June 09, 2005

this is how it goes

I spent most of yesterday in a deep blue funk. I feel much better today, even though the situation is the same. Maybe I'm resigned. Maybe it's started to seem almost inevitable, the evolution of a city, and I'm partaking in that process whether or not I want to do so.

We've had three offers for the house. All from builders or investors with intent to build. None from people who would actually want to live here. At least four people/sets of people walked away from viewing the house saying they loved it and planned to make an offer and then… didn't. I think they all went home and, once they were no longer standing here, the spell was gone and the "Oh my god, sandwiched between apartment buildings??" reality hit full blast.

It was different when we bought the house. Not because it was an easy decision then. It wasn't. But because we were dealing with less than half the expense. Prices are so out of control in LA now. People are spending so very much money. And this is not a situation that can improve. You can add onto a small house. A dicey neighborhood can become gentrified. Apartment buildings aren't going to metamorphose into single family homes. You're stuck with them. It's no wonder if prospective buyers look at each other and say, "We're going to pay all that cash and live like that? Why on earth??" And, too, I think the recent spate of articles about the imminent housing bubble burst has people second guessing their choices. Rightly so. They may have to live in them a long time. That, or sell at a loss.

It seems that if we want to sell to real live people, we have to price the house lower than the market value, which is already lower than it would be if it weren't in an awkward spot (ie: between apartments). Maybe fifty thousand dollars lower. Maybe more. That money buys us another year of settling into our new life or, if things go reasonably well, it might be the chunk of money we need to make our down payment high enough to buy a decent house in Jersey. In other words, it would be a pretty dumb move to lower the price that much. Save a house, screw with your future.

It breaks my heart, this beautiful house gone. But in another way, I get it. The house is an anomaly. A relic. There are a few others on this block, in this area, but not that many. And it's not fun being a homeowner among renters. They toss trash in our yard, park in our driveway, talk on their cell phones outside our windows (okay, that last hasn’t happened for a while, but it has happened). It's a very urban environment, not quite the white-picket-fence dream. A condo building here would fit better. Would suit the neighborhood better. Would feel better to the people who buy in.

This house has an expiration date. We knew it when we moved in. Dan said he thought we'd likely be the last people to live here. We tried to fix it up, make it nice, entice people, avoid that fate. But it seems he was right.

I don't regret fixing the house up. For one thing, we had to give it that chance. For another, we learned a lot in the process, things I hope we can apply to our next house (whenever that may be). And we got to enjoy the transformation, got to be in a no-longer-dingy environment. More concretely, our realtor says it actually affected the price, even for the builders. For one thing, they won't build right away. This way, because it's nice, they can rent it out for a while, collect some money. It becomes more attractive as a result. Also, they know they might have to compete against people who want to live here, so they have to bid higher than they otherwise might. If a place is an obvious teardown, builders bid low. Way low. So our little spruce-up job more than paid for itself in profit. Just not the way we'd hoped.

We've countered the offers, we're close to a deal. We bow to what feels inevitable, or at least necessary. I was terribly, terribly sad yesterday. Oddly, the cloud lifted today. It is what it is. A house is not a person. Is not us. We walk away from this in good shape, in fact. It works. Not the way we'd hoped, but it works.

Posted by Tamar at June 9, 2005 08:44 PM | TrackBack

As I'd guessed: good news for you, if a little heart-bruising (it makes me think, somewhat irrationally, of the report last week about historic sites in Mongolia razed so the town can sell to developers). I wish you'd find someone mad enough to lift the house and move it across town.

As a citydweller, I am a little insulted by "It's a very urban environment...." so close to accounts of "trash in our yard." Also, "urban" is often a race keyword; you might want to find another.

Posted by: Chris at June 10, 2005 12:19 AM

Before you go, be sure to use a video camera and take a tour of your home. That way when your little one is older and wants to relive some memories of his childhood home, you will have them. My son was 4 when we moved away but he still asks all the time about the "little house". I just pop in the video and he watches and remembers.

Posted by: Annie at June 10, 2005 08:32 AM

Chris, it's urban LA, radically different from urban NY or SF. Here, the description fits. And I meant no racial undertones. The neighborhood is mostly white, actually. To me, urban means density and noise and traffic.

Annie, that's a wonderful idea. We'll make sure to do that!

Posted by: Tamar at June 10, 2005 09:39 AM

And, see, i wouldn't describe your area as urban; urban to me is Manhattan, downtown LA. And when I lived in the same area, I had none of those issues, despite the fact that we, too, lived in a pretty (and HUGE) duplex right next door to an apartment building.

But all that is beside the point. I think you would, eventually, find a buyer who would live there, but that you wouldn't gain anything in the waiting, and might even lose because of it. Plus your timeline would be thrown off.

I, too, will cry to see that house go away. It's so breathtaking. I wish I were that crazy-enough person Chris talked about--or, rather, that rich-and-crazy-enough person, since I got the crazy down pat already. ;-)

I think you're doing the right thing. It is just a house, even if it's a gorgeous house. You, on the other hand, are living beings. And if the destruction of one house gives the three of you an easier time in your new life, makes that new life possible, then it's a no-brainer.

Posted by: Tiny Coconut at June 10, 2005 09:51 AM

You turned that into a beautiful house. We'll be taking that place with us in our hearts. We had fun there... good food... shared love and laughter. Visited with old friends, made new ones. That said... it's y(our) past. Take the money and run. We'll do it again in NY :-)

Posted by: Michele Montgomery at June 10, 2005 10:00 PM

It's so sad! No more New Years Day brunches in that nice house! On the other hand, you'll be out near me, and that can't be a bad thing.

Posted by: Kymm at June 12, 2005 09:44 PM
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