Monday, April 18, 2011

Sophie's choice & house hunters have a baby....

and that would describe the last week. 

The plot: Holy stress balls. You would not believe the week we've had. Oh wait, if you know me or have read this here space for any small amount of time - you will believe it.  If you need to know the background? Check out the two neighborhoods we are considering. You back? Great.

A week or so ago the man of the house went to look for a house. Last time he was in charge of apartment hunting we ended up in a cozy (miniature) little place with one closet total.  One closet. In. Total. No pantry. No coat closet. No linen closet. One
(small) closet in the bedroom. I was prepared this time. While he was on his mission - he had a little bit of me (aka my crazy) with him.  This came in the form of a worksheet that he filled out for each house and instructions to take pictures of everything. While he declined a clipboard, he was successful in his mission. He took over 200 pictures of every room, every oddity, every detail and not surprisingly, every closet. Next it was my turn. We went two Thursday's ago and I was wowed. For real. When the ball & chain went the week before last, he said it won't be what I expect. He was right. 

Take Kirkwood, for example. In his first visit he let me know it's magical but perhaps not as magical as I think it is. There was, however, magic everywhere.  There were a lot of different areas with different pluses and minuses. You know, just when moving half way across the country, pregnant, quickly, wasn't bad enough - let's confuse the situation with places that we would love equally but SO completely different.

Let me say the producers of House Hunters really missed an opportunity. Following us through this process would have made for some good TV. Bottom line. Though at certain points of the story ahead, I was convinced the situation was staged and I was on a new hidden camera show spin off of House Hunters. Punk'd Property © or something.  Basically a show (under development after last weekend) where unsuspecting and innocent people search for proprieties and crazy things happen to them - so crazy and unbelievable it must be a hidden camera show! 
Mexican Bar

Between the man's first trip and this one we saw an upwards of 20 houses.  Some "favorites" were nicknamed.  There was animal house (for it's WILD animal print decor), Mexican bar (for it's random basement with random Mexican inspired tile work and a menagerie of random things), and a multitude of houses with 70s Threes Company shag rug looks.They were favorites because they were funny as hell, but not favorite in terms of "hooray we found our place!"

Oh but "hooray" we did.

First, there was Kirkwood in all it's magical glory. 4 bedrooms, a great looking house with a ton of updates and a rent by owner.  Meaning we got to meet the owner.  He was nice, normal and has kids.  This means the house was made for kids.  Example? A bedroom two of their children share is painted amazingly perfect colors.  Not good enough? How about a secret hiding spot? Behind a tiny door they finished it inside to make a secret play area!! What? You want more? A backyard with a homemade play scape.  Amazing. One of the rooms is currently a (perfect) nursery.  It will be our office - a room complete with built in shelves around most of the room.  We'll have an au pair, for a few months (we hope) and his or her room is big so we could totally make it a bedroom and siting area.  The neighborhood was littered with children. Two girls across the street, two next to them, two little boys next to them and right next door to us? A couple with a little bitty baby. Littered with children.  Chalk drawings in the driveway and apparently the neighborhood kids come by all the time to play on the swing set. Magical.  What's that you say? You want more?  My other favorite part is an eat in kitchen area.  We would make that side room a playroom area.  Kids have a lot of stuff. Here's our thought process: this house has a dining room - we do not need two places to eat.  We need one place to eat and another to occupy the children.  Children. We are having children. Let's take a moment to freak the hell out, shall we?

It wasn't all neighborhood children and rainbows.  The house and neighborhood may or may not be very somewhat close to a four lane "road" which we lovingly called Frogger Lane. I've never seen speeds like we saw there. The Downtown area of Kirkwood was quaint like a New England town but with traffic that would rival Manhattan.  I'm not over exaggerating here. If we moved to this house I would never have to make a left out of the street, I will live in rights - only making rights for the rest of my life. Well, by life, I mean the next 18-24 months.  Seriously, I can't explain the madness - women in their Suburbans with 3.5 kids in the back talking on their iPhones going the speed limit a cool 60 mph in a residential - I have nightmares about it.

staging hoax
Right after we saw that house, we met with a real estate agent.  Our angel. She showed us a bulk of the properties we saw and humored us (OK fine, I'll be honest - me).  Before meeting her or seeing the Kirkwood house, there was another house that was almost a contender.  While it was always on the top of the list it didn't bring a tear to my eye. Another house did. In UCity, away from Country Grammar and da Loop there was an offshoot of an adorable neighborhood. A wonderful neighborhood and even more wonderful house. Close, perfect, great home, wel - or at least that's what the scrabble board told us when we walked in (right). I'm thinking someone stole the "come" on the wel that is spelled out - we should have seen this as sign number one: crime-ridden. The set up was perfect, there were jet tubs, a sun room off of the master bedroom (best office - ever) with an outdoor patio overlooking the HUGE fenced in back yard. Brand new kitchen, tons O rooms, everyone would have their own bedroom. Amazing. Some downsides looked to be we might have to buy a refrigerator, public schools were apparently terrible and private school will need to be must and it might be too close to da Loop which by day would be great, but at night might be dicey. Just as tears began to fall because we may have found the one, we left and saw as if on queue to our right walked a guy our age with a big friendly dog and to our left a couple with an orange stroller and an adorable baby. This might be it. 

