The Buying of Lot 9

It came in the mail on Saturday:

Real property in the City of Yreka . . . Lot 9, according to the plat of “Souza Subdivision, Block 57” . . . all that portion beginning at a point on the Easterly line of said Lot 9 . . .

That is from Exhibit “A” attached to the Grant Deed that has been issued to us and recorded in the County of Siskiyou on the 29th of April. Officially we now own the house and property next door. No more dealing with banks! We gave them money and they went away. The deed has some great language on it, not just the surveyor’s argot (” . . . then South 17° 44′ East, 18.0 feet; thence South 72° 16′ West . . . “), but the legalese:

THE UNDERSIGNED GRANTOR(S) DECLARE(S) . . . FOR A VALUABLE CONSIDERATION, receipt of which is hereby acknowledged . . . hereby GRANT(s) to . . .

I’m assuming the “valuable consideration” is the heap o’cash we wired to them. The title insurance documents came on the same day as well. Those documents have errors in them, which I suppose I’ll have to deal with, but the deed looks correct and properly notarized. These things are rather underwhelming—just some typed pages, signatures, and stamps. I was hoping for parchment and lots of flourishes and maybe some crimped, embossed, or gilded portions. Alas, just routine bureaucratic stuff. I went back and looked at the deed to my current home and it is a little flashier but still pretty damn dull. I want a scroll with a wax seal in a calfskin pouch. Is that so much to ask?

I kept a log of the big events related to the sale, a chronology in case things got bizarre and we needed an attorney. We’ve coveted the property next door for years for a variety of reasons, mostly having to do with privacy and security. We had a chance to buy it twenty years ago but could not afford it and we have regretted that missed opportunity many times. The last set of tenants were petty criminals and drug dealers and the noise, traffic, and general disregard for civilized living they brought to the neighborhood was intolerable and caused us much grief. The best thing they did, in the end, was trash the place and then abandon it. It was empty in January of last year and has been empty since. A month after that I spoke to the landlady and she told me they no longer owned the house, that it belonged to the bank. I immediately engaged a realtor and was determined not to miss this second chance. In January of this year foreclosure notices were posted on the property and a month after that a trustee sale took place on the courthouse steps. We could have bought the note right there and then but my agent advised me to wait, saying it would be better if the bank cleared up all the title issues and put it on the market as they would likely sell it for the same price as it was being auctioned for. There were no takers that day and ultimately the place was listed the following month.

We were told the bank would consider one offer at a time and our agent made sure our offer was first. Naturally that wasn’t enough—another offer came in that same day and the bank decided to take a look at both. Their solution was not to negotiate but to demand “last and final” offers from both potential buyers. After some anguish and a heart-to-heart with our agent we jacked up our offer by forty percent and waived all requirements, taking the property “as-is” as well as covering all the closing fees. It turned out to be just enough better than the other offer and we signed a purchase agreement a week later (on St. Patrick’s Day!). It got a little goofy after that as we did not get the copies of the agreement or the receipt for our earnest money for about a month. It seems there was a breakdown in communication and one party thought another party had taken care of it. Meanwhile we were on tenterhooks, but it all worked out. At one point the City had a complaint come across their desk about the state of the front yard and a letter to that effect landed in my mailbox. Not knowing the status of things I finally contacted the bank’s agent and she not only told me we were “in escrow” but got me the missing paperwork. That was a relief! In the meantime people kept coming by to check the place out as it was still listed “for sale.” One guy even tried to open a window and crawl in and seemed miffed when I caught him and told him to call the real estate company if he wanted to look inside. The name and phone number were prominently displayed on the sign but most of the people I talked to who were looking at the property had not bothered to call first. Go figure.

A little over a week after that we were signing the final documents. Two days later we got the keys and two days after that the deed came in the mail. Naturally everyone we know is interested. We’ve gotten lots of advice and suggestions about what to do and who to call and how to go about things. We even have people ready to move in! We’ve been rehearsing lines to use so we can deal with the flood of inquiries. Interestingly enough we had to state in our purchase agreement that we intended to occupy the home. The property was covered by the FreddieMac First Look Initiative which gives an exclusive buying window to owner-occupiers and excludes investors. The idea is to stabilize neighborhoods by discouraging absentee landlords and house-flippers. We also had to agree not to sell for a year after taking ownership. But that’s not what we want anyway. We intend to fix the place up to live in it as an extension of our current home. Some people, I like to say, want to live in a two thousand square foot house. I want to live in a twelve hundred and an eight hundred square foot house put together! Seriously, buying the little house next door more than anything protects our current investment in our home of twenty-six years. The increased space is one thing, but the privacy and separation from our neighbors is even more important. Lots of my friends live in the country and have tons of empty space between themselves and their fellow citizens. I like to think this gives us a little taste of that. I like living in town and being able to walk everywhere, but it is a trade-off. Now I can look out my office window as I type this and see nothing but my property! It’s a great feeling to be your own neighbor.

Eventually we will get the house fixed up and habitable. It is a real mess right now and needs a great deal of work. Time, money, and sweat are what’s needed, and it looks like we’ll have all three once the dust settles. I’m excited by the idea of having house guests who can stay in their own place and come and go as they please. I’m looking forward to converting the laundry room into a brewery. My wife has furniture and family materials from her parents home that will soon have a permanent place, not just a storage shed. The new place has a garage, something we’ve never had, which will be great for our lovingly restored twenty-seven year-old Toyota pickup. Nothing like starting up a vehicle on a winter morning and NOT having to scrape the windshield. We’ve even talked about making the new place our final spot when we get old and feeble and need a smaller living space (if the gods are willing and let us live that long). In short, there are many possibilities and we are in no hurry. Here’s a shot of the place from a few months ago:

house

We’ve cleaned up some of the mess, but you can see it has potential. It’s cute and has a little style. The roof is in good shape. Later this week we’ll get in the attic and the crawl space underneath and check out the bones. Whatever it is, whatever the condition, whatever the problems, we will deal with them. We’ve no timetable and no agenda. We are just happy that the waiting is over and we no longer have to worry about what’s next.