Housing Hostility (#124)

It took months, but I’d finally found a house that my picky Chinese-American spouse liked and I loved. Our realtor wrote up what’s known as a “contingency offer” – an offer contingent upon our current house selling. She submitted it to the sellers.

The sellers rejected our offer. They told us to come back when OUR house had an offer. They didn’t want to miss out on another (potentially better) offer, apparently. Which would have been reasonable if their home had gotten any offers. But it hadn’t. Their home had been on the market for months – an eternity in Southern California. The house was by a school, but too small for a big family. And it was priced about $20,000 more than comparable houses.

Our realtor shook her head. “Honestly, if the house was worth that much, it would have sold.”

We were sad, but concentrated on getting our house in perfect shape even faster. We touched up paint, sanded and stained the bannister, and cleaned like mad. On the day of our first open house, I made my dad’s cinnamon coffee cake.

One the day of our second open house, I made bread.

We had two offers above our asking price within 48 hours.

I’m pretty sure it was the smell of baking.

We accepted the better offer for our townhouse.

Our realtor resubmitted our offer on the Lovely Little House by the school (for $25,000 less than the asking price.)

The sellers countered by dropping the price $5,000.

We upped our offer $5,000.

The sellers’ next counter-offer wasn’t. They refused to budge. They deemed the house worth $20,000 more than the market value.

Andy crunched numbers. “Well, we’re already at the edge of our price range, but we could do it. Barely.” Andy didn’t look happy. He’d once told me that buying the townhouse had stretched his budget so thin, he’d eaten hotdogs in the dark for months until he’d found a roommate.

The realtor turned to me.

I said, “No. That’s it. We’re not going any further.”

The realtor said, “But in a mortgage like yours [by which she meant massive] a few thousand dollars doesn’t work out to THAT much extra a month.”

Andy agreed. “That’s true, honey.”

“It might be true. But these people aren’t being reasonable. In fact, they are seriously pissing me off.”

Andy groaned. “Here it comes. The Ashbough personality trait from hell: hostile when thwarted.”

Stung, I protested, “That’s not it at all! Look, if we start caving on everything, they’ll know we want the house enough to suck it up and pay for any issues that crop up. I mean, what if there are termites? What if there’s a problem with the foundation? The electrical?”

Andy said, “Huh.”

I took that for wholehearted agreement and told the realtor to let us know if any other houses became available in that neighborhood. Built in the 1950s, the area was tucked up against a hillside that was too steep to be developed. So there was more greenery and nature than you usually see in LA. It had also been built in the era of sidewalks – unlike our current neighborhood – which made it perfect for walking our future dog, Damn Spot.

Or realtor undoubtedly bit her tongue until it bled, but she did as I asked. A week went by, and we checked out other houses. None held a candle to the lovely little one by the school.

Every night, I cursed the sellers.

One night, I even dreamed of the house. Usually I don’t dream of places until years after I lived in them. Even now, I’m still dreaming about high school, college campuses, and childhood houses. I guess it takes a while for most buildings to seep into your unconscious. Unless they are special.

In the morning, I howled to my husband, “Even my unconscious knows it’s MY HOUSE. Why are those bastards keeping it from me?!”

Andy said, “We could up our offer—”

“NEVER! That would mean they WIN.”

“But how do they win if we get the house—”

“They must be forced to recognize that they are WRONG and priced the house TOO HIGH.”

Andy groaned and pulled a pillow over his head. “Nope. Not thwarted and not hostile.”

Our realtor called on Saturday. “Great news!”

“OH MY GOD!” I yelled. “Honey, we’re gonna get the house!”

“Uh, no, actually, there’s another house that just went on the market two streets north,” the realtor interrupted hastily. “We could see it today, if you want.”

Andy did want. I went along, sulking. I perked up when we passed by the Lovely Little House. The “For Sale” sign was still up. “Look, honey! There’s no ‘Sale Pending’ or ‘In Escrow’ sign up,” I pointed out. “They still can’t sell it. HA!”

Andy said nothing until we got to the new house. Then he enthusiastically pointed out the pretty, terraced landscaping.

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See? Oozing Mortar, amirite?

I countered with the shoddy brickwork that made the terraced walls look like they oozed mortar.

He said, “This house is $20,000 cheaper and 400 square feet bigger than the other one.”

“And 50% uglier.”

“This house is not right next to the school.”

I snorted. “Yeah, but it’s on a busier street and all the parents have to drive this way to get to the school.”

“It’s right next to the hill, though – no neighbors behind the backyard!”

“Except for coyotes. What if they snatch Bat Cat?”

“Gosh, that would be terrible,” Andy mused.

I narrowed my eyes at him. The realtor hastily opened the lockbox and suggested, “Let’s go inside, shall we?”

Except we couldn’t. The lock was jammed. The realtor tried. Andy tried.

I didn’t try. I leaned on the car, crossed my arms, and told them, “See? It’s just not meant to be. THIS is not our house. OUR house is two streets over.”

The realtor stopped wrestling with the door. “Does this mean you want to up your offer?”

“No. I want the stupid sellers to realize they’re crazy.” I grabbed a flyer from the helpful box on the “For Sale” sign. I pulled a pen out of my purse and scrawled: Maybe your house would sell if you priced it like THIS ONE, you fools.

We gave up on getting into the poorly mortared house and left.

Andy refused to stop the car so I could leave my improved flyer by the idiot sellers’ house.

Our realtor called again the next day. “Great news!”

I sighed. “They fixed the lock and we can see the inside of Oozing Mortar House.”

She laughed. “Well, yes, but I also got a call from the realtor from the Lovely Little House. She wanted to know why you didn’t respond to their last counter-offer.”

“Did you tell her because it wasn’t an actual counter-offer?”