Sure the schools are 'eh' and safety may or may not be a concern. Later that night after dinner, we came out from the restaurant and I may or may not have felt that we were both going to be mugged and bludgeoned to death in the parking lot.... but in the daylight? I had fun. 

After we saw the house, we wanted to apply for it.  It was Friday afternoon at that point and we were the 5th application; the owner was going to keep it open all weekend. Smart bastard listed the house low so of course the interest would come flying in. In putting in our application and in the flurry of the excitement (this was before feeling like we were going to be mugged after dinner) we put in an offer we thought (s)he wouldn't refuse (said in Godfather creepy way).   We raised the monthly rent substantially, offered to pay the finders fee that usually falls on the owner (1 month of now raised rent), didn't require him/her to supply a washer or dryer, and starting the lease period on April 15.  Our real estate agent wrote a letter on our behalf and suggested we offer to make the leasing period 18 months, instead of 12 months to show our commitment. We said fine.  We put the offer in and waited the weekend to hear back, while we (I) obsessed over the Kirkwood house wondering would we regret not going for the suburban home that was made for children? After dinner that night I continued to freak out talk about it. We talked about it all waking hours for the next 48 hours.  What if we waited for UCity and we got rejected? By the time we called Kirkwood it was already rented? What if we got UCity, but had finally made the decision that we wanted to in fact go to Kirkwood and now it wasn't available? Were we making the right decision? What is the right decision? What if we moved to UCity and got mugged? What if 3 months down the road I say, I knew it? What if the landlord comes back and asks for more money? What if we go to Kirkwood and I can never make a left out of a road again? Will I be okay living in rights? "Living in Rights," oh, maybe I could rename my blog that? Does that make me sound like I'm conservative?  What about school, do we make a decision based solely on kindergarten next year? What if we make the wrong decision for L? For the love, what is the right decision?

At one point on Saturday, our real estate agent called to check in. She read an email I wrote in a panic, second guessing if we should wait until Sunday to hear back. She called to calm me, but got more than she bargained for. At a certain point in the conversation, as we discussed all that were doing to get this apartment I may or may not have said: "I just feel like we are bending over to this guy, for what?"  I think it's at this point the husband re-thought he choice of me in a life partner. His face dropped. I'm fairly sure the people of STL don't talk like this, at least our real estate agent isn't used to it. We got off the phone and the conversation when like this:

Me: "Do you think Suze is hates me now? I'm going crazy."
Him: "Um. I mean the good news is she probably didn't understand what you were saying. But yeah, you did show your crazy. You need to relax."

2 days of the back and forth - super fun.There were tears, screaming, frustration, laughing - (some) good times had by all.  Finally on Sunday we got the call from our real estate agent. We had made it to the top 3; I felt like I was on American Idol. The landlord would choose us, as we were the best candidates... if we signed a lease for 2 years like the other applicants offered to do. Alternatively he would take 22 months. We said we'd stay at 18 months.  If we signed 22 or 24 the ball & chain would be transferred in 18 months. If we don't sign it - we'll be there for 22 months - it's how we roll. The landlord declined and we decided to walk away feeling that we were bending over a lot and if we ever needed anything fixed or addressed we'd have to negotiate our brand new baby or something. I knew I'd say "I knew I should have gone with my gut" and no body wants that; mostly my husband.  In an ideal world I said the day before, we'd be rejected from UCity so that we'd KNOW that Kirkwood was the right choice - and here it was just what I wanted. We contacted Kirkwood and asked if the house was still available. 

It was! The house had been on the market to sell for over a year - he was going to have one more open house that night (Sunday) but if nothing came from it and he didn't think it would - he would move forward with the rental application with us. He seemed genuinely excited to rent his home to another young family. Skip around, this was IT! I tried to skip, but wouldn't you know? That feeling of
random doom & gloom feeling didn't go away.  Until someone took a deposit check I wasn't going to feel ok.

Ah stupid woman's intuition.

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