Monday, November 27, 2006

The Just Right Home, Just Not Right Yet

I feel like a sick person sitting on the sidelines of life watching in amazement as others prepare for Advent and Christmas.

We are under contract. The inspection is completed. We have a closing date. The process of selling our home is moving forward as each piece of the puzzle is worked into place. There is one important detail that still has to be resolved however: We are homeless. We have not yet found a suitable rental home for the interim before we are ready to buy again. It's not for lack of searching either. Here are just a few examples of the many frustrations we have encountered...

The Too Good Home:

A friendly realtor greets me at the door asks me to take off my shoes as the owner has just re-carpeted the whole place. I enter in socks and walk carefully along protective papered trails that lead me from room to room. Surrounding me is newly fallen white...yes, white...carpet. Wall to wall to wall of new new, white white carpet. Even the dining area has been carpeted! The security deposit is large. How much does it cost to re-carpet 3,100 sq. ft? I don't intend to find out. Besides, we don't really need 3,100 sq ft.

The Not Good Enough "Home":

This place is currently being rented to 6-8 unrelated people of mixed gender. If they had just told us that over the phone, I never would have gone to look at it. But I did, and I was too polite to leave the realtor without taking the tour. And what a tour it was!

The whole place smelled like alcohol and something else...something I have not smelled before and it was not the smell of any legal substance with which I am familiar. There were other things, too, but I don't want to remember. The realtor wasn't seeing me wince, either, or responding to any of my clues. I started to feel sick and still I tried to make polite conversation through it all.

Why? Why am I so stupidly polite? When I returned home, the boys were surprised to see me back so soon. "How was it?" Jeremy asked. "It was the third ring of hell." I answered.

The (Almost) Just Right Home:

This place was sizable, clean and sufficiently updated. It was in a good location and though old, it had been well cared for. With its bee-hive ovens, built in bookcases, and foyer window seat, this house was steeped to its gutters in charm. Most of the floors were wide plank American Chestnut (A tree that no longer grows). Where there was carpet, it was comfortably worn. Any use we might add wouldn't change the appearance much, I thought. I fell in love with the house and imagined happy school days taking place under its roof and in its large fenced-in yard.

But the landlord wanted a short term lease. We asked for longer one. The realtor didn't think it would fly, but the owner went for it; he just wanted a higher rent. Too high. When I suggested what we would like to pay the realtor scoffed, but then she called me back to say that the landlord was interested. It all seemed so perfect. They wanted to meet us. We agreed.

I assumed (wrongly) that if the landlord and his realtor were asking us to come to the property with all the children, that this meant they agreed to all our terms and that they just wanted to be sure we were decent people. If the children behaved reasonably well, I thought, we could expect to sign an agreement.

I dressed the children that morning in their best play clothes and combed their hair. I spoke to each one individually about the importance of being extra polite and extra obedient. "Yes, Mama." "We will, Mama." "We want to be good." They all said and I felt they would, but still worried they might mess up. They often mean well and fail. That could not happen. Not today. Too much was at stake.

Upon arriving, it quickly became clear that the landlord, landlady, and their realtor had very different intentions than those I had imagined. It appeared they wanted to negotiate with the children at our feet and use the children as props for their negotiations.

First, it was that they thought the children might get hurt on the property and that Jeremy, being a lawyer, would sue them. They wanted security from all liability. Then they said the children would damage the property, especially since they are at home all day, and on this account, we would need to pay a higher rent and give a larger security deposit. All this was explained by the realtor in a demanding tone. "This is the kind of thing we are concerned about," she said pointing to Nicholas as he tried to climb a built in book shelf.

The shelf was fine, but I was crushed. Perhaps it was because I had misunderstood the purpose of the meeting. Perhaps it was because I felt my husband's character was being questioned, my way of life scrutinized, and my children used against me. Perhaps I was too sensitive, but a hot sensation passed through my head and down my neck. A great surge of defensiveness took over my thoughts and, unfortunately, my mouth.

I may have said, in a defensive tone, something about how Jeremy may be a lawyer, but he is also a good man and not prone to sue. I might have told them, with pointed finger, that we are selling our home in a better condition than when we bought it. I might have said that while our boys may break things, we are self-respecting people with a sense of justice and would fix anything that broke or expect to pay for it. I might have said we wouldn't pay a higher rent; that we were offering our best and that it was difficult to do even that on our single income. And when the realtor responded, "I don't know how you do it." I might have looked her in the eye and said "I like what I do." At this point, I made an excuse to get the children outside and remove myself from the conversation.

