Friday, June 17, 2011

A Second Chance to Get the Winery House



When we lost our buyers because they couldn’t get a mortgage and the seller of the winery house wouldn’t wait for us to find new buyers, I heard my mother’s voice when I was out in the field one morning, picking up manure. That’s when it’s peaceful. That’s when I do all my thinking. She said, “Don’t worry Debi. You’re going to find an even better house.”

Truthfully, I was mad. I didn’t want another house. I hesitated telling Kurt because, even if he didn’t think I was crazy, hearing my mother’s voice, he didn’t want another house either. Plus, I didn’t believe her. No way was I going to find a house that was better than the winery house. Yeah, it needed work but anything in our price range in Jersey was going to need work. This was something that we would never be able to afford otherwise! It was a grand old house, the kind that when you passed it on the street, you thought, “Rich people live there.” There was no way we were going to find anything that could compare.

My father thought we were crazy and insisted it was still going to be there when we found a new buyer. He said, “Nobody’s going to buy that thing!” I said, “Dad! Did you see the architectural details? Did you see the banister? It’s got pocket doors!” He rolled his eyes. Fathers care about things like heating houses without going broke and they worry about roofs, bathrooms that need toilets, and tax bills.

But he was right. Father knows best. The winery house was still available when we sold our house the second time! And my mother was wrong. Maybe it wasn’t her speaking to me after all. Maybe it was just my grief, grief over losing her, grief over losing the house—no wonder I was hearing things! It was my mind’s way of helping me cope. And now it was still for sale!

But we’re not stupid. This time we planned to look it over real good and figure out exactly what it was going to cost to fix, plus we were going to look at as many other properties as we could find so we could compare it. We didn’t have time to do this the first time because we were closing so fast in Virginia, plus a blizzard was happening. Now we’d have time. And we’d be comfortable in good weather. We thought we might even end up offering the seller of the winery house less money than we had in the winter if it needed more work than we had originally estimated. Also, we were coming out with less money this time because we sold our house for less. She had her chance to lock us in but she’d refused to take a house-selling contingency and wait for us. Now she might get less! It was her own fault.

Ironically, the people buying our farm the second time are from New Jersey. We turned them on to a local mortgage broker who knew this was a horse farm and was waiting anxiously to lend somebody some money to buy it. He didn’t care about the agricultural zoning or the “income producing nature of the property”—meaning the buyer could give horseback riding lessons if she wanted to. He gives loans out for small horse farms all over this area regularly. He said our new buyer looked good. We waited until every i was dotted and t was crossed. We waited until our buyer’s buyer got all his inspections done and got his mortgage commitment. We double- and triple-checked everything and as soon as we were sure nothing could go wrong, we got Pearl and Eldon to watch the animals and we went to Jersey to buy a house.

By the time we got there, our real estate agent told us we had to go see the winery house right away. She said if we still wanted it, we had to make an offer immediately. That day. Even though I told the seller of the winery house that we were coming and she said she’d wait for us to look at it again, she took another offer. And if we still wanted it, we had to decide now, before it was through attorney review. Tomorrow attorney review was over.

We were mad. There wouldn’t be any time to look at any other houses. There wouldn’t be time to leisurely dig into what it would take to hook up the sewer pipe to the septic system or to find out even if there was a septic system. Really. When you think about it. Maybe it was a cesspool. Maybe there was an outhouse. Technically, we didn’t know. We’d have to forget trying to get prices for replacement radiators (the radiators had exploded in the winter), and we wouldn’t be able to examine the roofs, the electrical wires that draped across the front yard and were propped up by a stick, or the garage in back which was locked up the last time we were up there. Now we were under pressure again.

The other offer was for $196,000. Our original agreement was for $200,000. Meaning don’t bother to try to get it for less. I didn’t like it. I also didn’t like it that the seller would renege on her deal with the other guy, if there really was another guy, if we offered her a better one. Business is business but they had an agreement. It didn’t seem right. Still, we went right away.

Let me put it this way. If there is another buyer who is giving the seller $196,000, then I’ll smoke my hat. It was a disaster! Being vacant, it did not weather the winter well. There was more peeling paint, the tarps had blown off the roofs of the outbuildings, and the property was so overgrown and neglected that the little clearing I was going to squeeze my horses onto wasn’t big enough for a goat. Now that the snow was gone, we saw trash and debris all over the yard, there was plywood covering mysterious holes in the ground (perhaps the septic tank), and broken glass crunched like corn chips under our feet—obviously the house had been continually vandalized over the years and broken windows was the destruction of choice. It wasn’t the picturesque property I remembered from Christmastime. It looked like a city lot.

In the back was a garbage pit. I know old houses have garbage pits. But this one was about the size of a swimming pool and though I was busting to start digging because I could see old stuff right on top—milk glass, broken blue bottles, china—there was also new stuff in it. Plastic Snapple bottles, brown beer bottles, ribbons of rubber from car tires and other new things not interesting or collectible fanned out from the pit into the yard and spread toward the house like it came with high tide. And it was black. Not from being burned. It looked like oil.

