A few weeks ago, my husband decided to read the real estate listings so that we might live vicariously through others by visiting open houses. It's a hobby we picked up after we bought our own home; once you've bought one, you always look around to see what else people are buying. It's somewhat akin to being married but having a wandering eye, except no-one gets hurt. Anyhoo, he stumbled across a listing that was having an open house down the street. I think I said (if memory serves) "That's our house," meaning of course that from the pictures alone, I had mentally unpacked my bags and was having guests over for our housewarming before I had ever crossed the threshold.
Being somewhat more level-headed than me, my husband opted to actually walk through the house and have a look around. This only added fuel to my ardor, however, and I'm afraid that I began to lead us down the primrose path with this fairly innocent trip. As far as I was concerned, I had moved in. The little issue of loans and money and the fact that we owned another house was immaterial.
My husband was not so blinded. He actually had the nerve to want to look at another house, to see what else was on the market, to do a little comparative shopping. The uppityness, the arrogance! Didn't he recognize OUR NEW HOUSE?
So our brand new realtor took us to look at another house. We walked in, and my husband began salivating. I was completely unmoved. I wandered from one room to the next, "Ho-hum, yawn, what-evur..." while my husband drifted from this room to that with stars in his eyes and a spring in his step.
The realtor eyed us warily. We were clearly looking at different houses within the same walls. Even though we had just met him, he had the wisdom to say, "I think you guys need to work this out."
If you knew us personally, you would understand that there is very little my husband and I disagree on. There is an eerie harmoniousness that has pervaded our lives which I don't often question but never take for granted because I understand how unusual our good fortune is. So the level of disagreement that we were feeling about these two houses was staggering, surprising, confusing--hell, it was downright insulting! Where was my husband? Who had kidnapped him and replaced him with someone who liked a clearly inferior house?
That night I described the house he liked as "cavernous;" he called it "airy." The other house was "warm;" he thought it was "claustrophobic." We were clearly living in parallel universes and had visited different houses through a rip in the space-time continuum. We had no idea how to remedy the situation except to agree to let both houses go. I mean, that morning we hadn't planned on buying a house anyway! So we agreed to disagree and left both houses unowned. At least by us.
Once you start down the road, though, it's difficult to return. Even though I had genuinely let them go, my husband was stewing about it the next day. We've lost a lot of dream-houses, he and I, and I think that he wanted more than anything to make me happy. So when I wasn't home he called the realtor to have another look at the "cozy" house.
We looked at it again and decided to buy it. He made his peace with what he considered its achilles heels, and we were going to draw up an offer the next morning. We were buzzing with excitement.
And then I sat up in bed, realizing that the house next door to it was zoned for business and was, inevitably, going to turn into a bar that shared our back deck. Some Portland hipster was going to put out his cigarette in our son's sippy cup or throw up over the side of the hedge while the nightly band played in the foyer. The smell of fried bar food would color the early years of our son's life. He would remember the odor of french fries in some Pavlovian way and have some bizarre behavioral tick as a result.
Again we put the brakes on. Our realtor showed us all the other houses on the market, and they paled in our eyes. Hell, they sucked ass. We decided to stay in our current home, wacky bathroom be damned.
Weeks passed. Both our dream houses went off the market. Slowly I began to realize I was an idiot. The house that my husband had loved so much was actually a lovely house, but I had been so smitten with the first one that I couldn't see the forest for the trees.* It was literally like I was blind. But the more I thought about the second house, the more I realized that it was, despite everything, the better house. In fact, every thing about it was completely superior, but my idee fixe about the first one had allowed it to slip through our fingers.
The story picks up here, with a letter:
We just wrapped up putting in the offer on your house, and we hope you're happy with it. We think it's an amazing house and would love to carry the torch after you've moved on to new and interesting digs.
We looked at it a few weeks ago, before we had even begun seriously looking at houses to buy. When we walked in, my husband looked ready to unpack his bags right then and settle down for a spell. But things were completely unclear at the time; we kept looking because it was only the second house we had seen. Who imagines that the second house they see is going to be the one they want to buy? But the more we looked, the more we realized your house was the one we wanted to live in. Too little, too late: you pulled it off the market and we assumed it had been sold.
Three days ago, our realtor walked me through the property across the street from yours. When we were standing on the street, I kept gazing at the sign in your front yard, wishing it was still on the market. We were depressed that we hadn't leaped on it when we had the chance.
Imagine my surprise when I was idly perusing the RMLS and I saw your house listed again! I called my husband immediately, and then the realtor. When we walked through last night, it felt right--it felt like the house we could love for many years of our lives. Our son seemed to think so too; he ran excitedly from one end of the house to the other the entire time we looked. He felt, in his toddler way, right at home.
After we had decided to tender an offer, we pieced together that we had mutual friends.** How ironic! How odd! How downright eerie! I'm not superstitious, but I know an auspicious event when I meet it.
For us, finding your house was an amazing discovery. For you, I hope that it's a happy transaction that meets your expectations. If you accept our offer, we promise to take good care of her. She's a good, good house.
Yours very sincerely.
We put in the offer, and it was accepted. We're buying the second, superior house. No thanks to me, of course.
*Tonight I realized what it was about the first house that blinded me to the charms of the second. We've almost bought, and lost to other bidders, that very similar house numerous times. I think I was hell-bent to not lose it again. I didn't care that it was next to a hair salon that could very easily be turned into a restaurant at any time--I was damned if I was going to let another house like it slip through my fingers.
So when the George Clooney of houses showed up after the first, I was completely unmoved. "Yeah, right, whatever. Sure, you're a sexier house, sure you've got better lines and a nicer interior, loftier ceilings and more beautiful fixtures. But isn't that all just artifice? Isn't that all just--you know--superficial?"
And of course the house can't answer because it is inanimate and made primarily of space and important things like fixtures and ceilings. What an idiot I am.
**This took a while for us to piece together. The first time we went through the house, the owner hadn't moved out yet and had a bunch of audio equipment in the basement. "I wonder if I know this person," said my husband, not thinking much of it when we left that night. There just aren't that many people who have this type of audio equipment lying around their house and the pool of audio folk in Portland is pretty small.
The second time we walked through the house, the night that we had discovered that it was still on the market, we had decided to buy it. As we were doing our final walk-through, my husband picked up a box addressed to the owner. "Holy shit," he said. It was a very, very familiar name. And then, amazingly, tacked up in her kitchen she had left her phone list with a goodly portion of our friends names on it. We knew at least fifteen people there. It seemed too auspicious not to view with some hope, both toward our re-discovering the house was still on the market, and also knowing the owner.
Sometimes it's hard to not believe in luck.