As they played about me in the yard, I thought about how good the children had been. They had been extra polite and extra obedient. They had even been extra cute, charming the landlady with their antics. This time it wasn't the children--it was me that meant well, but failed.

Though Jeremy said later that I didn't sound so bad as I might have imagined, I was surprised when the realtor called to say the owners would be willing to rent to us on our terms. We turned them down, though, partly because we thought the heating bill would be high and partly because our meeting had left us with a bad feeling. And so it was not.

The Just Right Home:

Ok, we haven't seen this one yet, but I know it is out there just waiting for us to see its ad in the paper or listing on the MLS. I need to be patient. I know and I trust, that after all the struggles and disappointments, we will find the right place for our family. I know God hears our prayers. He sees our need and He will supply for it. He is looking out for us and, with Him, all things are possible.
* * *


Ann Horan said...

Oh, Suzanne, what an awful meeting. We had a hard time finding a place to rent with only three kids when we moved from Texas. I felt like I had to keep the homeschooling a secret, well, at least not mention it. I mean it really should not be any of thier business and the little ones would be at home anyway, right? Then again, it is best to be honest and feel right about the whole situation by having everything up front. I will be praying that you find something soon so you can join in the advent fun!

Cheryl said...

many prayers that the perfect house finds you! :)

lapazfarm said...

Oh, dear! I know a bit of what you are going through. We are currently renting and trying to buy. We cannot afford the "just right house" and are settling for much less than we really need, but it looks like we will at least be closing this week. But waiting on the sidelines and watching while everyone else does all their advent and Christmas preparations is just heartbreaking! I do SOOOO want to get started with decorating, cooking, and crafting, but it looks as if this advent will be spent surrounded not with decorations in purple and pink, but boxes in brown cardboard!
Oh well. There is always next year, right?

Jen said...

Oh Suzanne, I'm so sorry the last meeting went so badly. I think that sometimes we do need to defend our way of life and beliefs. I think you did the right thing by saying what you did to the landlady. Sometimes people see children and they just freak out. For whatever reason. This isn't where God wanted you and your family, and even though they agreeded to your terms, I think you made a very wise choice not to go with it. You may have encountered issues in the long run.

Since we recently sold our home and bought a new one (we were lucky not to have to rent somewhere in the interm), I remember all to well the stress involved in the whole process.

Be assured of my prayers for you, your husband and your kids. In the not so distant future, you will look back on these times and they will seem like a lifetime ago.

God's timing is always perfect.

Rebecca said...

I will pray that you find the right home, Suzanne. I am sorry about that meeting.

Denise said...

I'm so sorry you had such a ~blech~ meeting, but I do think you did a good thing by standing up for yourself and your family, both in speaking up and in turning down the home. You tactfully and yet pointedly explained yourself, nothing wrong with that.

The right house will present itself. Really it will. And extra prayers will come for you and your family, because goodness knows after four homes in four years, I understand your struggle :-)
Blessings to you-

Alice said...

Suzanne, this post actually made me cry. I am so sorry you were treated this way and made to feel on the defensive for your beautiful, sweet, wonderful children. What ridiculous terms and notions--I am so glad you turned the place down even though they relented in the end.

I am praying fervently for you to find the perfect place. How right your are that God is looking out for you and your family.

Karen E. said...

I'm so sorry you went through that, but you did not fail! There's such a thing as righteous anger. :-)

Hang in there ... when we sold a house, had to be out in three weeks, and did not yet have a place to live, God came through at the final hour (almost literally.) Every rental I had looked at was a frightening dump, and as I drove to my last hope -- an apartment complex -- I prayed, "Lord, if the unit available is the one with a back door, that overlooks the play area, and a laundry room in the apt., I'll know this is it." It was. It was clean, spacious, and just right for the short time we lived there.

The Lord will provide!

Kristen said...

I am so sorry, Suzanne! We will say some extra prayers for you now. The right home will open it's doors soon---St. Joseph can't help but come to the aid of those 5 precious boys of yours!

Suzanne Temple said...

Thank you, all of you, I can't tell you how much your kind words and prayers mean to me. When we are looking for a home, I feel so misunderstood by the renters.

You, dear friends, seem to understand me perfectly and that means all the world to me. Thank you.

Margaret in Minnesota said...

Like Alice, I went through a whole range of emotions as I read this post: humor at your clever little wordings (always present in your writing), fear (because I knew something would go wrong with the "almost perfect" rental, hope (because shame on me for not having more faith that the "almost perfect" rental would pan out) and finally, empathy, empathy, and more empathy.

