It’s no secret that other people arrange their houses differently than you do, or have different routines and habits. (The real battle is, which way does the toilet paper hang?) Usually, that’s no problem. You have your house or apartment, other people have theirs. But when you’re house hunting, you’re literally sticking your nose into their living situations, and sometimes the differences can be…surprising.
- You compete with Scrooge McDuck for the house you really like
- You make a lifelong friendship (maybe)
- You instantly become an animal control officer
- Never be sure you’re totally alone
- You get a chance to touch history
1. Your dreams are dashed to pieces by better offers
My wife was extremely interested in a pretty cool mid-century modern house in a suburban neighborhood not far from our apartment. Floor to ceiling windows, stone floors, and mix of exposed brick, industrial metal, and wood accents. Unfortunately, it was already at the top of our budget, so we put in our highest offer and hoped for the best.
Our highest was not good enough. The house sold for $20k in cash over list price. The open house gathered over 150 interested parties, and the sellers had the luxury of choosing from 13 offers.
Later, we looked up the previous purchase history of the house on Zillow, and it was last sold in 2013 for half the price it had just sold for. The sellers had just about doubled their money in four years. Not a bad investment.
2. Your realtor becomes your best friend (but really though)
When you’re house hunting, all your free time is sucked into sifting through listings online, planning your weekends around open houses, and most importantly, spending time with your realtor. You talk with her more than anyone else, see her more often than you see your mom, and your cat is jealous because you’re not home anymore.
You turn to your realtor for advice on what to do next with the search, she’s (almost) always available to talk, and she stands up for you in dealing with listing agents to get your offer in first with the best terms. In the end, your realtor is with you every step of the way and she understands the struggle. After all, she wants you to find a house just as badly as you do!
3. You rescue wildlife from abandoned HUD homes
True story: Our realtor was showing my wife and I a home that had been unoccupied for some time. As soon as we walked in, we heard chirping, which is not that unusual, a sign of smoke detectors low on power. We toured the living room, kitchen, dining room, all while the chirping continued. By this time they seemed almost…bird-like. When we reached the corner bedroom, we discovered the truth.
A number of sparrows had built a nest against the outside of the bedroom window, quite a large nest really, and somehow, one of the sparrows had trapped itself in the bedroom. No idea on how it worked its way into the house, but now it was throwing itself against the window, chirping desperately and trying to escape.
Turns out, it’s not that easy to catch a small bird by hand, even in a small space. Eventually it decided to play dead, so I was able to carry it outside. I thought maybe I had hurt it, because it wouldn’t fly away, but as soon as I stepped back in the house, it jumped up and disappeared around the corner.
4. Three’s company, but four’s a party!
Typically, when you see a house that’s currently occupied, the residents gather the kids and pets and take off to the mall for a while, so you can look through their home without feeling horribly nosy. Unfortunately, that was not true once for us.
It was during a week day, so the parents were at work and grandma was watching the three or four young children. They mostly stayed in the living room watching TV while we were there, but one of the little boys was quite curious and followed me as I walked around. I encouraged him to go back to the living room, but he insisted on keeping me company. He was a cute kid, so what can you do?
A bit later, my wife tried opening what she supposed was a closet. It seemed stuck closed, so she left it, and then we heard flushing and a child walked out. I was just as happy that the kid remembered to lock the door!
We found our biggest surprise at the bottom of the cellar stairs, a “Michigan” basement. I’m not sure why it’s called that, but it usually signifies a 6 foot ceiling and dirty walls and floors, fit only for storage. Except this time.
This family decided to make part of the basement into a bedroom, mostly just with a mattress on the floor and a pile of blankets and clothes piled on top. I just finish walking down the steps behind my wife and our realtor, making some loud comment, and my wife suddenly shushes me and they pulled me quickly into a side room.
Apparently, the pile of clothes had shifted, and it was actually a person sleeping! I hope we didn’t wake them, but it was one of the weirdest things to happen on our search thus far.
5. You find out what “a lot of potential” really means
To be fair, the house I have in mind was clearly in bad shape when we found it online, no doubt about it. But it’s a fascinating house! Built in 1820, it was originally a carriage stop and now a historic landmark. One of the bedrooms had what appeared to be an original sink (because I’m an expert, you know), and the beams supporting the main floor were actually logs sawed in half, instead of finished wood.
The most interesting detail we discovered about the house was an old newspaper hidden under a dilapidated floor covering. The Grand Rapids Press, Saturday edition, September 24, 1949! Headlines include:
Fear Yank Is Kidnaped (sp)- a former State department official possibly spirited away by Communist agents to face a secret trial in Budapest.
Reich PW’s Start Anti-Red Rally – Bonn, Germany, “Two German prisoners of war released by the Russians…touched off a tumultuous anti-Communist demonstration.”
And the illustrated ads! All Occasion Coats at Beverly’s (“Stop the music! Here’s the jackpot! Yes, you’ve hit the jackpot with a bang!”), 20% off diamonds at Shaw’s (“Of Brilliant Beauty and Superb Value. No extra charge for credit”), and records, radios, and phonographs for sale at J & J Music Shoppe.
I loved seeing this little piece of history.
There’s no place like home
The hunt for the perfect place to live is exhausting, discouraging, and time-consuming, but it can certainly broaden your horizons. While I’m just about ready to be done with our house adventure, I’m glad I at least got a few stories out of it!