I didn’t know what Kurt was thinking. The real estate agent was with us and you can’t always talk openly plus I knew how much he loved the house and I didn’t want to be a downer but I was thinking no way am I going to buy this thing! I watched his face trying to discern if he was as shocked and disappointed as I was. He didn’t reveal anything. He was looking around, stepping over boards and brush. We went inside. Instead of being freezing and dark like it was in the winter, this time it was about a hundred-and-fifty degrees and dark and smelled like cat piss. In the cellar it was cool. Kurt noticed condensation. He poked the insulation above us. Water trickled down. Everywhere we poked, water came down. We peeled back the insulation. The rafters were drenched. Turns out someone, trying to do a good thing, put in the insulation incorrectly and it trapped all the moisture. It was a mold explosion waiting to happen.

Honestly, I was relieved. There was no better reason to reject the house. I was hoping I wasn’t going to have to persuade Kurt that we shouldn’t buy it. But it wasn’t necessary. He didn’t want it either. We didn’t even have to mull it over. The seller of the winery house wanted an answer now? Then the answer was flat out, unequivocally no. No way.

We felt like a load was lifted. Now we could go house hunting without worrying about the winery house, without wondering what-if, without mooning over the grand old house that got away. Losing our first buyer and causing that deal to fall through, was, it turns out, a blessing in disguise. And maybe my mother was right. Because anything was going to be better than the winery house.

19 comments:

Christina said...

Your mother was right after all and you are going to find a better house. Sounds like fate to me. "smelled like cat piss" = bleck
You should haved offered her 5 bucks.

Christina said...

That should read "you should have". I gotz smartz reel gooder sometimes

Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

This is a test. Blogger won't let me comment on anyone's blogs.

Gail said...

The perfect house will drop right into your lap.

Sometimes, what we see as bad things turn out to be the right thing.

Good luck with your house search.

Grey Horse Matters said...

Whew, that was a close one! I'll bet you're glad you had a chance to wait until spring to see it's true colors. The house sounds like a disaster.

Something perfect will come along just when you least expect it. Good luck.

Motley said...

I can't wait to hear what happens next! Get your Jersey balls on girl!

Peggy said...

Do you remember what the dates were when you first saw the house? I wonder if it was during a Mercury Retrograde. MercRet can cause delays and glitches in contracts which can be very frustrating. Then the issue almost always comes up for review later. The key thing to remember during a MercRet is that the delay is usually a gift and works to your favor. This sounds like classic Mercury Retrograde.

I'm sure you heard your mother. I had to laugh that your time to think is when you are picking up shit. Very Zen. :)

Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

Peggy, I'd have to find a 2010 calendar to figure out the exact date but we started with the winery house a couple of days after Christmas. I think it was Dec. 27.

Are we having another mecury retrograde because you won't believe it--it's happening again. I'm trying to catch up with these posts so I can fill everyone in!

gingerhillery@mac.com said...

What a saga. Or ongoing, continuing saga, as we used to say. Can't wait to hear the rest of the story.
And yes, our farm is sort of on the market, but I haven't started marketing hard and heavy. Still fixing up this and that, in the middle of trying to work and take care of kids. Our move date is last week of July, to get kids enrolled in school. I have put out a contingency offer, lease to purchase on a place where we are moving. Planning to dig in for the long haul if necessary. Hoping for good for you guys. Don't you love mothers and their good advice? Wow. (Sorry for the long comment, but it was faster than looking up your email!)

Sweetflutterbys3 said...

Small blessings in everything! It's amazing how things work out, isn't it? Now you have the chance to find the perfect home, and I have no doubt you will.

Cape Coop said...

Everything happens for a reason!

Tammy said...

A happy ending....

And Happy Birthday!

CountryDew said...

I hope the sale of your farm has actually gone through. Fingers crossed for you.

Mountain Woman said...

Wow, was there fate involved in this. I have a feeling you'll find another incredible place you'll like even better. House hunting can be exciting and you'll know your match when you see it.

Tanya said...

Wow, amazing how this all worked out and mama WAS right! Did you see any other properties you liked while up there?

qhgirl said...

whew!.. that was a close one! We got into a contract once..then found out that they (agent or owner.. not 100% sure the agent knew) about the well being full of nitrates.. the brand new artesian well! That was apparently why the property had had a couple of sales fall through in the past! Had to get a lawyer involved.. but was able to get out of the deal.. You will find something to suit you.. the market is tough for sellers.. so you should be able to get a good deal;)

Beth said...

When you posted about your Mom speaking to you out in the field, I had no doubt at all that that was really your Mom. And so often, Mom really does know best. Your first contract falling through surely seems a blessing in disguise---but I do hope your second buyer works out. This house selling/buying stuff is such a stressful business---I know you'll be so relieved when it's over. I pray that you'll soon be on your way to that better house in Jersey. And I can't wait to hear about it.

Pix at Under the Oaks said...

Debi, your Mom WAS talking to you and she is making sure you guys are OK! My Mom has helped us buy and sell 5 houses and she kept us out of trouble every dang time and got us some great equity! Moms never stop watching over us!

Cynda said...

Mama is always right Debi! That seller of the winery house was just trying to pressure you but I have a feeling that there were even bigger probjems than you saw. I can't wait to find out how the house hunting went. Did you get something?