Tuesday, February 26, 2013

No. 464 – Amnesia

Performer: Toad the Wet Sprocket
Songwriters: Glen Phillips, Todd Nichols, Dean Dinning, Randy Guss
Original Release: Coil
Year: 1997
Definitive Version: None

OK, so this song is a little out of order from the actual timeline, but I’m not about to skip ahead and give away the ending like I’m the editorial page of USAToday, which ruined the finale of Downton Abbey for me.

Anyway, the second round of house listings that our real-estate agent brought to me and Debbie in early April 1997 looked good pricewise—too good. A few were at $150K; one even was south of $140K. Several were in the same neighborhood. That’s great, but … something was up.

I got out a city map and saw the issue: The neighborhood was right next to I-270. That was going to be too loud, not to mention ugly, but I just mentioned it. Still, those prices …

I had to take a look for myself. Maybe it wasn’t so bad after all. One day before work, I drove over to see what’s what. The neighborhood was off Sunbury Road only a few miles from our apartment. I liked that it seemed to be removed from the hustle and bustle a bit—it wasn’t adjacent to any huge shopping complexes, and there was a lot of open land around. I turned west onto Woodstream Drive, the street that led into the subdivision of the same name and consisted of a few looped streets. (The larger part of the subdivision was east of Sunbury.)

The houses looked OK. They were typical suburban, four-bedroom, two-story buildings—not notable but not bad. They also were close to the highway, as in it was right in their backyard. If you didn’t mind living as though you were in a freeway motel, it was fine. The listed houses weren’t going to work.

But as I entered the subdivision, closer to Sunbury, another house was for sale by homeowner, so it wasn’t on our list. It looked nice from the outside—a tan stucco Tudor with dark wood trim, well-kept gardens with a few trees—and I could see between the houses into the backyard that a lot of tall, well-established trees were back there. Huh. I took down the phone number and noted that from this lot, you couldn’t hear the freeway; you barely even could see it.

I called the homeowner when I got home. I told the woman who answered that I’d seen the sign and asked about the price. It was in our wheelhouse—$169,000. I knew after we had seen enough houses, this house was one we should see, so I took the initiative and made an appointment to see the house that Sunday. When I told Debbie what I had done, she was surprised but pleased.

She was even more pleased when we saw the house. She told me later that she loved it the second she walked through the door. The house was owned by a minister and his wife. They were ready to retire and move to Kansas City to be close to their kids, and they kept it in immaculate shape.

The house was about 6 years old, and it was plenty big, about 2,000 square feet. It had four bedrooms—one very small, two OK and the master bedroom, which was massive. The master bathroom was hidden behind double doors and had a huge soak tub with a skylight. That feature alone might have sold Debbie. The toilet and a separate shower were behind another door, and the massive walk-in closet was behind a second door.

Downstairs was a formal living room, dining room and great room that included a kitchen, dining area that had bay windows looking out on the backyard and a wood-burning fireplace that included a brick hearth and built-in bookshelves. OK, now I’m sold.

The back door opened to a double-tier wood deck that had bench seats on the upper level. The yard was sizeable and open, but at the back were several tall ash trees, pine trees that marked the boundary of the property and a run-off stream. Debbie and I looked at each other knowingly.

We left, and I’m not sure we had even hit the stop sign at Sunbury before Debbie said she wanted that house. My only concern was … well, I had no idea what to do next. We had made this visit without any input from out real-estate agent. Did we need to involve her in the sale negotiation?

Debbie called a few friends to get some advice, and I had remembered something that my grandfather had told me—never agree to the asking price, at least right away. We needed to do a little research on the neighborhood to see what others had recently paid. We needed a little time. It turns out we already were too late.

Debbie called the next day to ask a few more questions about the house, and then she called me at work with the stunning news: The house had been sold. “Oh, Debbie. I’m so sorry,” Debbie said the minister’s wife said when Debbie spoke with her. “I know how much you loved this house.” But after we had visited—hours after, maybe less—another couple from New Jersey showed up. They were transferring and needed a place ASAP. They agreed to buy on the spot at the asking price.

I couldn’t believe it. Debbie was heartbroken. I’m done, she said. I don’t want to look any more. That was my house. I was OK with that—Debbie was more behind the search—but I also was OK with buying that house, too.

Before she let it go completely, Debbie wrote the minister’s wife to give her our contact information. It was in case the deal that emerged out of nowhere went away just as quickly. You just never know …

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