I have never owned a home.
This doesn’t mean I haven’t tried.
I have been trying, in fact, since May of 2007, just before my husband (Husbot) and I were married. For various unlikely reasons which included having been on the road for many years as a professional bass fisherman (yes, I know, it’s ridiculous, people actually do that), he had never owned a home either. So we started looking, in the final months of what we all now know was the bulbous methane-filled balloon that was the real estate bubble. Husbot, who did not work in real estate or finance but had been, in fact, a rose farmer for thirteen years (I know, as unlikely as a bass fisherman, but more lucrative), kept saying, “There’s something wrong. Everything’s too expensive.”
My answer, of course was, “Let’s look for something smaller. They’ll be cheaper.”
“They’re too expensive, too,” he complained.
“They’ll be more expensive tomorrow,” said every grinning real estate agent we met. “It’s a great time to buy.”
So we looked. And looked. We wrote one embarrassingly low offer after another. “No one’s going to take these,” I said.
“Nothing’s worth more,” my husband replied.
“It’s a great time to buy,” chorused the grinning real estate agents.
Then, of course, October 2007 occurred. Maricopa County, which encompasses the Greater Phoenix Metropolitan Area, became the nation’s fifth biggest loser in real estate values.
Fortunately, Husbot is not one to gloat. And fortunately, I’ve got strong legs, and climbing the twenty-one steps to our one-bedroom rented condo while pregnant and then with an infant (car seat: 10 pounds, empty, and when is it ever empty?) and then pregnant AND with an infant, didn’t make my varicose veins any worse than they were and actually maybe helped me ditch the postpartum pastry butt. And Safeway delivers. And Safeway sells wine. We managed.
“Why don’t you buy?” asked everyone from my mother-in-law to my best friends. “It’s a great time to buy,” they said. So did every newspaper and TV channel. Prices had plunged 30% . I personally did not know why it wasn’t a great time to buy. Husbot said no. I was too busy and tired to argue.
Eventually, we moved into a unit on the ground floor. This did not end well, as the owner, a little old lady in California who’d been talked into buying retirement home/investment property by her son, one Thiogest Deon Rosemond, of Rose & Fields Real Estate (I am not lying, I was suspicious from the beginning because of the cheesy name), called me to ask me to lie to the bank on her behalf, and stopped paying her mortgage the month after we moved in. (I did not do the first, and did not know the latter.) One year later, we received a letter from an attorney (whose assistant proved unbearably rude on the phone–who are these people?) notifying us that we needed to vacate the premises ASAP, as it was now held by the bank. In fact, the bank would give us $3,000 if we vacated by the month’s end. Husbot explained that this was the tactic banks were using so that tenants wouldn’t have time to gut the place before they handed over the keys.
A week later, we were visited by Mr. Rosemond himself, an unsmiling black man built like a bulldog, who proceeded to literally snatch the offer of $3,000 out of my hands. While my husband was discussing the issue with him (Husbot has endless patience for “discussing” without raising his voice, which can be enormously irritating), I grabbed it back. He turned and lunged at me. I fled with my children and called the police. I’ve always admired my husband’s tall, lithe physique, but that day (seen through Rose-colored glasses), he looked downright spindly.
We vacated the premises. We did not collect $3,000. There were contingencies, and there was grumpy, muscly old Dion barking out there somewhere.
“Why don’t you buy?” asked everyone from my sister to my dog. (Maybe I was just imagining that.) “It’s a great to buy.” Everyone said so. Prices had fallen 50%.
“No,” said my husband. “They’re still falling.”
We moved again. This time to quite a lovely little townhouse a few miles west. Still no yard, but a patio where a sandbox fits, in a nice, quiet community (the builders went bankrupt a quarter of the way through, so there is lots of nice open ground). There’s a pool behind a gate, a slide/mini-climbing wall/jungle-gym surrounded by dust (grass must be part of Phase II), and two nice men who take care of the palo verdes and the verbena. I looked into nonpermanent alternatives to painting a mural on the boys’ bedroom wall.
We have been renting month-to-month, due to eventual plans to follow my husband’s work to Durango, Colorado, where we both want to be for the long-term. Three weeks ago, one of the nice men who takes care of the palo verdes and the verbena knocked on the door. Handed me an envelope. Said with embarrassment, “It’s an eviction notice, actually. The bank’s making a push to sell.”
After looking forward to relocating, now I was reluctant. Mbot had just started in Montessori and the waitlist in Durango was a year. Gbot had a faithful if aging sitter in my mother-in-law. I had even finally started to make friends. We had made it through another scorching summer. I found I wanted to stay through the winter.
“What are they trying to sell this place for?” mused my husband. It turns out that in the past twelve months, the house has lost another hundred thousand dollars in value. Prices had dropped almost 70%.
He said, “It’s a good time to buy.”
The real estate agents grinned, and agreed. Today we signed papers to start the deal. I have no idea if it’ll go through. Both we and the house have yet to pass inspection. But I’m already looking forward to painting a mural on the boys’ bedroom walls. Even if it’s just for nine months. The walls will be mine.
Has patience paid off for you lately?
*Image of the Brooklyn Bridge from http://www.traveladventures.org/