Saturday, January 23, 2016

Nightmare Over

Some of us don't have a care in the world. 
And the rest of us are okay.

We sold the new place we bought in September. Finally.

I couldn't write about it until it was a done deal.

Those of you who've been reading here for a while know that my husband and I made a big mistake when we bought a condo up the street in September. (You can browse those angst-ridden posts here.) We'd been house-hunting for several years and finally bought a place that we'd seen and liked at the very beginning of our search... and had idealized over the years. Chinese investors had bought it as a rental property. When we heard they were interested in selling it, we made a series of offers on it without even being allowed to see it again, since it was rented. Then things sort of spiraled out of control and we offered more than we should have, and didn't take a hard look at the place or get serious estimates for the work it needed until it was too late. We were tired of house-hunting and convinced ourselves it was the right place for us.

But here's the thing: We didn't love it. It would have been a fine place to live if we'd loved it. We wouldn't have minded going into debt to fix all its problems — they wouldn't have seemed like such big problems if we'd loved the place. But can you ever love bedrooms that are only 8 feet wide? Can you love a  windowless, low-ceilinged bathroom that's only 5 feet by 7 feet and entirely covered in the cheapest gray tile — even the ceiling? Can you love a place where there's secondhand smoke?

After spending a surprising amount on a new paint job and very nice, contemporary staging (with many live plants that I carefully watered twice a week), we put the condo on the market in early October. There was an open house almost every weekend, but we didn't get a real offer until Christmas. It came from a buyer who had already made a couple of rather selfish proposals, so we were wary. In November, he had offered to rent the condo until July, at a price he specified (it amounted to less than half of our monthly carrying costs). He told our agent that he'd decide if he wanted to buy it in July. And if he did, he wanted us to subtract his rent from the selling price.

We didn't respond to that offer, as one doesn't react to a bad joke. He is newly single, so I wondered if he was used to making outrageous demands via his divorce lawyer and got confused into thinking that this is how one negotiates with the rest of the world. (Given his MBA and impressive professional background, I also thought he should have known better.) Our agent conveyed that we were not interested in losing a lot of money, other buyers, and our expensive staging while he test-drove our unit for seven months.

His next offer, presented formally, was so low that we didn't dignify it with a response, either.

His third offer was finally worth negotiating... and naturally it had to happen on Christmas Day. We thought hard and decided that taking a six-figure loss was worth being free of the place. Having always been the kind of frugal person who scrimps and saves and buys almost everything on sale, I wondered if such a massive loss would plunge me back into depression. But instead I started sleeping through the night. Since September, I'd been jolted awake nightly after a few hours of sleep, feeling anxious, horrified, and/or scared. I'd spend several wired and miserable hours trying to fall back asleep, often until it was time to get up. I was at the point where I dreaded going to bed so I'm so glad that's over.

When people say "It's only money," I now know what they mean. Often they don't know what they mean, but I get it now.

We signed the Purchase and Sale agreement on New Year's Eve. After that, the sale moved along very quickly, to our relief. But all along the way, we realized that something could go wrong. We kept our fingers crossed for three weeks through the home inspection, the appraisal, and the mortgage commitment. We didn't expect the fire department's inspector to cause a major problem the day before the closing but when we heard about it, we weren't all that taken aback. We'd grown philosophical about difficulties and bad surprises. His issue was not with the unit, however, but with the building itself, so the sale was permitted to continue; the P&S held strong. (But the remedy may be expensive for the whole building. Phew; there are nine units but ours was assigned a 25 percent share for common expenses, another reason we're delighted not to be living there.)

When I woke up this morning, it felt like a very long, bad dream was over. Now that those five extra keys are no longer bulking up my keyring, there are few signs that it ever happened. I'd found a big Mission-style bookcase that matches ours at an estate sale, and that's in storage. In preparation for moving, I'd emptied the drawers of our built-in bedroom cabinet and fitted those clothes into our Japanese chest. Now I can spread out again. We'd gotten rid of about 15 linear feet of books that we don't miss at all...  although somehow we don't have more than a few feet of empty shelf space! I guess there are fewer books on windowsills, tables, and the floor... but there are still books in those places, too.

