Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Question of the Week

Poor Meg (of Stormy Springtime) both has to sell a home and hunt for a new one. Neither experience is very pleasant. And happily her Dear Little Flat is a refuge from the tempestuous seas of the real estate market until her implied installation at the Professor's home in Little Venice or manor house in Much Hadham.

As for the House of van Voorhees, we have weathered our own rough waters. Here I lamely relate The Short Happy History of the Lovers van Voorhees:
  • First we rented. A boys' apartment in Utah. Our college campus and off-campus housing was segregated by sex and when students go home at the end of winter term, desperate newly married couples can assume occupancy of the vacant apartments. Believe me when I say it smelled of boy. Our dish-washer was the kind that you had to roll over to the sink and hook up to the faucet.
  • Second was a semi-basement--the stuff of Meg's nightmares. Utah gets scorching hot in the summers so I was perfectly content to have a cool concrete wall to spoon at nights. Our dishwasher was the kind where you stood at the sink and scrubbed them yourself.
  • Third was the Recent College Grad apartment. The dishwasher didn't move. Hurray!
  • Fourth. Our starter home. Choosing it nearly tore the Lovers van Voorhees asunder. We discovered that here are two things the van Voorhees' don't do comfortably: Naming children and buying homes. But finally we found it. The most charming aspect of Colonial homes is that you might have a five foot window directly in front of the master-bedroom loo to provide for continuity and symmetry on the outside. No cunningly tucked away bathrooms behind wooden panels here. The motto of that home was, "Mind that the blinds are down."
We sold the house in two weeks at the height of the real estate boom. Sadly, we also bought our current home at the height of the real estate boom. We're still waiting for it to be worth more than we paid for it...

It, too, is a Colonial and we've spent the last three years eradicating every sign that the free-spirited former owners were ever here. Orange and purple elementary-school-tile floors, 9 electric colors on the first floor alone...Even now that we've covered the floors I still feel them menacing me like an ancient Indian burial ground. Heroine Meg with her cunning use of wallpaper and paint would be hard-pressed to make a silk purse out of this sow's ear.
But then, Meg didn't have Betty Debbie...

My question is: What are your adventures in real estate?


  1. Dr. van der Stevejinck and I moved around quite a bit in the first decade of our married life...but the worst of the worst was the few months spent in Biloxi, Mississippi. Dr. van der Stevejinck was assigned to go to school there for the National Guard...and we spent 7 horrific months there. Worst summer ever. Worst accomodations ever. Dr. van der Stevejinck found us a little place about 1/2 a mile from Keesler AFB. It was an older mobile home in a fairly decent park (it had very strict rules about landscape maintenance). Unfortunately it was infested with the Scourge of the South (cockroaches). Being from the Pacific Northwest, I had grown up sheltered from the presence of these small pests. They were most prevalent in the kitchen and bathroom. Since we were only temporarily in Mississippi, I hadn't packed canisters for food. I ended up storing everything in the refrigerator. Sugar: fridge. Flour: fridge. Spices: fridge. You get the picture.

    The bathroom was almost worse...I was 7 months pregnant when we moved in - which meant I was getting up at least once a night to pee. I quickly learned the drill.
    1. Reach hand into bathroom, close eyes, switch on light.
    2. Count to three. (to give the roaches time to scuttle out of sight.)
    3. Peer around the door to make sure the coast is clear.
    4. Pee.

    I learned that it wasn't a good idea to just barge in...especially barefoot. Don't ask.

  2. I think Dr. Wal der Walkarpitz and I would agree that our first married apartment was quite...something. WE were in the bottom floor of a complex with pipes that had a tendency to burst. Sometimes I would come in from work to find ankle deep water. We got 4X4s to build stilts so our belongings wouldn't touch the floor(picture his great aunt's priceless antique dinner table on stilts!). However, nothing would take care of the multicolored mold.

    Nowadays, I have to contend with Tantor the giant opossum living in my yard, but the house itself is fine.

  3. I think the less said about married student housing at Purdue the better. Let's just say linoleum floor + bed on wheels + newlyweds.

  4. The previous owners of our 1910 house covered large holes (sawn through 2 1/2 stories of original pine floors) for the chimney pipe for an already-removed wood-burning stove with furniture sitting on large area rugs. They also only painted around their entertainment center, draperies, and other large pieces of furniture rather than move them for painting. Boy, did we have a surprise upon moving into the vacated house. Live and learn . . . .

  5. Um, I actually have mostly nice real estate stories. Since I moved out of the parental manse (back in 1983), I have lived in two apartments (one was tiny but had a deck, a luxury on the third floor of a downtown Albany, NY flat; the other was larger and was across from an informal dog park and faux-English greystone manor house) for a total of 15 years, then bought a house just 9 months before marrying Professor Henrik ter Wit-Weissen.

    That house was a steal: three floor townhouse on a corner in South Philadelphia, so it had windows to the west, north & east (way cooler in the summer, believe me), a courtyard garden and five bedrooms/three full bathrooms. It had been part of a convent; next door got all the stained glass and eight bedrooms(!) but only 1.5 bathrooms.

    Then a year after Professor ter Wit-Weissen and I were married, we bought my current home ("Harmony") as a weekend place. Built 200 years ago and the oldest house in our county, it had been a bed & breakfast so it had three bedrooms upstairs, two more bedrooms downstairs and 4.5 bathrooms. Suddenly, the two of us had 7 and a half bathrooms!

    Anyway, when Professor ter Wit-Weissen and I divorced and Betty Ross and I married, it was real simple: the Professor kept the Philadelphia house, Betty Ross and I kept the weekend place (making the two downstairs bedrooms out offices), and everyone's happy.

    The only bad part is that we won't be able to manage 24 acres well into old age, so we're thinking about real retirement. Currently I thinking about a cottage in Cornwall... (Betty Ross is not so keen.)

  6. So, Betty Magdalen, real-estate-wise, if you were a Betty heroine your father would have a successful practice somewhere and some slimy houseman would be trying to marry you for it...;0)

  7. Alas, I'm not a Betty heroine type. I'm the eccentric cousin who's brusque and apt to speak her mind. That's it -- I'm Honoria's father's cousin Magdalen, who lives in a rambling red brick house near Cambridge and drives an elderly estate car. I call Dr. Giles ter Hoessen-Dykstra "young man" even though he's only twelve years younger than me. I'm not cozy (like Dr. ter Hoessen-Dykstra's mother is), but I have a heart of gold. And yeah, my house is nice if a bit unkempt. (Hah! I live the British understatement in "a bit.")