We are desperately seeking a house. We’re tired of throwing money away on rent and hubby does not like apartment living. Sunday morning, we made a list of houses we found on line, all within walking distance of Pineapple Grove, near our favorite coffee shop/beer/wine bistro. All fit our budget. I finagle a walk into the day’s mission. “Let’s get out on foot and explore the area. We’ll have a better perspective of things.” Hubby surprisingly agrees.
We are having a very difficult time with Florida’s grid system. In a one mile radius there can be two or more 4th Avenues. We have to be very careful when we take notes while perusing the real estate websites. There can be Fourth Street, Fourth Avenue, just plain Fourth or it can be 4th Street, 4th Avenue. All entirely different places. I can get around Manhattan easier than Delray Beach. We met our realtor at a house on 8th Ave a few weeks ago. As we pulled up to the house, we noticed there was no For Sale sign on the lawn but that is also not a rare occurrence in Florida. It could be a short sale or a neighborhood that doesn’t allow signs. That most likely means they don’t allow trucks either. The deal breaker.
We circled around the house. No one was home. There was no lock box on the door. The house looked nothing like the picture we saw on the Internet. The realtor called the listing agent. “Oh, we put the wrong picture on the web page and the address was wrong.” The realtor plugs the new info into her GPS. We follow her to Eighth Street.
Here’s the picture we saw! A lovely house two blocks from the intracoastal. Beautiful landscaping, a large backyard. This was really selling for $140K? She called the listing agent again. Hubby and I poked around the yard, peering through the fence to see the pool. “No way is this $140,000,” I said then heard the realtor say $640K. Apparently a typo. I guess we all make them. Guilty of this myself, I cut them some slack. Mistakes happen. Its okay (and yes, Amazon reviewers, I know that should be it’s. I caught it but I left it there to remind myself we all make mistakes.)
Today we are not meeting the realtor. This is just a reconnaissance mission. We want to check out the neighborhood. In Florida, one street can have $460,000 homes with a backyard abutting a shaky neighborhood with trash on the front porch, pit bulls in the yard (Beware of Dog), and cars all over the front lawn. Seriously, it can change that quickly.
We park the car and begin our walking tour of the neighborhood. At one end of Swinton Avenue, things begin to change. Not in a bad way, things are clearly changing in the right direction here. We find two of the houses we are interested in. They are duplexes that look more like old motels. Beware of Dog is posted at both places. A house next door to one of the houses has a nice pool in the yard. They both abut a little alley that separates them from the more expensive homes. It might have potential.
We keep walking and stumble upon an interesting house on a very desirable street. It is all boarded up and has a sign out front. Short Sale. We have been told short sales are very tricky and can be disappointing. The banks can tie your money up for months then just drop the sale and wait for the market to improve. Don’t get me started on banking in America. I am counting on Elizabeth Warren to fight this battle. I don’t know what happened to that Dodd-Frank banking reform bill, but it isn’t working as far as I can tell. Another boondoggle brought to us by the do nothing Congress. But enough of that, we’re house hunting, despite the obstacles. We write down the address.
House hunting is an interesting endeavor. It’s like spying on someone’s life. Someone you’ve never met before. You look in their closets, peruse the books and magazines they read, assess their housekeeping skills, check out their family photos. If you’re a writer, you make up a story about them.
We met Mrs. Kravitz one day. Remember her? She was the nosy neighbor who lived across the street on the TV show Bewitched. We were looking at a condo on a golf course. As we climbed the stairs to the second floor of the building, she popped her head out and said, “Are you visiting the ‘so and so’s’?” The realtor replied, “I’m showing their house. It’s for sale.” “I didn’t know that. How long has it been on the market? They didn’t tell me.”
Before we ever stepped foot in the condo, we lost interest. We were not living next door to Mrs. Kravitz. This was an over 55 community, which was already a concern. If Mrs. Kravitz didn’t kill the deal, the clubhouse did. It was all set up for a Kentucky derby party with bourbon and a betting table. A woman with a walker was placing paper hats on a table. We may qualify for 55 and over housing, but we JUST qualify. We do not feel like 55 and we cannot imagine ourselves partying in a community room wearing paper hats. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It was nice to see older people making new friends and planning to have some fun. It’s just, in our minds, we are not older people.
Another time, we visited a house in a very edgy neighborhood. No For Sale sign out front. The realtor rang the bell. I lovely little black woman answered the door. She looked like she’d just come from church. She had on a straw hat and a flowered dress. The realtor asked, “Is this house for sale? John sent us here.” “I’m not John,” she replied in a Creole accent. “No, John is the realtor. Your realtor?” “Oh yes, yes.” “Did he call you? Is it okay if we come in and look around?” “Yes.” She let us in. As we looked around, she wandered from room to room aimlessly, politely trying to give us some privacy. We discussed a few things but felt awkward with her there. You can’t really say things like “Look at that wall color. Dog shit brown? Gross.” But the house was lovely. Three bedrooms, a big yard, very cool with all the shades drawn, a large laundry room and a nice kitchen. We thanked her and left, drove the neighborhood for awhile to check things out and went no further.
We have made an offer on a house in another neighborhood, not far from the beach and the intracoastal. It has terrazzo floors which I had never heard of but now I really want them. It is a little more than we wanted to spend. A counter offer has been made and another potential buyer is involved. He is from Germany and is making offers sight unseen. I think his pockets may be deeper than ours. The builder Rich is working with knows the real estate market very well and said, “there is no stickin’ German.” But apparently there is. He came in the higher bid but doesn’t want to close until December. We are in a holding pattern. In the meantime, we are cruising the Internet, making a list and planning another reconnaissance mission. And a walk.