, our agent was reluctant to get out of the car. No, honestly it was pretty grim. In some cases it appeared as though each and every house in the neighborhood came with its own miniature landfill and hobo colony.

So Tacoma is out of the picture. Even as much potential as some of these places had, I still can't see myself commuting 40 miles a day one-way, and then spending all my spare time stripping paint, hanging sheetrock, and training moles to cultivate my yard. Christ, I only live in a 1,200 square foot apartment now and I'm such a lazy bastard that I insist on having a housekeeper. I prolly oughtta only look at houses that come with a Teflon yard that I can hose off from time to time. Or pay somebody to hose it off for me. I am such a bourgeoisie dick. Lenin would be ashamed.

So I've brought my soft palms, expensive haircut, and wingtip shoes made from the flesh of the proletariat back to Seattle where prices are high but the median income is even higher. Hopefully I'll be able to find something here that pleases me. Of course the first thing to catch my eye was a really cool "green" housing development near Green Lake, which is an enviable neighborhood to be in. They're called Ashworth Cottages, and to be honest, if I were to design and build a house for myself it'd be exactly like one of them: recycled brick, beams and glazed terra cotta taken from a disassembled warehouse structure formerly on the site; small footprint, no toxic paints or finishes, a rainwater reclamation system, Craftsman repro design...and on and on. But the kick in the 'nards was the oxymoronic, almost hyperbolic price point declamation in their verbage: "STARTING IN THE LOW $700s!" I almost want to call them and point out that nothing that has a 700 in it and is not an 80-acre pot farm in Hawaii is low.

More later. Cheers,