Thursday, July 7, 2016

The tiny yellow house

So you plan to go with the realtor to see the little yellow house. Before the appointment at 6:45 you have of course been tapping away at your phone to sisters and other support networks, and when one replies "I can come with if you want," you text back "Sure!" thankfully.

She arrives. You drive back (it's your second visit of the day, the first one exploratory, solo) to the yellow house. The realtor pulls up behind you in his big black SUV whose license plates read REALTR1. He gets out holding a binder. He's young, stocky, somewhat wary-eyed, he puts you in mind of a polite but intense high school wrestling coach. He has the combination to the lockbox hanging on the house's front door handle. The box drops open to reveal the key to the house. That's how realtors get in. You go in.

It's very, very small. Six hundred and fifty square feet. That includes two bedrooms which seem to give abruptly on to each other, and to the tiny bathroom, simply as you turn around to avoid backing into an oddly-placed wall. Tiny kitchen, turn about, tiny laundry room. Now how is it possible that you are back at the front door already?

You really do try to look at the place, but it's difficult to do when you have no experience house hunting. Because I -- I am "you," it's me again -- because I spent lots of time clicking through photos of houses on line at Zillow and Trulia, including many times this very house, I see in life little more than what I saw in pictures: the decor, the yard, the color schemes. The portrait of Buddha in sage green and gray over the couch. The cats, who distract me. The daylilies. It's my sister the lifelong homeowner who wants to know where the electrical panel is. She noticed the wooden peg on a bedroom ceiling, which locks a trap door that descends and unfolds a sturdy ladder, Little House on the Prairie style, going up into the attic. Quaint. ("You're wearing a dress," Coach says. "If you want to go up and look I'll leave the room." Given the news we hear of other cultures every day, what a blessing the Western gentleman is ....) It's my sister the homeowner who asks "is your furniture going to fit?"

Then I realize. No. Of course it isn't. "Unless you put your glass-topped kitchen table and the chairs in storage ...." Certainly not. Strike the tiny yellow house off my list.

"Well," I say to the realtor, as we walk out the long, long summer gravel driveway towards our cars. That's a lot to shovel in the winter. I'm not sure if you can use a snowblower on gravel. "I have no idea what happens next. Do we look at more houses?"

"We sure do," he answers. "Do you think you want a house or a condo?"

"I think I'd like to try for a house. I look at condos online and they're pristine and beautiful, but it seems kind of sad to just own two rooms. Up to now I've always rented a house. I'm a gardener. I think I'd like a yard."

"Okay," he nods. He hands me his business card and writes down my email. I tell him that a bank has pre-qualified me for a mortgage, and I tell him that the figure they have pre-qualifed me for is much too optimistic because they seem not to have factored in property taxes to what they think I can afford. All this is a tale he could have told me I am sure. I, too, work in sales (of wine) to newbies.

What will happen next, he says, is that he will send me email links to, and pictures of, properties that fall in my price range and meet my "requirements." Requirements! Good grief, who am I to have requirements, I who have rented for decades and most of that time in a beggars-can't-be-choosers emotional posture!

All right, so now this is me. I have requirements. The realtor/coach and I shake hands, and he and my sister shake hands, and then my sister and I get into our car and he gets into his. We drive away. The first comment out of our mouths, in private, is the question why did these people in this tiny house need three flat screen t.v.s?

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