Not quite a horror movie …but almost as scary

We have just finished the week(+) from hell…a limited time frame to find, inspect and finance the purchase of a house to live in as a step to moving to my new job.  Don’t get me wrong: the sponsored house hunting trip is a fantastic perk (I’ll just call it The Hunt).  But, it is a complicated and emotionally draining process – only slightly less complicated by the fact we did not have to sell a house, too.  (In my opinion, that just makes it a Orwellian “double-plus-ungood” scenario).

There are many steps to The Hunt – and for you novices, out there, let me warn you that gender has a big role to play in how much emotional capital is invested in each step.  Again – Venus versus Mars!!! First comes the weeks of internet searching, Google-mapping, cross-referencing, short-listing. Questions and comparisons follow: how many bathrooms? Bedrooms? Finished basement? Backyard, hot tub, pool?  Photos?  Price? Every new house that appears on the internet is a veritable hockey-sock full of nervous apprehension – is it sold yet? Now? Will it be sold before I get there?  Aaaaaaahhhhh!!!

And every digital version of a house looks like it is your next new home…its details painted in rosy hues using the painfully optimistic – and truth-bending prose of the realtor’s spin jargon ( I mean really, an “unspoiled basement”? Just tell me it is not finished.  4 bedrooms – really, isn’t the fourth nothing but a utility room with a bed in it?  Slight fixer-upper? Recently renovated? By whom, The Golden Girls?)

But while the ever-present spin can be annoying – there is significant potential for an Evil that lurks below the surface. Is the seller honest, is the realtor trustworthy, is everything transparent, is the house inspector reliable and skilled?…It is all a potential minefield seeded with broken hopes and drained finances.

But even though we fly away from our new Hometown exhausted, emotionally sprained – and for a brief while spiritually crushed – we do have a house!  And soon the pain will subside, as we look forward to our new house with a degree of optimism.  It comes with the promise of many more happy memories.

But what a ride The Hunt is!  Early optimism and mirth is replaced by desperation and tears; further renewed enthusiasm is shattered on the rocks of “creative web design” versus “the real walk-through”…of bad smells and magenta walls and rotting window sills and ugly cabinets and poor plumbing and cracked foundations and wall-to-wall berber carpet and crumbling roofs and daycare-running neighbours. None of these drawbacks were clear in the creatively deceptive and attractive web images.  And into this cocktail of vulnerability, add a healthy shot of the realities of making an offer on a house (and the fear of a bidding war if you are too timid or disrespectful) and offers and counter offers and counter-counter offers – it is, and always will be a high stakes poker game.  In the end, there is the possible loss of a wanted house (or a sale for that matter) – and other potential sad endings.  All can become a stark reality brought about by a simple misunderstanding of the other parties’ psyche, or a poorly-timed burst of  self-righteousness, idignation,  and pride…“ Well I am not paying $500 more – they can bend a bit, too…dammit!”

As I think back on it, and though I have had more than enough, The Hunt had its funny moments, too.  I remember the  two-dozen, or so, houses that did not make the grade – and I took mental notes of the flaws and features that had us backing out the door as fast as we could.  Things like:

Eau de Labrador (or two Labradors and two cats) that permeated the carpet and was only made worse by the unmistakably saccharine sweet smell of the flower-scented powdered carpet deodorizer.  All the Febreeze in the World will not cover up the smell of doggy anal glands rubbed on the carpet, with a nice dash of cat-ammonia to boot.

The Hoarder House…stacks of magazines, paper bags, rubber bands, newspapers, mason jars, … stuffed bunnies and bears and spooky dolls looking down on the marriage bed like lifeless voyeurs.  A weird Bates’ Motel motif that leaves you breathless – for all the wrong reasons.

The Cheap “Good-from-Far-but-Far-from-Good” Basement Bathroom RenovationPrettily executed by a DIY cowboy, complete with bubbled laminate flooring hiding the drain hole and non-functioning ventilation fan…a potential breeding ground for the black mold and microbe infestation after a few months of long hot showers.  It almost had us duped until we noticed that it was like the Wyle E’s numerous schemes – good on paper but a complete disaster in the making.

The Partially-Finished Basement House…all tastefully done in concrete floor and plastic wrapped pink fibre insulation wallpaper, with one dry-boarded, but un-taped-, un-mudded, and unpainted exterior wall. True…so very true that it was only partly finished – I’d say about 3% completed.  It was very cozy in a card-board box kind of way.

And in the same vein…

The Fixer Upper – all you need to do is install new carpets, new floors, new drywall, new roof, new furnace, new appliances (the avocado green and harvest gold are retro-chic, but both appliances in a kitchen should sport the same 1970 Kenmore hue).  A steal at $350K+, as long as you have a spare $50K sitting around and three years to flip it…

The War of the Roses House…aka The Divorce House.  A steal at the selling price I am sure, but rendered completely undesirable due to the complete lack of furniture save the folding camping chairs,  army blanket bed linen, the stacks and stacks of Liquor Store paper bags and a lovely growth of mold in the basement.  Oh yes, and add the smell of depressed man hygiene and unwashed feet to the mix. Given the Sad Sack owner’s poor state of affairs, I would be afraid to have any pets in the house lest a misdirected ex-spouse not realise the house had been sold…and set about preparing a rustic rabbit stew à la Glenn Close…

The “The-Owner-Won’t-Leave-the-House” House Showing. Now we never really had a full one of these, but we did have the “owner sitting on the back deck”, and the “owner coming home early” showings. It is amazing how much people want to show you about their homes – the fantastic touches that make it a great buy. And it is even more amazing how we can make up wonderful things to say about houses that really, really suck. It is actually kinda sad…our politeness gives them false hope. I can just imagine them after our departure, “Looks good, Hon’! Didja’ hear him? He said it showed really well. I have a good vibe on this one!” So cruel…

The Turnip House…our nom de plume for the variety of houses where sellers would benefit from the services of a Fluffer, or Stager…whatever you call them.  The Turnip House sticks out because it smelled bad. “Why?” you ask…because the rotting uncooked turnip in the cast iron pot on the stove smelled bad. And I do not mean just soft…I mean oozy and minutes away from hosting the fruit fly convention that was partying in the bowl of black (yes, black…not speckled, not bruised…but black) bananas a few metres away.  Things that make you go “hmmmmm”.  And into this category falls the dirty underwear on the laundry room floor or the damp towels sitting on the bathroom counter. If you don’t know what sells, I only have one word…Fluffers, people… fluffers…they’re not just for porn stars.

In the end, our Short List was really short and, like Life, timing is everything.  When we lost out on our first house due to someone’s omission (and not ours) we were thoroughly dejected and despondent. But as my Mom says, “Everything happens for a reason, Dear.” And that is so true.  We found one that suits us better!  Happy with our purchase, we now return for our last two months in Europe.  And while we are tired and drained, and perhaps a little sad that our fun outside Canada is ending, we have a bright, tidy, lovely home to look forward to with excitement.

And, thankfully, a great list of things “not-to-do” if we ever decide to sell up because we are moving.  But that, given my experience over the past 9 days, is not something I hope to do in a hurry!  As those of you who are just returning from The Hunt already know – it just hurts too much!

I am sure there are many untold house hunting disaster stories out there.  It would be great if you left a comment and shared some or your personal “best” moments or memories from Your Hunts. I am sure it would make all of Us feel a lot better. Like they say, “Misery loves company”…  🙂

Later,

ASF

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