“No, I told her I was showing you other properties. Including the other, more appropriately priced house in their neighborhood.”

“Ha! Then what happened?”

“She hung up.”

“Damn it, I wish Andy had let me leave that flyer.”

Our realtor laughed again. “But she called me back in ten minutes. And she told me the sellers had asked you to resubmit your last offer!”

“HONEY!” I screeched up the stairs. “The bastards caved! We’re getting OUR HOUSE!”

“And we’re not gonna be eating hotdogs in the dark!”

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Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

37 thoughts on “Housing Hostility (#124)”

  1. Andy groaned. “Here it comes. The Ashbough personality trait from hell: hostile when thwarted.”

    He is so so lucky to have a wife like you. I’ve said it many times before, ethnic Chinese men born in western countries tend to be walkovers in social situations, maybe that’s an environmental trait caused by the racism they had to grow up with in said countries, but its something that just makes it worse and worse when kept unchecked, as they become more exploited in life. Holding your ground is one skill that Chinese men do not excel at.

    1. I think you have a point about Asian men being non-confrontational, Anon. I not sure how much of it comes from the absolute filial piety that is often expected in a Chinese household (which this westerner still finds crazy), or how much a harmonious society is prized by Japanese culture, etc. I expect psychologist could have a field day with the various factors involved. As for those in the U.S., with any successful immigrant culture, there’s definitely the “keep your head down, don’t make waves,” mentality.

      But Andy is quietly stubborn. While he will rarely go head-to-head with me when we disagree, it’s not possible to make him do something he doesn’t want to. He won’t argue or anything. He just won’t do it. 🙂 And thank goodness he has a different style than I do, because if he were as hot-tempered and type A as I am, one of us would most likely be in jail.

      In this case being pissy worked out, but it was kind of a gamble. Another young couple could have swooped in, paid what the sellers wanted and gotten the house. There’s enough demand that walking away was risky. And Andy’s risk-averse. He’s also less likely to find another house he liked, being so picky and all.

  2. Congratulations! Must be so nice to live in a house you own. I’ll never know that…*sigh* It’s a good thing you didn’t cave either. Woohoo!

  3. I have to agree with Lani. Must be really nice to have a house of your own, that you can design the way you want. -Mumbles- “My place” is not exactly what I wanted it to be, but meh, since it’s rented and stuff, this’ll have to do.

    And yeah, buying a house is a pain in the a**. Sellers who price it way too high, and all the other work you gotta do. Tch.

    I wonder how much longer until you catch up to present days.

    1. Yes but if you spend a lot to get a place of your own, you don’t have the money to decorate it! Though I know what you mean. A place that’s OURS has a special, permanent quality.

      I am never going to catch up to present day. *groans*

  4. Congratulations on getting the house within your price range. Have to applaud your persistence, because it sounded like Andy would throw whatever he had to to get the house. Your realtor’s honesty with them must have paid off as well – they sellers probably knew deep down that they wouldn’t get another offer for a while if you looked elsewhere.

    I really do wish you left that flyer in their letterbox…

    “I guess it takes a while for most buildings to seep into your unconscious. Unless they are special” I have yet to live in a house or apartment that screams out special to me. Most of the time, I just get used to how they are over the years. Once I lived in a rented flat that had termites on practically every single wall.

    1. Termites on every wall? NOOoooooo.That sounds terrible.Though I had a place infested with roaches in grad school.That was awful.

      I think the realtor was smarter than the sellers and did some convincing. What till you see what happened next…

      1. Yup, termites moving about on every single white wall. My bed was beside one of these termite-infested walls, yet it was only moved barely an inch from it. I remember I’d put my finger beside one of those tiny specks on the wall, and then it’s move straight away. Every single day.

        Roaches at least you can kill with bug spray in a few minutes. Had lots of them in Malaysia.

  5. There was a house just like that when I was married to my ex. (He must have been one of your relatives!) He wouldn’t cave and we lost it, then proceeded to build one and pay $20K more. On another note, I won’t cave when I’m selling. I have a spidey sense about my houses. It’s an emotional purchase and I play on that understanding it’s exact value. Two houses ago I rejected two realtors because they thought I wanted too much. I found a third willing to put it on the market for what I thought the value was. It sold in 4 days at asking price just like I knew it would. There is no logic when buying a house. Only emotions.

    1. Ha, isn’t that the truth. My father always said that houses were for living in, rather than investing in.

      So sorry about your ex. I don’t think I would want to be married to me. 🙂

      Well, if our sellers had priced the house right it would have sold in two days. We’re lucky they weren’t you.

  6. Haha this is awesome! Good on you for holding out and winning the battle of attrition – I can’t wait to hear more about Damn Spot!

  7. Yay! You got the Lovely Little House! Congratulations!

    Buying and selling a house is probably one of the most emotional things that people go through (specifically with buildings). It’s so odd to me, I think because I’ve moved so much that I have so little attachment to buildings or spaces any more.

    1. Yeah, I hear you. I moved a lot as a kid, partly because of the divorces. 4 years in high school was the longest we stayed anywhere. This house was the first dwelling place I got attached to in..I dunno, ever. 🙂

  8. I really love a happy ending, where the forces of good overcome the forces of evil. I am super pissed off at these people, just on principle! Glad they finally caved and you got your house!

  9. Yay! What a happy ending! I’m so glad that you were finally able to get your dream home!

    I’m very jealous you were able to find that perfect place to shape and call your own. I hope we can find that someday soon, too–!!

  10. Good for you for not caving in. Now, you have bragging rights that you got the house you wanted. And if you are anything like my husband, you have reminded Andy about it many times. It has been seven years since we bought our house and my husband still finds a way to sneak it into conversation about how he insisted that this was/still is our dream home.

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