Tuesday, July 12, 2005
The Saga of the Move... Part III (the conclusion)
Okay, let's see if I can't finish this puppy off before I completely forget. I'm already suffering from a similar phenomenon to Mommy Dementia - the pregnancy was horrible, but as soon as I gave birth to Jacob I started to forget just HOW horrible is was. Similarly, the move and closing at the old house was awful but I'm so happy with the new house that I'm having a hard time remembering just how bad it was...

So, we had the walk-through at the new house, and that went just fine. It's when I discovered that there are only two overhead lights in the whole house, but no big deal, that's what floor lamps are for. Willem was not able to go on the walk-through with me, even though he was also driving across the state... he was in a little U-Haul parade with his friend, so I passed them on the highway and did the walk-through on my own (well, with Jacob, but his real estate savvy is still pretty underdeveloped). Then I went to the U-Haul place to pick up Willem and his friend so we could all drive back to Keene for the night.

As soon as I got to the parking lot, I could tell something was not perfect. Maybe it's my trained, well-honed sense of interpersonal body language, or the fact that Willem was pacing a hole in the parking lot while gesturing loudly and breathing fire, but in any case, I got a sinking feeling. Turns out, Willem had gotten a call from our selling-realtor (from here on out known as Putz, because I don't want to use the *real* word that comes to mind when I think of this delightful clump of humanity), saying that the buyers were upset.

Remember how I said we'd had to leave a few last-minute cleaning-up stuff behind for the moment, because we just ran out of time? Well, Putz made it sound like the clothes hangers in the closets were going to be a deal-breaker, along with the fish tank paraphernalia on the floor. (Maybe the buyers were appalled by the idea of hanging up clothes or keeping domesticated fish in a tank, who knows?) He also mentioned that they wanted the fire pit and woodpile gone by the morning. If every single movable personal item wasn't out of that house before the closing the next morning, they wanted us to put money in an escrow account to cover the cost of clean-up.

They wanted $2000.


I still get a little kick of adrenaline just thinking about it. Because I totally, totally understand them being unhappy that we hadn't finished "broom-cleaning" the house, and I can't blame them for being upset. I can, and do, blame Putz for not explaining our situation to them and passing on our plan to go back to the house that night or the next morning to deal with those remaining details. But the fire pit is an entirely different matter, because it wasn't just a cute little pile of bricks - it was a poured-cement base with cinderblocks all around, thereby a permanent structure of the house, just like the shed and driveways. And it's not like we somehow hid it for the three months that it was under contract. No weird faux scenery canvases, no smoke-and-mirrors, no deep snowdrifts, no "Hey, look, what's THAT over THERE?!?" to distract them from the fire pit. It was always right there, in plain sight, in our quarter-acre, treeless backyard, just sitting there, minding its own business and being really visible.

Twelve hours before the closing is NOT the time to say, "Hey, I don't like that, can you get rid of it?" And it's REALLY not the time to say, "Hey, if you don't get it out of there in some bizarre and magical way, we want an exorbitant amount of money from you so that we can remove it and overcharge you for it, or we just won't buy the house."

Adding insult to injury was the fact that the woman who bought the house worked with my husband. She was a secretary at his school - his mailbox was in her office. So they saw each other every single day, often chatted about the house, and she never once mentioned, "Hey, what are your plans for that fire pit? 'Cause I don't want it."

So, we talked about it the whole drive back, and after dropping his friend off (who, without any prior warning, refused to let us pay him a dime for helping us for 11 hours that day - it was almost enough to restore my faith in humanity), we went back to the house and finished the clothes hangers and other stuff. We looked at the fire pit, and swore a few times, and made sure that we removed every single movable item out of the whole house and property. Then we swore some more, looked at the fire pit, and went to another friend's to sleep, crashing around 2:00 a.m.

The next morning, we returned to the house, carted off the garbage to the dump (except for that which we had already contracted with the disposal company to take - which also irritated the buyers but there was nothing they could do about it), and talked to Putz. It was at this point that we found out that it wasn't ACTUALLY the clothes hangers and fish supplies that upset them - they listed off that stuff just to be snotty, but what really bothered them was the fire pit. We repeated our unwillingness to remove a concrete slab with no notice and our extreme unwillingness to put a single dime toward its removal, he called their realtor to pass that along, and we spent the next hour NOT getting any phone calls letting us know what was going on.

