In Escrow

mood: overjoyed | drinking: raspberry tea
housefront1

There’s a funny thing about tunnels and the lights that sometimes appear at the end of them…

When there is no end in sight, you feel as if the state of limbo, of darkness, of uncertainty will stretch on and on and on into infinity. You begin to feel like you’ve been there for so long, you can’t remember what it is to live any other way.

And then, suddenly, light! And though you’re still within the tunnel, though you still haven’t reached the end, everything has miraculously changed. Suddenly you are certain that the end is, blessedly, near. And somehow you find yourself laughing at things (*cough* drunk frat boys outside my window at 3 a.m. *cough*) that, a week ago, made you feel like turning into a cutter.

All of that to say this: After 4 months, 134 houses, and 15 offers, the search is over. We’ve got a house.

Or, more accurately, we are in escrow. Apartment living shall continue for the near future. Keys to our adorable new house are not yet in hand. But there is suddenly an expiration date on Limboland, and that changes absolutely everything.

There were 7 other offers on this house, as is common in San Francisco surreal estate. But this time, finally, we were the ones who came out on top, thanks in no small part to the efforts of our most fabulous realtor, Jennifer Rosdail. And also to a letter I wrote to tell the sellers why Boy and I would make such wonderful buyers.

Turns out that sometimes people really do care about who buys their house, not just who has the most cash.

Our new home will be just a couple of blocks from the beach–you can hear the thunder of the Pacific Ocean when the windows are open. We’re also pretty close to Golden Gate Park, one of my most favorite places ever. So we’re pretty pleased about that.

The house isn’t huge, but it does have an extra bedroom, a nice garage for Boy and a big huge backyard for LeeLoo. It was built in 1939 and the previous owner bought it brand new. She took very good care of it, leaving the original details intact, so it’s a very charming little place with hardwood floors and sweet little alcoves.

We’re pretty much in love. (And one of us may have been overtaken by the repeated and spontaneous desire to do some booty-shaking in celebration, much to LeeLoo’s confusion.)

One of the things Boy and I kept telling each other throughout the last few months was that we couldn’t settle. We couldn’t just pick a house to have a house and be done with it. We had to end up with a house that made the whole ordeal worthwhile. We had to choose a house that we loved, that could become a home. A place that we could see ourselves in for years to come.

We feel like we’ve found it. And in about 30-ish days, it will truly be ours.

So here’s to lights and ends and certainty. A new adventure begins…

-Lo, in escrow.

Home Is Where

mood: deflated | drinking: daily teapalmyra_porch

I have learned a few things in the three weeks since we sold our house.

1: I am not good at being displaced. 2: I still do not find anything charming about drunk college boys cavorting beneath my window at 2 a.m. 3: Home is not the place where all your stuff is. That’s just where you live. Home is something altogether different…

Where the heart is. Where you belong. Where you feel safe. Where you go to get away. Where you long to be in the middle of a stress-filled day.

And while Boy and I continue our long and arduous search for the place we will eventually call home, I find myself getting a bit frayed around the edges. The lack of home is much harder than I imagined it would be.

I thought apartment living would be a lark. Like playing house.

It’s not.

Apartment living reminds me of all the things that I miss about having a home. And they’re not things, really. Because I have all my things, stacked in boxes all around me. What I don’t have is the feeling of belonging in the space that I inhabit.

What I don’t have, at night, after a never-ending day of deadlines and demands and divas, is a refuge.

Although that’s not true, entirely. I have Boy. I have LeeLoo, even (who hates apartment living as much as Boy and I do).

Here’s the thing I never realized until now, though… Growing up, I had a home. 497 Palmyra Road. That was where I belonged. And then I got older and I went away to college and I got a degree and then a job and then a succession of apartments and roommates and temporary living arrangements.

And then I met Boy and we had our own apartments and rental houses, and they were better. They were homier. And then, five years ago, we bought a place of our own. We settled in. We nested. We chose paint colors and carpets and dishes and drapes. We turned that place into a home. It was the first time in my adult life I felt like I had a place to go to, in a very specific sense, that was my home.

I didn’t realize until now how much that meant to me.

On better days I tell myself, or Boy, or both of us tell each other: “We will find a home. Soon. And it will make all of this worthwhile.” And I believe it.

Today is not a better day. Today is the end of a very long week in which I’ve wobbled along, hanging onto shreds of my former bouncy optimism. Today is another day in which I go to the place where my stuff is, the place where my mail is delivered, the place where I lay my head, and feel the lack.

I feel guilty, too, for complaining. What about the homeless, I think. What about all those who live in apartments like this and have no alternative, no other home on the horizon, I think. I have so much to be grateful for, I think.

