Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Almost Gone, Except For Still Being Here

We waited all day Tuesday for a property manager to call us, to fax us a six-month lease on a house we are renting in Nevada City. This property manager has been a disappointment from the moment we met her last week. She has never come through in any way, always enthusiastically making promises that we happily accept, but always with suspicion. It's not that we won't get the place, we will, but she will take forever to let us know. It will throw off the schedule for picking up the U-Haul; ordering the high-speed internet; setting up basic phone service; putting the utilities in our name. We always have high expectations for simple levels of competence, and we are often let down. I can't understand how someone can be so sucky at their job and still keep it. How does that happen? Do people just not care anymore?

Still if all goes well with this particular transaction, we will be renting a large modern house in the hills outside of Nevada city on 1.73 acres. It will be a fine place to winter while we house hunt in earnest.
It's just too hard and absurd to shop online for a house. Things that are spectacular in photos often prove to be less stellar in the stark light of day. Take this house, for instance. Cute, isn't it? It has very little southern exposure and would take a whole lot of tree cutting to bring any sunlight for gardening. The trees closest to the house on the west, which should be cut down to mitigate fire danger, are not even on this property. "Hello, new neighbor, mind if we chop down your trees?" Or, take that gorgeous house with a million dollar view of the lakes and the coveted Sutter Buttes (west) or Sierra Buttes (east), it will be so hot there in the summer that even the snakes and lizards will slink off looking for respite. That lovely rambling house with its 'pottery barn" colors is really a triple wide mobile home (photo below) with a permitted two-story addition that is not being used for what it is actually permitted for. That beautiful cabin sided with the rich dark wood milled from its own land has no back steps, and drops off into a steep canyon. Real estate is very tricky business, and short sales (where banks have to agree to take less than what is actually owed on the house) can literally take six months to close and will drive you insane in the process.
We have been living in the upstairs two rooms of the old, uncared for family beach house for over a year now. It's amazing how small a space Roger and I can comfortably occupy together. Transitioning to a bigger space is not always easy. We don't really know how to spread out. It's not our nature. Most houses these days are absurdly big, and all boast the same currently popular features. We look at photographs online and find something almost weirdly voyeuristic about it. We are privy to the privy (double stall shower, big sunken tub with soothing jets), invited into the boudoir (always a strip of contrasting wallpaper where the wall meets the ceiling), given a place at the dining table in modern stainless kitchens (double door side-by-side refrigerator), and then slowly tour the great room with requisite cedar tongue and groove ceilings. All in homes anxiously waiting for someone to buy and love them.

When we finally walk through these places in real life, some people maintain the stage and prep the house for our audience. Others don't even make the beds or wash the breakfast dishes. We've seen bowls of cereal left on the table, cheerios floating soggily in warm milk; blow-dryers left on the bathroom counter with the cord draped across the sink; private notes on the refrigerator; personal paperwork strewn across desks; printed computer pages of dream searches for downsized houses and lower mortgages.

We're not even sure which is worse-- the beautiful antiseptic people-less staging, or the house in the throes of the utter mundanity of private lives. I always carry a camera on these outings, but mostly I look away and never take a single photo. I know some shoppers look through cupboards and drawers, I swear I can't imagine why.

The property manager never did call us. We finally called her again and found her in at her desk dealing with some personal issue that she went on about at length with Roger. The house is ours. The high speed internet will be connected on Saturday. If that's really true, you'll know about it. Wish us luck.

No comments:

Post a Comment