So we walked into the closing at 10:30 that morning, still not knowing for sure if we were actually going to be closing on the house. The buyers were waiting for us, as was Putz. He announced, "These beasts [okay, no, he didn't say that, he used their names] have accepted your cleaning job, but they still want the fire pit out, so they've decided to drop the amount that they want from you to $750."

Oh, my heart could just break. I mean, they "only" wanted us to pay $750 to do something that they should have asked for three months ago. Just makes me all warm and gooey inside.

But Willem and I had talked about it beforehand, and we had decided that we wouldn't give another dime to them. We had already come down on the asking price of the house and contributed toward a new roof, and we were done making concessions. If the sale went through it meant we couldn't buy the next house, but we could survive that - and we could not survive allowing these people to extort us for another dollar more. Just for self-respect's sake.

So, we said, as politely as we could, "Thanks for the offer, but no thanks." And the woman FREAKED OUT. Red in the face, all sweaty and breathing hard, eyes all big and bugged way out, swearing at us and saying things like, "UNBELIEVABLE! This is unbelievable! I can't, I just, I, this, I can't, this is unbelieveable!" My husband, meanwhile, reverted to teacher mode, and was trying to explain to them WHY we weren't interested in negotiating; I was trying to convince him that they weren't listening to a word either of us said. At one point, the woman snarked, "So, that's it, you want to call off the deal then???" I said, "No, not at all. But we won't agree to your most recent demand." And finally the room sank into the most awkward, tense silence ever, save for the occasional noisy glare and huff from her. (Her husband was the quiet, belligerent type, so he was cranky but not in a tantrum-y way.) It got even better because Putz got up and walked out without a word, leaving the four of us to conspicuously not look at each other.

After somewhere between ten minutes and six days, Putz returned to the room and said that he had decided to pay for the removal of the fire pit out of his own pocket, just to keep this deal from falling through. Now, lest you get all warm and gooey about HIM, let me just say that I had not had a single conversation with him in over two months because we had one bad conversation in which he called me names and told me I was the nost inconsiderate person he'd ever worked with and I never paid attention to his feelings or needs - even though he was the realtor and I was the client, and it wasn't my job to make him feel loved, and so on. So, I firmly believe that his decision was not out of the kindness of his heart, but out of a desperation to get rid of me as soon as possible, because if this deal fell through then he'd still be our realtor.

After some posturing and glaring and huffing and puffing, the buyers agreed to his offer. The woman looked at me and said, "He shouldn't have to do that," and I said, "I TOTALLY agree." In female-language, I think that was the moment when we agreed to never go shopping together.

After that, things went more normally, closing-wise. Lots of paperwork and signing things. Willem and I started to get a tad giddy, given our lack of sleep and overload of stress and adrenaline. So, at one point, the lawyer doing the closing said, "Oh, I forgot, here's one more thing to sign. Sorry, I know, it was a lot of paper before and now it's one more thing, like the straw that broke the camel's back, ha ha." And this struck us as outright hilarious... we were like a pair of eight-graders, whispering back and forth to each other about the poor, broken-backed camel, sitting in a wheelchair somewhere holding a metal cup, taking collections for Paraplegic Camels Anonymous, and developing a phobia of straws. We snickered and guffawed and generally looked idiotic, but all that adrenaline has to go somewhere, and I was loooooong past caring what these people thought of me.

When the last paper was signed, we got up and walked out of the room. No shaking hands, no "good luck," nothing. In fact, the night before, we had left a plant on the kitchen counter as a "congratulations on your new house" gift, and before the closing we had gone back and taken the plant back. (And they did know that we took it back, because it was there during their walk-through.)

Just awful. It doesn't seem so bad to me in the writing of it now, but again, I don't know if that's trauma/dementia related or just that I blew it way out of proportion in the moment. We did, after all, survive it, and it provided us with a new inside joke: every once in a while, out of the blue, Willem or I will say, "Two thousand dollars." And the correct response to that is, "Unbelieveable."

The good news is, the closing on the new house went beautifully, with handshakes all around. We wanted to hug the sellers, because they were just so great in contrast with the buyers of the other house, but we figured that might freak them out.

Too further add to a stressful week, in between the two closings we found out that my great-grandmother had died the previous evening - so we got all of our stuff off the U-Hauls and into the new house that Tuesday evening, and on Wednesday morning we turned around and drive to New York for the funeral. We got home late Thursday, so we were finally able to start unpacking on Friday, July 1.


So, that's it. The horrible move saga is done. I wouldn't have considered myself a wide-eyed innocent before this whole experience, but I'm a whole lot more worldly after it.