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.
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!”