And it’s all true.

But this is my reality, and it is true as well. And today is just… not a better day.

Maybe tomorrow will be.

-Lo, searching and searching and searching.

Closing Time

Mood: relieved | Drinking: yes

640_2004

Finally, at long last, our former home is good and sold. To someone new. Which means that Boy and I are no longer homeowners.

We put our home of 5 years, a 1911 Edwardian condo just two blocks from Golden Gate Park, on the market at the beginning of June. We had a buyer on the hook within two weeks. But escrow, in the day and age of cautious banks, takes forever. So we officially closed just this past Friday.

Boy and I moved all our stuff (and the LeeLoo) into short term housing while we look for a new home, probably somewhere near the beach, on the west side of San Francisco. It’s the first time since 1999 that I’ve lived in an honest-to-goodness apartment complex. Kind of a weird feeling.

But we’re hoping that we won’t be here for long. We have a feeling that our next happy home is out there somewhere, and we’ll find it very soon. Fingers (and all other available body parts) crossed.

I feel like I’ve had two elephants sitting on my head for about three months now. One elephant down, one to go…

Looking at that picture up there freaks me out a little. That was us back in July of 2004, sitting on the steps of our just-purchased first home. Looking all young and bright eyed, with a lot less grey in our muzzles. And now it belongs to someone new. Weird. But wonderful.

Once all this real estate drama is over, I’m hoping to get back on the stick will all my various projects. Shel and I have already gotten a good start on editing the Homogeneous cinépoem. And writing group carries on, so I have some new words in the works.

So it’s not all quiet on the western front. There are some faint rustlings. Stay tuned.

-Lo, who misses her garage already.

Behind Door #1

Mood: sneezy | Drinking: for medicinal purposes only

door

It begins with the door. Always.

This is the rule I’ve learned over 11 weeks and 82 houses. The door is where it all begins.

Because you can never tell by standing on the street, you can never know just by staring at the facade. Anything could be behind that door. Anything is behind that door.

And once you push it open and step inside, that’s where the fun (and sometimes the horror) begins. That’s when you really begin to know what you’re dealing with. That’s when you’re finally able to see if you fit, if this house is one that you could turn into your home.

Sometimes you walk through the door, say “Oh, hell no!” and turn around and walk right back out. Sometimes you walk in, fall in love, and then realize you can’t afford something this amazing, not yet. And sometimes you push open that door and stay for awhile, thinking, “Hmmmm, yeah. Okay. I can see how this would work.”

Of course, just because you like what’s behind the door doesn’t mean you can actually have it.

Boy and I have been house-hunting for a good long time now. We know what we’re looking for. We know what we’re up against. And we feel like finally, after 82 houses, we’re getting close. (I’m hoping that’s not just the desperation talking.)

As I’ve explained in previous posts, San Francisco is not your average real estate market. Unless you have a gazillion zeros after the number on your bank statement, you can’t just walk right and in find something you like and say, “I’ll take it!”. You have to fight it out, battling through bidding wars between 12, 14, or 25 other sweaty buyers.

Everybody’s out there scrambling for their piece of the American pie right now, and they’re getting a bit vicious about it.

That’s why we’ve put ourselves on a two week break. On this sunny Sunday afternoon, for the first time in months, I’m sitting on my couch with the sleeping Loondog next to me, windows wide open, clicking away on my laptop instead of queuing up for yet another frantic afternoon of open houses.

We’re only a few weeks away from closing on our own house with our lovely buyer, so we decided to take a step back and settle down and let the contingencies fall off before we jump back into the fray. Isn’t that when big things start to happen, anyway–when you decide to let them go? That’s what my mom says.

In spite of the self-imposed ban from the MLS listings, I seem to be unable to get houses off the brain. So I sit here and ruminate about doorways, about how you often step through them without knowing.

Did I know, when I walked into the hallway of our current home, that it was the one? No. Just as I didn’t know when I met Boy for the first time that he was the one. But then, I’m not a big believer in “the one”. I prefer the school of thought of multiple possibilities.

I don’t believe that there’s one right house out there for us, or one right partner, or one right destiny. There are so many doors we could walk through, and so many choices that lead us to those doors. Combine a few factors in just a couple of new configurations and you’ve got a whole different universe of potential.

I do believe in fate. I do believe that some things are meant to be. But it’s not a storybook or a rom com. It doesn’t usually (or ever) happen the way you think it should.

So I’m trying not to read into the fact that our realtor called us yesterday a.m. at an obscenely early hour for a Saturday and got us out of bed and across town to see a tiny orange house that could (or could not) be the one.

