JN81: We bought a house!! Almost!!

March 4, 2010

My friends,

Buying a house is like slapping yourself repeatedly in the face with a sock full of Jell-O: It’s messy, but kind of fun. Try it. This week has been eventful for Jameelah and me. We found this cool little house on a hill in a neighborhood we like, filled with light, with a yard, newly updated, with stainless steel appliances, and sometimes, when it’s clear, you can see parts of the mountain range standing in the distance. The neighbors are a young Asian couple and 20 of their relatives, and we started daydreaming of trading homegrown bok choy and wasabi roots with them and sending our kids to the same violin class and pressuring them to attend the same medical school.

So we worked with our agent and submitted an offer yesterday. Three hours later, they countered with an increase of $10,000. “They’re desperate,” said our agent, “if you increase 5K, they’ll probably take it.” The sellers are an old couple who are trying to move to Florida. Yippee, we thought! These old people are desperate! We’ll have a house, yay!

Then I couldn’t sleep. The house is only slightly bigger than our apartment, and the living room is actually smaller than the apartment’s! Today I called Long, my older brother, who is a brilliant real estate investor. We didn’t want to talk to him, because sometimes in life, you need to maintain illusions to keep your sanity, and Long is the kind of person who can dash hopes and dreams faster than a Tea Party Republican can say “Sarah Palin 2012!” He would rain on your parade, and then tell you parades cause cancer.  I called him today and he said we would end up losing $30,000 or $40,000 when we sell the house in a few years because no one would buy a house this small. He said our children would be on the street, begging, pretending to be lepers, and I would have to grow marijuana in the backyard to make mortgage payments and that the loan sharks would come over and destroy our bok choy and wasabi.

All right, he didn’t say the stuff about begging and marijuana and bok choy, but he painted a very bleak picture, so bleak that I called our agent and withdrew the offer completely. In a way, I am relieved. In another way, I’m disappointed that another house fell through. It always takes a little while to recover, and sometimes, like the first house that was beyond perfect, you don’t recover completely. Each time you find a little house, you start daydreaming, imagining picnics in luxurious lawns and cutting fresh kale for your stir-fry and tiki parties, and maybe a little trellis covered in grape leaves that you can stuff with rice and Greek herbs and boil and squeeze some lemon juice on top and invite your neighbors over during summer evenings when sunlight doesn’t fade until 9 and the world seems so still and serene. You daydream these things, and then you start to wonder how much something like that is worth. Isn’t it worth 30 or 40 grand, a vision like that?

Hell no! 40K, that’s like…a lot of money. I can’t imagine a number that big, having never experienced that before, but I’m sure it’s a lot.

It’s back to the hunt. “Don’t worry,” said our agent, “we’ll find the house that is right for you guys.” I start thinking about the old couple, who are probably daydreaming too, about selling their house, about moving to a condo in Florida. I feel a little guilty for disappointing them, for raising their hopes and dashing them. We were the only offer they got so far. Maybe I should ask Long to call and cheer them up.


JN72: The scents of manliness

December 1, 2009

My friends,

I apologize for being absent these past few days. Things have been crazy, and I feel like I’ve eaten an entire bar of Trader’s Joe’s 17-ounce dark chocolates, but without the high. First, things have settled down at the office. We had a 3-day staff retreat, where we all got to know each other’s behavior types and sang Kumbaya while having a potluck. It was very effective. There were candles too.

On a side note, I heard on NPR that a couple is making candles targeted toward men. They’re called “Mandles” and they have manly scents such as “Autoshop” “Meat and potatoes” and “Campfire Breakfast,” which I would imagine smells like burned eggs and bacon. It’s brilliant. I think they should also make scents called “Flatpanel TV,” “chips and salsa” and “Brookstone gadget.”

Where was I? Oh yeah, things have been insane, insane I tell you. I was nominated as president of the neighborhood council, leading a slate of six people. This means more work, but slowly I am amassing power and soon, soon Facebook, Crocs, and that Freecreditreport.com guy will face my wrath, muahahahaha.

The biggest change however, and you better sit down for this, is that Jameelah and I are searching for a house. We figured, why spend so much dang money for a wedding when we can use that money as a down payment on a house. I mean, our friends and family don’t care. They just want us to be happy. Right? Right? So we thought we’d just buy a house, then have a small celebration at the house.

For weeks we’ve been driving around the city, gawking at houses. At least on a few occasions, we snuck into a vacant house to look around, me very nervous, and Jameelah calling me a wimp because I didn’t want to face charges of breaking and entering. Then we found a real estate agent, and that made things a lot easier. Apparently a real estate agent can go into any house that is on this weird thing called a “List.” It’s weird. They’re like a cult, and they have magical passwords on their phones that let them open little boxes where house keys are stored. It’s amazing. And they talk their own language, and it sounds like this: “If you get an FHA loan, you can amortize your payments, but I recommend an interest-only payment system, because in five years you might want to flip it and reverse it.”

Anyway, so driving around, we were amazed by some of the houses. We just want a little one with lots of light, a little backyard where we could start a small vegetable garden, and a basement where we could sing Karaoke on Friday nights without having the police called on us by the uptight upstairs neighbor like last Christmas (They should also make a Mandle with the scent of “Bitterness.”) It is Seattle, and apparently for what we pay here for a decent house, we could get a mansion in the Missouri. But then, who wants to live in Missouri. (“Maw, that vegemetarian is a-makin’ fun of Missourah again!” “Git the shotgun, Anna-Belle!”)

But we found a great little house, and today, we’re going to make an offer. It’s at the higher end of our price range, but we just fell in love with it when we walked in and realized that it doesn’t have mold like our current apartment! We’ve been busy running around getting all the documents ready for our loan. It’s a time-consuming and confusing process. Today, we sat down with our agent while on conference call with our broker. Said our agent, Al, to our broker, Arnie, “So we did a market analysis and are thinking of offering full asking with concession that seller pays 3.5 closing costs, what do you think?” Arnie says, “Wait, I still need several more documents to secure the loan, including their tax returns, 12 months of bank statements, and report cards from elementary school. Plus, their down payment money needs to be more seasoned, and also, what is their blood type and shoe size?”

We signed five billion pages. Tomorrow I will rush to get the missing documents, then we’ll send in our offer. We’ll know by Thursday if they take our offer, or they’ll just point and laugh. Will keep you updated. We’re nervous. We really like this house. It has a great little yard and I’ve started daydreaming about planting some grapes on a trellis so we can make our own dolmas.

In the meanwhile, I’m getting inspired for more Mandle scents, including “Leaking roof,” “cracked concrete,” and “rotting wooden deck.” What’s your favorite manly scent?


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