Another Sunday spent house hunting. We are taking a new approach. Hubby has signed up for a free seven day trial on a website that has information on foreclosures. We made a list of seven places we wanted to drive by and headed to Pineapple Grove for coffee. Then we started shopping. And walking. The houses were within a two mile radius of each other. We were taking this tour on foot.
Twenty two years ago, we bought a house in New Hampshire at auction. It was a snowy day. The auction was supposed to take place the week before, but was canceled due to a blizzard. This snow storm was only bringing four to six inches. We arrived at the house to find a large RV parked in the circular driveway, the auction company’s logo on the side. About twenty people were huddled in the driveway, most were neighbors attending out of curiosity. The house was built in 1728 and needed work, but we were up for the task. We had big dreams. We were young.
The opening bid came from a man who lived down a dirt road that ran behind the house along the river. He was interested in buying it for one of his daughters. We raised him 5K. The auctioneer did his spiel, “Anyone want to raise me five, raise me five, ten….” I was looking around at the other faces in the driveway, discerning who else might be a player. The river neighbor seemed to have lost interest. His opening bid was his first and final offer. Suddenly we heard the auctioneer shouting, “Going, going, gone. Sold to the bidder on my right.” He pointed at us. My husband muttered, “We should have raised him one thousand.” “We didn’t know,” I whispered back.
The driveway quickly cleared. It was cold, the snowfall was picking up. The auctioneer brought us into the warm RV. We gave him our deposit check and signed some papers. “Can we go inside?” my husband asked.
“No, you don’t get the keys until the closing.” He set a date in early March. Before we knew it, the RV pulled out of the driveway and we were alone, large snowflakes falling all around us. The house sat on two acres of land along the river. It was silent, that quiet that envelops you when you are outside, alone in a snowstorm. We looked at each other and said, “What the hell did we just do?” We poked around the yard, peeked in the windows then drove to a pub to have a few celebratory drinks. Or to calm our nerves. It’s hard to remember in retrospect, knowing all I know now.
February flew by. We left for a two week trip to Seattle, then Lake Louise, where we got married. When we returned to N.H., the closing was just two weeks away. After signing more papers, the banker handed us the keys and twenty two years of endless work and catastrophes began.
Almost immediately after stepping across the threshold, we were hit with the smell of cats. We began to rip up the green and gold shag carpeting. The smell was overpowering but improved after we threw the carpeting out into the snow. The floors were wide, knotty pine and just needed some sanding and polyurethane. I could picture how beautiful they would be when they were finished. It didn’t go that smoothly, the floors were squishy and needed to be replaced. But that’s another story.
It was a cloudy, dreary day. Darkness came early. The barn and the garage were full of old things the previous owner had left behind. We brought two old wooden chairs into the house, grabbed a beer from our cooler and congratulated ourselves on a good day’s work. Suddenly a very loud meowing sound could be heard outside the kitchen door. The previous owner had left more than old chairs behind.
There was a dark old entryway from the garage to the back door. We later tore it down. One of those narrow connectors you see on old New England farm houses, it was lined with several cat beds made from boxes and a few bowls of water and cat food. We had tossed them in the trash, assuming the previous owner had taken her cats with her. We looked out the door to see thirteen feral cats staring at us. I retrieved the bowls, my husband drove the mile down the street to Market Basket to buy cat food.
“I can’t believe she left her cats,” I said.
My husband said, “I can’t believe there’s fourteen of them.”
“I counted thirteen,” I replied.
“Another one arrived when I got back from the store.”
We had our apartment until the end of March. We slept there until April first. April Fool’s Day. We spent every day after work, and weekends, cleaning the house. Three wood stoves had also been left behind. Good thing. There was no heat upstairs and very few electrical outlets. That summer, a new heating system was our first major purchase. The first of many.
We picked up Have a Heart traps from the SPCA down the road, where we brought twelve of the cats. Most of them were a mixture of yellow, white and gold but the one tabby was very friendly. He stayed. We named him Keeper. He lived with us for six years until one day he disappeared, never to return. We also kept a black and white cat with one cloudy eye that was very shy and rarely approached us. I think we felt bad for him. We assumed he was a boy and named him One-eyed Jack. He stayed in the barn and the garage, where we needed him. The mouse problem became apparent the first night we slept at the house. We could hear them prowling above us in the attic as we lie awake in bed.
When Jack gave birth to two kittens in the barn, we realized he was a she. Jack became Jackie. She disappeared shortly after her nursing obligations had been fulfilled. One freezing cold day her offspring, Rodney, climbed up underneath my husband’s truck while it was warming up in the garage. Two miles from the house, my husband thought he hit a cat in the road. He pulled over only to discover it was Rodney. He walked out into a field, where he dug a hole and buried the kitten after holding a short, impromptu funeral. I can’t remember the other kitten’s name. She didn’t stay around for long.
This time we are planning to buy a house that needs very little work, if any. The foreclosure situation is much different than it was twenty two years ago. The banks are holding on to properties. They are looking to not just get the money they are owed but to also make large profits. Don’t get me started on this. I am close to 1200 words. I read somewhere a blog should be 1000 words. Some of these houses have been in foreclosure for a year or more. So we’ll see what happens. The houses we looked at on Sunday were in a very exclusive area of Delray. It was eye opening to see who wasn’t paying their mortgage. It’s not always who you think it is. One woman hopped into a Jaquar with her friend. They were both dressed in designer clothes and sparkly jewelry, probably heading out for Sunday brunch along Atlantic Avenue, spending money on mimosas and eggs Benedict instead of the mortgage.