I’m trying not to get all portentous about the fact that the series of events that led to her phone call were out of the ordinary, to say the least.

I’m trying not to get my hopes up that maybe all the right stars are aligning this time and after 7 (yes, seven) missed chances, the 8th time might be the charm.

Or, you know, not.

But I would like to point out that this particular door I’m standing in front of now features a very handsome lion door knocker. And if we get this house, I’m totally naming him Aslan.

-Lo, who’s afraid that her cold medicine might be showing in all this rambling.

Proceed with caution

Mood: trepidatious | Drinking: the tea

caution

All around me, life is in disarray. It’s a natural consequence of change, I know this. And I’m also aware that change is, quite often, a very good thing.

But all of this upheaval is very unsettling. Uncomfortable. Exhausting.

This is the state in which I have found myself for the past two months, and all signs point to things continuing to be uncomfortable and exhausting for another two. At least.

I’m learning the practice of living from moment to moment. To be okay in this moment, the one that’s happening right now, and to not worry, stress, or even think about the moment that’s going to be happening three minutes from now.

But to be honest, I’m not having much luck with that sort of Zen mindset.

Eighty percent of my possessions (including all my friendly, life-saving books) are currently boxed in a storage locker on the other side of the city. My home is not my own, as half the furniture in it is not even mine anymore, and I’m constantly being displaced so strangers can tramp through my space and drill holes in walls and write things down on clipboards.

I realize this is all part of the real estate package. Escrow and inspections and all of that, but while I’m waiting for our buyer to sign the final dotted line, I’m also trying to find my own home to buy.

Well, to be more accurate, we are trying to find our new home. Boy is in on this too, all the way. And LeeLoo, whether she likes it or not.

(Speaking of the dog, age 11 is showing its teeth in the form of cataracts in her left eye, arthritis in her right rear leg, and a pronounced loss of hearing. Or maybe its selective hearing. Maybe she thinks that since she now has so much distinguished gray in her muzzle hairs, she can sniff at that tree in the park a few minutes longer instead of trotting right over when I say “Come!”)

A facebook friend who’s a realtor in another state chirpily informed me that selling a house is really hard right now, but buying is easy. Yeah, well, I beg to differ. Because, as with most things in San Francisco, the status quo doesn’t float here.

Selling is easy. Buying is a whole ‘nother story.

San Francisco is situated on the very tip of a narrow peninsula. The whole city is only 7 miles by 7 miles, and is surrounded on 3 sides by water. This means that land here is extremely finite. We’re not going to keep expanding ever outward like oh, Phoenix, let’s say.

And since it’s such a gorgeous, magical, lovely city and so many people want to live here, the limited supply of land and high demand equal pricey living space, a la Manhattan.

Even in such a dismal economy, even at the so-called bottom of the housing market, in San Francisco you still have houses that are only on the market for 1 or 2 days before they are snapped up. You still have multiple offers. You still have bidding wars.

One wee little place that Boy and I set our sights on ended up getting 25 offers and selling for $100,000 over asking price.

Although we are prepared, in our own modest way, to wheel and deal, $100,000 over asking price is not in our price range.

So finding a little house to call our own has been a much more daunting task than I expected, and all these bidding wars and people willing to toss out extra tens of thousands of dollars has been disheartening, for both of us.

As a person who thrives on stability and routine (yes, I’m very exciting that way), living in Limboland has been excruciating.

I have a mantra that I repeat to myself whilst banging my head against the wall, “In a few months, this will all be over. In a few months, this will all be worth it. In a few months, in a few months, in a few…” *bang. head explodes.*

But really, no really, it will work out. We’ll sign the papers. We’ll change our address. We’ll move our boxes. In a few months, I’ll be surrounded by packing peanuts and paint chips. I believe this. I know it. I’m fine.

In the meantime, I’ll just be over here setting out orange cones and flashing yellow lights to alert all oncoming traffic that there is a slight detour. We are under construction. Please excuse our mess. We’ll be with you shortly.

-Lo, warning you that there may be falling objects. Hard hats are required.

I am a hunter.

Mood: reluctantly patient | Drinking: the tea from home

empty_house

A fresh poem for you. And yes, this one’s mine. No borrowing today…

Hunter

Remember when we had a home
when every street lamp
and sidewalk crack
was familiar
as the way your palm
fit my face.

On my walk to the park
I would pass oblivious tourists
and think if they knew
they would want to be me.

Once I had a place for everything
here fits my wishbone,
there rests my dance card
and in the corner
always you
in your chair.

Now I am a hunter
ferreting through wreckage
for a piece that will
fit it all back together.

-Lo, who has taken to reading real estate listings like a horoscope.

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