It is probably a small consolation, but I am feeling completely overwhelmed by the upcoming Advent/post-Christmas season. (I just hide behind my joking.) I, too, have spoken harsh words that I later regretted--only these things were to my unsuspecting husband, not some realtor who deserved it.

What a tricky time of year. Know that you are firmly in my prayers, nestled within as many decades as I can muster. Please keep me in yours, also! :)

Barb, sfo said...

The right house will come. It really will. I will pray that St. Joseph aids your family in finding the best home for you, as he did for his own Family.

Jennie C. said...

I'm glad you didn't take that house. It doesn't sound like they deserve such a nice family. (I know built in bookcases must have been very hard to walk away from!) Keep praying and keep looking. We often go homeless for about a month between moves, and the more children we have, the harder it is. When we moved down here, we prayed VERY HARD for our house (our first home-owning experience), that it was waiting for us and that it have certain characteristics. Our realtor didn't even want to show us this one, but I knew it was ours from the moment we pulled in the driveway. It had four bedrooms. It had an eat in kitchen. It had a room for schooling. It had a garage. It had a large yard for the kids to play in. It faced east and got both morning and afternoon sun in the living areas. And the owners were nearly moved out! We moved in after only a week of waiting and closed a week after that and I attribute it all to family prayers EVERY NIGHT for this house.

I hope you find yours soon. It's out there, just waiting for you.

Jennifer said...

Oh Suzanne, that sounds so unpleasant (especially the shelf part). I'm so sorry. I'll be praying that God leads you to a home soon.

Diane said...

Good for you ! It sounds like you made your point in a dignified manner. I am not so sure that I could have remained polite when faced with people questioning my children's ability to behave, let alone my husband's character. I pray that you find what you are looking for soon. I know how stressful this sort of thing can be.

Melissa said...

I applaud the way you responded to those homeowners. What a horrible situation to have found yourself in! There is nothing in the world that upsets me more than the perception of others "attacking" my children or my beloved. It sounds like you stood up beautifully in defense of your precious family. Reading your response to them actually brought tears to my eyes!

I will continue to pray for you--that you will find the perfect home, and that you will be at peace during the waiting.

Jamie said...

Oh, Suzanne, my heart goes out to you. This post also put me through many emotions, as tears fill my eyes now, know you are in all our prayers and God will provide. You are like Mary and Joseph, searching for a place to stay. How fitting for Advent.

Kristen said...

Just on a side note, owners too bear anxiety when trying to find good tenants for their homes. We went through a very similar experience when negotiating the lease on the home we're living in now. In fact, we suspected things of our landlord that later, we discovered, were completely false. Now we have formed some wonderful new relationships, that I'm very thankful for.

Any big decision, especially one involving a contract, is difficult for all parties involved. Owners often suffer tenants who don't pay their rent, destroy their home or break their lease early. Tenants want a good and respectable landlord, a fair price and a suitable home for their families.

I am happy those owners extended you an offer. It says something about their character. And although this wasn't the right home for you, God will find you a new one soon. A better one.

JennGM said...

What a terrible meeting! I'm praying that you can find the right house. It took us a year to find a house to buy...and there were some tours I wouldn't even go into the house, as it was just AWFUL.

Mary and Joseph being uprooted and having to go to Bethelehem to have their baby is similar to your experience, so it might be the best Advent/Christmas ever spiritually.

Jill said...

The other ladies have said it all quite well. I especially love the anology that Jamie and Jenn used likening your family to the Holy Family. "No room at the inn" right now for a family of 7, but then the inn wouldn't have made nearly as good of a story as the stable.
(Not wishing a stable for you, though...don't worry!)
You are a precious family.


Mary Vitamin said...

Dear Suzanne,
I'll pray to St. Joseph for you and your family.
Helen (Sharon's friend)

suzanne temple said...

Thank you again, all of you, your words are comforting and inspiring.

It seems true, what many of you have said, that homelessness might just be the best (not the worst) way to celebrate Advent.

And thank you, Helen, for the promise of your prayers. That means a lot to me.

yesterthoughts said...

As I turn in this evening you are on my heart. Count on my prayers for you to find the home that is well suited to your precious family. St. Joseph is praying with me, too! God Bless.

Cay said...

Oh, dear. The white carpet should have alerted me. :(

Hugs to you, Suzanne. I will keep you in my prayers, dear.

I have had, more than once, that warm feeling spread from the top of my head, down my neck and throughout my body.

To be so clearly spoken down to and your family's character questioned is uncalled for. YOu did the correct thing.

Suzanne Temple said...

Thank you, yesterthoughts, and thank you cay!