houses and disappointment

A while ago, I mentioned that we had bid on a house and our offer had been accepted. It’s a long story, but what basically happened is that after accepting our offer, and after we paid $1,300 for an inspection, the sellers informed us that they had actually received another, better offer that they had decided to accept instead. We pushed ourselves, upped our offer, and were again out-bid. Imagine our “surprise” when we later learned that the same agent was representing the sellers and the new buyers. In other words, the new buyers knew exactly what we bid each time, and out-bid us by the bare minimum amount. Legal, yes. Ethical, not so much.

So there we were, one Wednesday night with a bottle of wine, an internet browser, and a lot of disappointment. We looked at the other houses on the market in our town. A few piqued our interest, so we decided to e-mail our agent and set up time to go look at them. We weren’t set on moving, but since we had started the process, we thought we might as well explore our options. When we lost the other house, my wife had a rant that lasted about 5 minutes about all the things she hates about our current house, and none of them were changing any time soon. Plus, it is now or never with the move. The Big One will be a junior next year, so if we’re moving, we’d like to do it at a time where she can really settle into the new house before going off to college, so that when she comes home, she really comes home, not just back to her parents’ house that she never actually lived in.

We saw a few houses. Some were too small, some needed too much work, some had the master bedroom on the first floor, which doesn’t really work when you have small children. One had leopard carpet.  Then we got to the last house.  It was five bedrooms, plus an office. One of the bedrooms is really small, but one of our children is also really small, and by the time he cares about the size of his room, the Big One will be about 24. The yard is huge, and awesome. The layout is better than what we have now. It was built in 1910 but has been well cared for all along, so it is full of charming details but not run-down. The first floor has French doors between many of the rooms, so we can keep Bumby in eye-shot without having baby gates all over the place. We fell in love, and when we brought the kids back, they did too. It’s only a tiny bit bigger than our current house in terms of square footage, but the layout gives it more usable space. We wanted to make sure that if our offer was accepted, the sellers would want to sell to us, rather than someone else. So when we put the offer in, we wrote a heartfelt letter about why we thought this was the perfect house for us. Each of the kids contributed a paragraph (except for Bumby who cannot read, write, or speak).

Long story short, we got the house. We put ours on the market immediately, and after three stressful weeks, it also sold. YAY, we’re moving.

When we told the kids, the Big One said, “Well, you know how I feel about this. I don’t want to move,” and left the room. We were stunned. We actually did not know how she felt about this, since she seemed totally excited when we looked at the new house originally. Boo was excited (the new house is three doors down from her best friend) but said, “We have had seven Christmases in this house.” The Big Brother acted like we hadn’t said anything, and Bumby obviously had no idea what was going on. It was…. anti-climactic. What happened between writing a letter about how excited we were to buy this house, and selling ours three weeks later?  It’s hard to say. All we can come up with is that to the kids, they were separate events. Getting a new house is exciting, but leaving the old one is sad. Also, the Big One realized she would have to share the bathroom with her sister. I actually don’t know a single teenager with her own bathroom, but this has become monumentally important to the Big One for some reason. We were really disappointed that the kids were no longer excited. It took the wind out of our sails.

So we scheduled time to go see the house. My wife and I have been back a few times for various reasons, and each time we get more excited. In our contract, we’re allowed to come in to “take measurements” so we thought we would bring everyone back, walk room to room, and talk through with them how they wanted to set up their bedrooms. They could remember why we were excited about this house in the first place. We went to Home Depot and got paint cards for them to look at in their rooms. We were psyched up.

When we got there, the house was TRASHED. Apparently, the seller is preparing for an estate sale, so there were card tables set up all over the place with knickknacks on them. Every room was cluttered with half-packed boxes and the whole house smelled like mothballs from the stuff that had been dragged out of the attic. There were dirty dishes in the sink, and every inch of counter and table-space was just covered in crap. The floors were dirty and there were crumpled up paper towels all over the bathroom counter. The master bedroom closet looked like it had been hit by a tornado. There was a half-eaten bowl of rice on the desk in Big Brother’s room, and none of the beds were made.  On and on, each room more disgusting and cluttered than the last. Our trip to get the kids excited about the move had backfired spectacularly. Now even Boo, who was the only excited one, was disappointed. It was so hard to see past how dirty and cluttered the house was. It felt small and dingy even though it’s actually bigger than our house now.

We were all worried about how cramped it felt. And all the French doors on the first floor, which at first had seemed like a dream come true, now seemed like a nightmare as Bumby ran from room to room, careening around card-tables covered in tiny breakable things, slamming the original 1910 glass doors into the walls. It turns out he is already tall enough to reach the handles.

I was angry. How could they have left the house like that? We couldn’t even get the measurements we needed because there was so much stuff in our way. We couldn’t see ourselves living there at all.  It seemed, frankly, like a shithole. When we got home, my wife announced that she thought the whole thing was one big mistake and locked herself in our bedroom. I felt the same, minus the locking myself in the bedroom, because it was already taken.

I know that the house was just dirty. It obviously won’t be full of all that crap when we live there. We will come in, with our paint samples and our mops and brooms and our cute furniture and we will make it our own. It is still charming, it still has amazing views and a great layout. It still has an office and a bedroom for each of us. But… if even the adults are having a hard time maintaining any enthusiasm after that experience, how are the kids supposed to feel about it?

The one silver lining is that I really got the opportunity to explore the yard. There is a perfect spot for the vegetable patch — bigger and sunnier than what we have now. There are at least three spots that are completely hidden from view if you are in the house or on the street, perfect for secret kid-stuff. There are steps and rocks and flowers everywhere. It’s perhaps the most amazing yard I have ever seen. I am hanging onto that, and trying to get us moved in with enough time to plant our summer vegetables in the spot I have chosen.  We will have to push through the disappointment we all feel, because it is what it is. We have sold our house, and bought this one, and now we’re moving.

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