As I started reading through old blog posts, deciding which ones to keep and which to delete and move on from, I came across this gem and for the sake of reminiscing over the experiences, decided to keep it in.
In 2016, after years of apartment living and with our wedding over and done with, the time had come for Jason and I to take the next step into adulthood and buy our first home. While this process may be part of the “American Dream” one thing is for sure, the home shopping process is more of an “American Horror Story.”
Prior to setting out on our first day of home shopping we had all the basics covered; we knew what we were looking for, what we wanted our mortgage payments to come in at, what our budget and max budget were, the amount we would need for closing costs and additional fees the type of loan we would be taking out and how much we were going to put down. With the financial details covered we were ready for the easy part…simply looking at homes in the neighborhoods we liked and picking which one we wanted. If only it were that simple.
All in all, we must have sorted through over 145 properties, toured over 55 houses, placed four offers, gone through two escrows and set a number of ‘firsts’ for our realtor. Aside from the countless houses with odd floor-plans, ridiculous paint jobs, strange remodels, and all those that appeared to have undergone a cyclone of disaster, a handful of experiences were just too good not to share.
The House of Haze: This was our very first home tour, and it set a precedent of some of the bizarre occurrences we could anticipate having throughout our home search. The door opened and we were greeted by a member of the family. Upon entering we stepped into the house which had so many incenses burning, that there was a thick fog clouding our vision as we toured. In addition to the haze throughout the house, each wall of the house was painted a different color and trash from leftovers was exhibited on all the kitchen, living and dining room surfaces. Why people feel no need to clean prior to a showing, I will never know.
The Pickle House: As we accurately came to refer to it as, this house had a pungent aroma as soon as you stepped inside that smelled strongly of dill pickles. The home’s main focal point in the rooms: a 1980s speaker/intercom system in every room of the house, a house, which to be honest a decent volume voice could be heard throughout.
Is That Permitted: This was actually quite a cute house from the outside and once we stepped inside we began to look through the house in good spirits. Looking through the living room we could see a nice enclosed sunroom which I asked our realtor if he thought it was permitted.
“I’m sure it is,” he said moving across the room to look at the enclosed patio before breaking out laughing. “I take it back this was definitely not permitted.”
Stepping through the sliding glass doors into what used to be the back patio, and down a jerry-rigged ramp, I looked down the back of the house to find that this was not a sunroom at all but rather the owners extended the enclosed patio the full width of the house and built a long hallway and two boxed-in bedrooms. What was so crazy about the addition was that they left the original stucco siding, hose hookups and exterior windows for the house in the added hallway.
Moving into the main area of the house and into the master bedroom you could look right through master bedroom window and straight into the added hallway and bedroom. For good measure, just in case those staying in the added rooms needed to freshen up, a fully functional pedestal sink was installed just across from a moldy pond, in what was left of the backyard along the cement wall. Needless to say, that house was a NO.
Dog: 1, House: 0: Sometimes it’s apparent who runs the household. In the case of this house, it was the dog. Most of the door frames throughout the house had been chewed down and torn apart. Once you got upstairs you found that the dog had once discovered carpet strips between door frames, and the carpet had been chewed away and the carpet strips, tacks and all, had been gnawed apart.
The Alien Communicating, Mad Scientist Neighbor: This was another house with an addition, this time the addition was done semi-well. An extended living room with a fireplace. Sure, the kitchen needed to be gutted and the master was non-existent but that’s not what made this house weird. Stepping into the backyard we instantly noticed the next-door neighbor’s house, which had multiple giant transmitting satellites on their roof, all of which had numerous cables and wires running down to this home’s adjoining block wall. As if the giant satellites and wires weren’t enough, multiple smaller roof antennas sat atop a large back shed just next to the adjoining wall and contained warning signs about biohazards and toxic chemicals. I’m not sure who the neighbor was trying to communicate with or what he was brewing in the shed, but I didn’t feel like living next door to find out.
There’s Something Up with the Neighbors: Another decent house overall, but when it came to stepping onto the front porch however, things got weird. Looking to the left, the next-door neighbor had a giant broken mirror laying in yard, weeds growing between the shards of glass. Next to them, a front porch with stacks of dirty laundry were piled on the front door mat. Directly across the street a middle-aged, shirtless man was cooking on a full, round charcoal grill in the middle of his garage. Just diagonally across the street, a half dozen neighbors were all sitting in the middle of the road in lawn chairs. Perhaps it was a full moon or just an odd neighborly assortment, but standing on the front porch silently looking around we felt better to be leaving the area.
Nothing Like Home Cooking: When it comes to awkwardness during a house showing, one thing that tops the list is when the entire family is present and in the middle of making dinner. Especially when the robust smells of their cooking are so malodorous that you are putting all your energy into not gagging and coughing as you walk around. That may have been one of the quickest homes we walked through, I’d take the aroma of the pickle house over this one, any day.