I'm finally interested in reading something besides Barbara Pym novels, which are remarkably soothing and got me through a lot of those sleepless hours. This is great timing since I'm on the last one.

I know I'm a somewhat perverse, emotionally unpredictable person. I anticipated that, when we finally signed the P&S, I'd fall in love with the place and lose it a second time. That heartbreaking scenario would be my just desserts, I thought. I confess I did feel a tiny pang or two. But I realized that what I was regretting was the fact that I was losing an apartment on my favorite street in my beloved neighborhood. There isn't a single detail in the apartment itself that I'll miss. I sort of loathe the entire place. Even the roof deck I'd long wished for didn't delight me. It overlooks a frat house with 50 brothers; the frat's three Greek letters, carved in large wooden blocks, rest against the windows on two floors, so I was continually reminded. It wasn't great outdoor space in spite of how everyone who saw it raved. I'd always be worried about the cats getting loose on it and going over the side. Always. As the saying is: "I can't even."

I won't miss that place. That said, the neighbors, especially the building trustees, were wonderful. I will miss not having such lovely, compatible, good neighbors.

I don't miss the 10 pounds I lost in September without trying. (Don't try intense anxiety and depression as a weight-loss technique, though, trust me.)

The silver lining of this experience turned out to be some hard-won humility and self-knowledge. I'm not the same person I was in August; I think about everything a bit differently, although I can't quite put my finger on how. But I'm a wee bit smarter, somehow. I see and pick up on things I wasn't aware of before. I can reckon the many fine qualities of my husband more thoroughly than ever before. I'm also more understanding of the big mistakes other people make. I now know that no one is fully immune from such events. There but for fortune, kiddo....


  1. Congratulations! I'm vicariously relieved. There are many positives in this whole experience, among them the confirmation that you have a very strong inner compass that was going haywire when you made a decision that wasn't right for you. It's nice to know that inner compass is reliable. And for what it's worth, what little you show of your apartment here is so lovely and warm and inviting and cozy that I hold out hope you will find it actually perfectly suits you and your family. Overflowing books and all. :) Here's to a fruitful and happy 2016!

    1. Hi VL, thanks for writing. Our apartment actually does suit us very well and we would stay here... except for some of our neighbors....

  2. Phew! and congratulations! I figured there must have been something brewing since you were so quiet about it all after all your venting. I am delighted that you are now out from under it. Enjoy.

  3. Hi. I left this message earlier, but I got an error message, so I'm resending it.

    Congratulations! I knew you could do it. You should have more confidence in yourself.
    As much as all the rest of us do!

    Have you decided what you're going to do now? If I can ask, what happens to your
    husband's relocation package in all this?

    Again, congratulations!


    1. Thanks, LR! Sorry about the problems posting. We still need to move, so we will pick up the pieces, see what we can afford and start looking again. We can still use the relocation package that started this long journey; his employer is very understanding and we aren't their first buyers to make a mistake. Fingers crossed for next time that we get it right!

  4. well I am glad it is all said and done, and I am sorry that it didn't work out. Hopefully the next one will be much smoother sailing

  5. Like VL, I'm vicariously relieved. I'm so glad you're able to sleep again. I am confident the lessons learned will pay compound dividends when you find the right place, with your eyes wide open.

  6. Dare we hope your noisome neighbors will decamp first?

  7. Congratulations! What a burden lifted & a good way to start the new year. Hope 2016 brings a new place that you LOVE.


Spam goes right into the trash but I appreciate relevant comments from non-spammers (and I can always tell the difference). I do my best to follow up if you have a question. ALL spam, attempts to market other websites, and anything nasty or unintelligible gets deleted instantly. The cats and I thank you for reading — and please feel free to comment on what you read.