December 12, 2003

a maybe

A funny thing happened yesterday. I wouldn’t write about it normally because whenever anything good or potentially good or maybe-will-someday-pan-out-and-be-brag-worthy happens, people always tell me to keep it quiet till it’s solid, as if somehow I’ll jinx it by talking too loudly too soon. But then it never does happen, it slips away like sand through my open hand, and I never got to enjoy the thing in public after all, because news that never goes anywhere is no news at all. So this time I’m going to write about it up front. It’s highly improbable and I expect it to go nowhere, but that makes it more fun to think and talk about. No stress, no bated breath. Just “hoo” and “hee” and maybe “ha.”

So the funny thing, not a big thing only it could maybe become one, is this: we had someone install a backup sensor on the new car, our honking big minivan. Seemed like a good idea to know what we’re about to crash into, you know? The guy who came by is the owner of the company, a fifty something dapper gentleman, his Australian accent colored with a European undertone. He and I talked as he worked. He told me some of his life story. People have started doing that lately, for some reason. When he started drilling the rear bumper of my shiny new metallic baby, I couldn’t watch so I went inside. He called me (literally, called me on the phone) when he was done. I came back out. He demonstrated the system. It worked. Nice. Then he asked, “Are you thinking of selling your house?”


Turns out he likes this neighborhood, often goes to the music shops up the street. Lives in a more suburban area near here, would like to move. His wife works downtown so they can’t go too far. He’d be interested.


I brought him inside to take a look around. He didn’t respond to all the lovely exposed wood, which was kind of strange because everyone does. But if he’s in buyer mode it doesn’t behoove him to, right? He has to be cagey. We talked a bit more. He wanted to know what we’d ask for the house. Hell, we haven’t put it on the market, how would I know? But I told him what a house a few blocks away is listed for and how it has plusses and minuses (a few hundred square feet bigger but no yard and no gorgeous built-ins) but is fairly equivalent as they’re both butted up against apartment buildings. I said I don’t know that we’d ask that (a phenomenally absurd price, if you ask me) but maybe a bit less (which is still in the realm of the absurd but I know another house nearby that sold for that last month). He didn’t bat an eye. I said I’d have to talk to my realtor before setting an exact price. He said yes, and he’d need to talk to his realtor, run the comps, get a sense of prices in the area. He’d also need to bring his wife by, see if she’d be interested. Maybe this weekend, he said.

This is weird.

We’ve wanted to sell since we moved in. It’s a lovely place, 1912 California Craftsman, well preserved, and I adore it. But I hate the neighbors, all apartment dwellers, no respect for our property, and loud to boot. It’s not a forever house. We’ve been working to upgrade it cosmetically (rip off shit-ugly wallpaper, reconfigure the kitchen, add skylights to the dark living room), doing as much of the work ourselves as possible, and then we’d always planned to put it on the market. But lately we’ve worried, because housing prices are insane all over this city. How can we move? We can’t trade up and if we trade laterally, aren’t we ending up in a similarly bad situation, tiny house or terrible neighborhood or in the boonies or next to a freeway? Why bother? Our personal compromise, though not ideal, works fairly well. We’re in a good (overall) neighborhood, the house is the right size and configuration for us, it’s conveniently central. And it’s such a pretty house.

But I started looking on the MLS last night, jumping up about 50K in price from what I’d been considering. If we sell for the price I suggested yesterday, we could make a damned good lateral move. We could move west to an area we like better, with a better elementary school and houses all up and down the tree-lined block. And yes, I think roughly the same size house.

We could put our house on the market if this guy falls through. And we might, but first we have to finish the cosmetic fixes. And it’s work, having people tramp through. And we should find a house to buy first, because we’re picky. But we won’t know what we’d get for ours so we’d be guessing what we can afford. And that’s not good because we might get in too deep but also because we might get rejected because our down payment is still theoretical until we sell and in this seller’s market, you need cash in hand to buy. But if we sell first, will we be able to rent-back from the buyer or will we need to move to an interim rental home while we look? And how do you find those when you’re wanting to sign a short-term lease?

Selling to this guy would solve a lot of problems. We’d have a solid buyer at a definite price but someone who could wait for us to find a perfect new house. Money in the bank.

If it happens, it could be very cool, but I don’t expect it will. The wife might say “Are you kidding me???” and drive away fast. The realtor might say “Offer this and no more” where this is too low for us to go anywhere. Or the guy might get cold feet and not say anything to anyone. Maybe he already has, maybe he drove away thinking “What was I going on about back there?”

One way changes everything, the other way doesn’t. But I’m already in the doesn’t place and I’m fine with that. So no bated breath here, just an “it could be” musing. And no matter what, it’s still cool. Someone moseyed on by and thought about buying my house, out of the blue. What a funny thing.

Posted by Tamar at December 12, 2003 11:14 PM