I Never Miss My Daily Grooming: On another day of viewings we stumbled upon a decent sized house. Upon knocking on the door, we were greeted by a middle-aged man in a tank top shaving with his electric razor. For the remainder of our time looking through the house he followed closely by us, the buzzing of his razor demanding our full attention as he would step into each door frame and announce the name of the room we were approaching. As we walked down the hall on the second floor, we asked him about a room that had the door closed and that he had not shown us yet. He stepped past up, never missing a beat with his shaving, knocked loudly twice then walked downstairs. We stood there looking at each other wondering if we were waiting for something or if we should follow him. Suddenly the door opened a crack and we saw a teenage boy angrily peering out at us. Without saying a word, he slammed the door in our face and locked it behind him, leaving us standing there baffled. We left that house not needing to see the room to make up our mind.
The Label-Obsessed Owner: Among one of the semi-normal houses we toured, was a house that clearly confused the owner. Every light switch in the house, even the rooms with only one switch, had been labeled with abbreviations for what they were for. In addition, some doors had been labeled for what they led to. Whether the light switches and doors were too confusing or the owner simply had a love affair with their label maker, we’ll never know.
The Frat House: When you walk up to a house that is in dire need of new paint and there are five very used cars parked not only in the driveway, but also in the side and front yard, each plastered with ill-mannered bumper stickers, you begin to have an idea of what you are about to walk into.
Upon walking into this house, it was apparent that it had been greatly reconfigured inside. The dividing wall between the kitchen and garage had been torn down, turning the garage into a makeshift living/game room. What was once the formal living room was now a closed-up bedroom with built up walls and the home’s grand fireplace awkwardly nestled next to the side of the bed. Clearly the goal for the owners was to fit as many tenants into the space as possible, while giving them plenty of space to party. The laundry room has been removed, and now consisted of a lone washer and dryer and all the hookups sitting on the back porch under the kitchen window. Trying to make sense of the madness, it was hard to envision this house needing anything less than an excavator.
The Fish House: One of the most run-down houses we toured, was one that surprised us when we walked in as we were instantly bombarded with the scent of a fish market. The source of the smell; two large green water filled fish tanks in the living room. While many of the fish were still swimming their way around the tanks, one had already passed on to a better place.
House Tour or Haunted House: When we first went to view this house, the owners weren’t home. The next day when we want back to try again we were greeted with a not-too-receptive welcome. After viewing the downstairs, we went to the bottom of the stairs to look at the second floor. I looked up the stairs to the pitch-dark abyss, and searched for a light switch before climbing the stairs.
“Just go up,” the owner said behind us from their place in the living room. Still uncomfortable walking into the dark in a strange house, I held my ground and stepped aside as they approached, leaving room for them to either take the lead or show me to the light switch that I was overlooking. They walked up the stairs turned on a light and returned back downstairs. As if the initial discomfort of walking into the dark wasn’t enough, my discomfort was not dispelled as the light at the top of the stairs flickered and faded in and out like the iconic glow from a horror movie. To top it off we were told that one room in the hall at the top of the stairs was to remain closed.
Preparing for a Zombie Apocalypse: The most entertaining thing about this house was that despite a nicer neighborhood and decent upgrades inside, there were bars on every window and door, all locked and solidified to the exterior walls. All except one downstairs window, which we ended up crawling through so that we could see the backyard. Another oddity of the house were the numerous strings all over roof line hanging down toward the ground and the single BB gun pellet hole through the upstairs bedroom window.
House tours aren’t the only time that crazy experiences arose during our home buying journey. During the first escrow, on our second house offer we were to the point of hiring a home inspection. Knowing ahead of time this house would need some work, and that it appeared to have had previous water leaks under the sink, we were expecting some issues to be found. When the inspector let us know, off the record, that mold was an issue in the upstairs bathroom and downstairs kitchen, a mold inspection was the next thing we ordered to be performed. The inspectors report came in the next day stating some mold issues and the seller responded that they would take care of any of any issues found. We appreciated the gesture but asked that they wait until we had the full mold inspection completed first so that we could have a complete picture as to what was needed.
The next day, the inspector arrived at the house and asked where the first problem area was in regards to mold.
“It’s right over here under the kitchen sink...” As I opened the kitchen cabinet I was greeted with brand new plywood, freshly painted, screwed down, and caulked over the previous warping boards and edges. The mold had been covered up.
We headed upstairs to the master bathroom and opened the cabinet door. Again, freshly painted plywood had been screwed down and caulked around the edges. Having seen the initial home inspection report photos, the inspector pulled back the carpet from around the sink and tub, and revealed an abundance of black mold in the carpet and carpet tack strips.
“Well I don’t know how this got covered up, but this house does in fact have some very bad mold issues.”
Needless to say, we were irate at the owner and in shock. After a long conversation with the inspector, our realtor and the home owner, who was very upset that we hinted toward the idea that they had sent someone in to cover up any mold issues, we walked away from the house.
During the course of our home shopping, we had tenants tell us not to look in bedrooms so as not wake people sleeping, ask us if we really had to see the other rooms of the house, request that we water their plants after touring their property, and more. We'd had sellers lie to us and become offended when we call them out on it, ask that our realtor represent them in addition to us during the sales process, claim they don’t trust the appraisal report and overall just make us ask… what the heck is wrong with people?!
While many of the days ended in frustration and at times anger, overall house shopping was just one big hilariously painful experience that I hope is not in the cards for the near or too distant future.
Eventually we did find a house and were able to get in for even less than the listing price, and once papers were signed and the keys were in our hands we could finally be rid of the mind-boggling chaos that came with house hunting.