Sunday, March 4, 2012

Badass Adventures in Real Estate: The Closing


My wife and I are buying a house.

When you're looking at a house the best way to figure out that it's not for you is to think really hard about everything you've seen and identify something you don't like. Don't care for the height of the ceilings? Pass. Don't like the carpet of mold covering the closet walls? Pass. Don't think that meth lab is Feng Shui? Pass pass pass. A buyer's market means that if you're not in a need to buy a house now, you can be certain that your dream house is going to turn up eventually.

Ours turned up in February. Right around Valentine's Day. Gorgeous two-story Cape Cod with attic space and no leaky basement to flood. Four big bedrooms, two bathrooms, walk-in closets, a back deck and a yard our dog is going to love that has a sweet privacy fence. Excellent repair, brand new roof, no signs of mold anywhere, and it's right in the sort of neighborhood we want to spend the next ten/twenty/fifty years in together.

We are buying a house.

Our realtor Georgia had been wearing on our nerves. She didn't wear her hearing aid and had to have everything repeated to her, which was doubly annoying because I mumble and I'm self-conscious about having to repeat myself to anyone. She pushed us to buy homes that were well out of our price range. She pushed us to buy homes in Severna Park, where we'd both have a longer commute and have to live in Severna Park. She pushed us into looking at a house we didn't want to live in for the third time, because the seller swore the mold was gone. She made backhanded jokes at our expense and pooh-poohed the houses we brought to her attention and never seemed to understand why we weren't willing to settle for shit.

Georgia was on vacation when we found the house we're buying. Her friend Ginger showed it to us instead. We like Ginger. She's friendly and low pressure and she's not going deaf or crazy. I intend to tip her once we've settled.

We are buying a house.

My life over the past two weeks has been a nightmare of paperwork. Contracts. Mortgage loan paperwork. Title contracts. Inspection results. The mortgage loan paperwork, again. Homeowner's insurance quotes.

I'm signing something for the fiftieth time when I think "Jesus, my penmanship sucks." I've had it pointed out to me before (and for the record I can touch type rings around that particular individual, thank you very much), but I can't even sign my own name consistently. I ought to buy a book or take a class. I have no idea what a cursive capital "Q" looks like.

We are buying a house.

We stayed under budget and we're still going to feel a nasty sting. Hidden fees keep cropping up. Settlement fees. Loan establishment fees. Title insurance, lest Don Juan come and lay claim to our property. Homeowner's insurance premiums. The dreaded property tax, which we have to face unarmed for a year before we can claim a homesteader's tax credit. Inspection fees. Survey fees. Homeowner's association dues that are suffering from 10% inflation, if the documents are to be believed.

Nobody tells you about these things when you're looking for a house. You know about the down payment and the mortgage payment, and maybe you know about the property tax. That's it. And the realtor smirks at you and tries to push you into something more expensive, knowing full well you're going to blow your down payment on closing costs and still have to take out a loan to cinch the deal.

We are buying a house.

We close at the end of the month, and we'll have three days to move everything in. We need to change our address with the post office and God knows who else. Get the power bill moved over, get the water bill moved over, get the cable and Internet access moved over on the right date (or else). We only have cell phones, no land line, so that's one less thing.

We have a ridiculous amount of things to pack or get rid of this month. Do you know how heavy books are when they're all bundled into a box? It's absurd, and I will defend the flyweight eBook from now until the day I die. I've got two four-foot stacks of computer books to get rid of that are all practically obsolete. I might do better selling them as kindling.

My wife's parents have donated boxes, my mother has a few on the way as well. We will be up to our armpits in boxes before this is all done. I'll need to learn how to drive a midsize U Haul and take apart our bed without breaking it. I'm terrified some unfortunate volunteer is going to keel over on moving day. Pizza and drinks don't make up for a heart attack.

We are buying a house.

Our current landlady has held two open houses so far and a third looks likely. The house has never been cleaner. We saw to that, and wondered why we hadn't before. It's nice to live in a house that isn't a pig sty. I can move about freely, maybe even dance in the office if I felt like it.

Our market demographic is exceedingly female. So far we've had two disinterested nonentities, one polite family woman, one proud Minnesotan, a hipster chick that reminded me of Zooey Deschanel, and a gang of five collegiates who all came to the house together to support their friend, who wants a place to live before she starts working at the local hospital. All signed the contact sheet and took applications. None have actually committed to renting the place yet. We expect the next open house on Friday.

We are buying a house.

It's going to be hard to argue that we're not adults after this. Maybe not responsible adults, but we're hardly the same couple that graduated from college together. We've gotten married, slogged through the world of jobs and office politics, gone out and lived on our own merits. We've earned a few aches and pains we didn't have before, raised a dog, fought, loved, been afraid, been enraptured, been jubilant.

Buying a house is ultimately just the next part in a very long story. And I think it's getting good.