Memories of a house sounds like the title of a book. I suppose that I should Google it and find out whether it is or not. If it is not already taken maybe I’ll grab it. Who knows.
We bought our current home in August of 2001. A little more than a month before 9-11 turned much of the world upside down. Prior to that we had been renting a condo in the city. We had lived there for a good five years or so. It was a place to live, but it never quite felt like home to me.
Located just behind the Fox Hills Mall it had been a suitable location for the time, but suitable locations are not how you want to describe the place you hang your hat. Instead of traveling south to see my friends on the Westside I now headed north. And even though I didn’t have to take the 405 it still took just as long to get there.
I resented that.
Initially the condo was great. It was bigger than the apartment that we had lived in and had some amenities that hadn’t existed in the old place. But it had all sorts of little things that I didn’t like. I suppose that part of the reason that it never really felt like home was because I never got beyond my irritation with those little details.
They may say not to sweat the small things, but it is those little details that can add and enrich your life or make it really irritating. Having to walk down three flights of stairs to do laundry wasn’t a big deal until Little Jack’s arrival necessitated a huge increase in the amount of laundry.
Did I mention the problem with the A/C and heater. It might have been the city, but the summers were still really hot and the winters relatively cold. So I often found myself unsatisfied with the temperature. And I could mention that I found myself disappointed in the selection of movies theaters, restaurants and bookstores.
That new shopping center off of Howard Hughes Parkway helped to alleviate that, but it didn’t show up until the last six months we lived there.
A couple years into life in the condo I was fed up and it became house hunting time. Problem was that that little thing they call a down payment was virtually non-existent. One income and grad school tuition made it too difficult to look seriously, at least for a while.
But perseverance and a change in employment made a huge impact and suddenly the question wasn’t whether purchasing a home would happen, but when. Once the cash flow improved and purchasing became a reality my mood changed. Hanging out at the condo was more tolerable, but only because I knew that if I could hold off about a year I’d have saved up enough to buy the house I wanted.
That plan was my first mistake, or should I say voicing it out loud. Within three months or so of mentioning it the landlord decided that he wanted to get in on the nascent housing boom and asked if we wanted to buy it.
I remember the day I took the phone call asking what I thought about owning that amazing place I had been living in. As he listed its benefits I almost choked. I couldn’t believe that he thought it was worth what he said that he wanted to sell it for, but I didn’t say anything. All I did was ask for a week to consider the options.
And then for the next week we tore out our hair trying to figure out if there was a way to buy more time. Didn’t happen. Landlord insisted on a decision and so I thanked him for the opportunity and said that we were going to pass. He said ok and made arrangements to come see the place.
The old man as I thought of him (he was probably same age as I am now) came by and walked through the entire place and said how pleased he was that it was in such good shape. He was surprised by Little Jack’s appearance, or should I say his existence. When we signed the lease the kid hadn’t even been a gleam in my eye.
Anyway, landlord looked me in the eye and told me that if I cooperated with getting it ready to sale he would be generous in allowing us to stay long enough to find a new place to live. What I didn’t know was that he was going to renege on his promise of a couple of months or that he was going to demand access several times a week for himself, handymen and realtors.
Maybe it was inevitable, but the relationship soured very quickly. I had told him that cooperation wasn’t a problem, but he needed to provide more notice than an hour. And so in short order he dropped off paperwork saying that since our lease had long since gone to month-to-month we were being evicted.
I remember reading that note, the one in which he said that we were evicted. As a brand new father I was less than pleased by this turn of events. I understood that he wanted to take advantage of the rise in real estate prices, but I wasn’t going to let him hurt my family so that he could make a buck.
So I called him and explained that as a result of this notice I was going to refuse entrance to his people. I would still allow him access so that he could see that the place was in good condition, but he was going to have to wait until we left to do any work on it.
In the next section I’ll share some more memories about this and how this led to a rush to buying a place and a thirty day escrow. More on this later.