Tuesday, July 19, 2016

He's playing you like a fiddle

After you go and see and reject the tiny yellow house with its charming old neighborhood, retro clotheslines, and immense yard and snowblower-unfriendly gravel driveway, then, because you are still insisting to your realtor that you "want to try for a house," well, then you open up your email the next day to see the subject line, from him. "K ------- has sent you 78 properties matching your requirements." That is, they are all in your budget and are "detached," all houses. (A condo or a town home is "attached.")

Seventy-eight! Wow, you feared there would be, like, three! Unhappily they prove, all of them, to be way the hell out in the boondocks and they all need major if not catastrophic-level "work." One or two have actually been condemned and must be torn down. So it's the land that is valuable; whether or not you have the means to build is your affair, not K-----'s.

Still you trawl through all of them, all the pictures and all the information on all the houses. Just for fun, as Nana used to say. It's very enjoyable to imagine oneself inside these walls or looking out these windows to that backyard, and thinking, now this is mine. The lawn could be turned to native grasses -- the upstairs ramshackle porch could be a fabulous sort of indoor office/greenhouse -- look at the overgrowth of lilies beside the stone steps, already such a Michigan-cottage feel. You recall delightful movies and magazine articles in which some intrepid woman gets off the tour bus to buy, on the spot, a ramshackle Tuscan farmhouse or a trulli in Apulia, complete with crabby old gardener who turns out to be heroic and has a handsome middle-aged professor son also.

But chances are she, the impulsive heroine of the tour bus, was a well-to-do real estate broker in San Francisco to begin with, with money to pay the masons to relay the medieval steps, and the gardener to tend the olive trees. Here you are going to be -- you are imagining yourself -- in a ramshackle and badly carpeted old house maybe fifty minutes' drive from your job. You know perfectly well you do not, after all, want to come home from work to mow the lawn, relay medieval stone steps, or more likely hang on the phone to contractors asking for price estimates on what it costs to repair their modern concrete equivalent. Don't forget the neighbors are watching, concerned about weeds and their own property values. This isn't relaxed, eccentric- and ruin-friendly Europe. (Then again, is Europe?) "I don't know, Nance," a co-worker I'll call David shakes his head. "When you're a single person, it's awfully nice to come home from work and be able to sit down in a condo and not worry about maintenance. Maybe take a dip in the pool if there is one."

Oh, don't be so discouraging. On the other hand, go ahead, be discouraging. Why else do we ask advice? Besides, for all that Colette enjoyed her many-roomed villa in Provence with her cook and gardener and handsome boy, truly what single woman wants a midwestern Cape Cod that clearly calls out for a young family with children and puppies? What single woman wants to spend her days off vacuuming the silent upstairs bedrooms?

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