We had first stumbled on the house in the paper, and on our initial drive-by, it looked even better in person.
Then, one day we looked on the internet, and the price had been reduced.
LCB was starting to get more intrigued.
I was starting to want it.
In terms of Elizabeth City, we were more and more unsure about its distance from the ocean, and the owner of the lot we liked was holding fast on his terms, which wasn’t helping. And our other incentives for staying in Chicago for a few more years were growing.
We decided to call a realtor that had been recommended to us to make some inquires, and while it turned out he had moved into another position, one of his former colleagues offered to show us the house and some others as comparables. He seemed coherent and very friendly, so we made an appointment.
The house had charming curb appeal, and inside, it had numerous features equally charming, like window seats under all of the dormered bedroom windows, for instance. And, as if it had been built for me, it had a small room off of the master bedroom that was functioning as a library. I’d never thought to wish for a library off of my bedroom before. The second I saw it, I could envision retreating there whenever LCB went off on a rant at the political pundits on TV, talking aloud as if they heard him. I could write my novel there; you know, the one I thought I’d clearly have way more time to finally start writing once I had kids and stopped teaching summer school. (Feel free to share that laughable ignorance with anyone and everyone.) When you looked out the master bedroom windows, you looked out on the creek that ran through the side and the back of the yard. It wasn’t a huge yard, but a row of evergreens on the other side of the yard gave us an element of privacy from the neighbors, and the fact that it bordered a creek gave the yard a more spacious feel.
After seeing it, we clearly loved the house. It had numerous features we liked, like the Cape Cod style, the open kitchen and living area but separate, defined rooms in the rest of the house, the basement, and enough bedrooms for a growing family.
Then, I found out the story behind the house. In the late 1980s, one of the teachers from the high school I was now teaching at had built the house for his family. Many of the teachers I worked with had helped with the building of the house. Tragically, about a year after he built it, he died suddenly, leaving a wife and small children. His wife eventually remarried, and now, with the kids mostly grown, the couple was ready to move on.
With all of the career details now seemingly in line for us to delay our Carolina move for a while, we considered everything and wrote an offer.
Within a couple of days, we had a signed contract. We had agreed on a price and a closing date, and as a precaution, we put a contingency in our offer that they had accepted.
When we started telling people our news, I remember someone at school saying that it was like the house, in a sense, would be “staying in the family.” Our path toward this house seemed predestined.
Then came the task of quickly preparing our house to place on the market. Suddenly, I was in my third trimester, faced with the task of trying to make the house sparkle in a matter of days. I generally liked cleaning my house and was ready to rise to the occasion, but when I got down on the floor to clean the baseboards, I really thought I’d never rise again. Seriously, I had visions of needing LifeCall as I scooted around the entire house, scrubbing way, hoping someday I’d be able to get myself up off that floor.
I did, and we listed our house, and sat back to see how our realtor would market it, thinking that, given the current market, it would probably sell reasonably soon.
It was with a sick stomach then, that I called LCB at work the next day to tell him about the ad for our house in the paper. Honestly, it almost felt like a joke, except this was not the type of thing LCB or a realtor hoping for commission on two houses would joke about.
If you were to pick the top three most unattractive features about our house, three of the five or six features listed in the ad were those features. I’m not kidding.
To this day, we have no idea what our realtor was thinking, bless his heart.
Then, we looked at the MLS listing on Realtor.com, and were equally disappointed. The pictures were, well, highly unappealing, only showing a small section of each room. When LCB looked at the picture of the master bedroom, he said, “Wait, are we selling our house, or a section of our bed?”
In retrospect, we should have screened our realtor more. However, it was a good real estate market at the time, and the birth of our first child was fast closing in on us, so we had just wanted to get the deal done quickly.
But, we were not getting many buyers into our house. It was becoming apparent that the deal may not be done quickly with a realtor broadcasting all the least-attractive features of our house as selling points. The excitement over an impending move was morphing into a more somber feeling as we realized we were facing the possibility of carrying two houses until we finished our listing contract with this realtor.
And then, one day, when I came home from school, there was an envelope attached to our back door with both of our names on it.