BUYING A FIXER-UPPER: Our home in Berlin, MD
The Tale of a Long Short Sale
Let the renovations begin……Finally.
Unfortunately, reality is always taking pot shots at my dreams. Reality, in our case, money. Fortunately, we love the famous fixer upper houses. Brad, a carpenter, has innumerable talents. The real practical kind of talents that actually get things done. My talent is imagining. I can look at the most dilapidated of buildings and see beauty, mansions in the rubble. Of course, again there is that money thing. If only I could figure out how to raise a building from its rubble without money.
Only the perfect economic storm, has allowed us to be here. The American economy has been struggling for years. Jobs lost, homes lost, mortgages foreclosed on. Interest rates have plunged. In the midst of this sadness and angst an opportunity for a dream opened up for us. A homeowner, who purchased the home when prices were high, then through a series of unfortunate events, was forced to sell the property. A woman who once had dreams, much like we do, in this house, in this town, needed out from under a mortgage that was now in excess of the value of the house. She had moved across the country in search of a better job and a better life, leaving the house empty and on the market.
The house needs love to be sure. It is not the house of our dreams, which we could not afford even in the perfect storm. No wrap around porch, in fact no front porch at all, no carriage house or butlers’ pantry, no back stairs. But there is a side porch off the kitchen, complete with a giant wasps nest in the rusted ceiling fan.
The house does have some fantastic woodwork in spots. The kitchen is big enough to eat in. The yard is large enough for a nice garden and to build a wood shop.
One look at the wall paper slapped on over paneling, the poorly installed and stained carpet covering painted and scratched wood floors, cracked tile bathroom floors and ivy trying its best to creep up and rip off the environmentally challenged asbestos siding and I was sold.
I could see, in my mind, a porch built on the front of the plain façade (complete with a porch swing) surrounded by beautiful flowers and not a stitch of ivy in sight. I could see sun streaming through the many windows onto my white washed floors. I could see the beautiful trim replicated in the more trim challenged portions of the house. I visualized the sleeping porch off the master bedroom, that did not yet exist, the cedar shakes that replaced the asbestos roof shingles and siding and the gingerbread trim added to the peaks. I even invented a few grandchildren to create a hideaway in the spacious and currently unfinished attic. I pictured family meals on the porch off the kitchen. My fantasies were running rampant.
Brad quickly reminded me that fantasies are free, houses are not. So was born my love of budgeting. I proved, on paper, how we could afford to buy this house, if we just cut back on a few, ok a lot of things. Living would be on a tight budget. I would be forced to sacrifice a good part of one of my favorite activities, going out to eat. We would wear our clothes longer. Vacations would be the camping kind, not the comfy mattress kind. I might just have to dream up another stream of income…
While I was not fantasizing, I was running around, supplying endless paperwork trying to get a mortgage in a world where lenders were being more cautious than ever. Seven months of ups and downs, the sale is on , the sale is off, a torture that I am already beginning to block from my memory. Why waste precious gray matter on unpleasant memories. Even months after making our offer, we finally went to settlement and the work began.