The Art of Becoming a Homeowner

These days it can be difficult to pry our attentions away from the world stage, whereon so much melodrama and absurdity are being performed. A mixture of comedy and fear ripples throughout the globe as a manbaby plays at the controls of the biggest machine. Each day brings another mad headline, clicked and shared at a rapid pace before the next thing drops to our collective gasp (getting less gasp-y with each new thing).

But, despite the uptick in global happenings, local happenings still proceed forward (albeit at a much more manageable pace). So is the case for us. We bought a home.

Following four offers and four refusals, numbed to the excitement of the process, we stumbled into a spot we figured we couldn’t possibly get. Then we did. At this point, we’d really just go to open houses to see the places we’d likely never get. Lost was the gusto of the initial experiences when our lingo was adorably untrained. We now knew to ask about HOA dues, reserves, rental caps, the perceived level of interest. We knew to expect 10-20% escalations, and then to somehow expect even more than that. We’d still imagine our lives there, the commutes, the local bars and restaurants, the parks. We’d stare out the windows like we might if we slept there and all our furniture was just behind us. But the expectancy had slightly shriveled.

Then a place we’ve loved for years, old and iconic and next to the park, our park, had an open house. Redfin’s estimate had it outside of possibility, even with minor escalation, but the open house was Sunday and what else are we doing? Twenty minutes before the open house closed, we went by and checked it out. Nice hardwood floors, tall ceilings, radiant heat and tile counters. There was nothing remotely charmless about it. But we shuffled around it like it wasn’t ours, couldn’t be ours. Nice tile, she’d say. Yeah, nice tile, I’d volley. It was nice tile floor, but it was distant from us, beyond a money mountain we couldn’t travail.

We checked out the laundry situation, chatted up the agent, and were on the way out. Oh yeah, by the way, the HOA dues include property tax. Now, this would have been a terribly boring sentence to me just four months ago. But at this point, it meant that this progressed from the most unattainable spot we’d flirted with to the most just in the matter of one simple and boring sentence. We confirmed this new attainability with the Redfin app on our way out, then stood awkwardly at the corner like, holy shit, we can do this.

Personal letter, appropriate escalation clause, an agent on top of her shit. Our offer was accepted. We had become homeowners, sort of.

But, not really. Not yet. And still not yet. The excitement of the offer acceptance began a long month of money-related documents we would proceed to sign in our lifeblood for the next few weeks (and still). Further, our acceptance was additionally contingent on the board formally approving our neighborly existence with them. To the joy of our own estimations of ourselves, we were approved for that (though not before much homework about policies and meeting minutes and volunteer committees).

All this signing and money-pushing did not come before we had again looked at the place in person. Before we went on to 30-year contracts, we walked the interiors of our possible new home, imagining how our lives looked inside. The second bedroom window opened out to a rosemary bush. Sage below the kitchen’s. There was a bonus room, whose future was constantly mutable, from dressing room to project space. The old galley kitchen with ubiquitous cabinets and potential for renovation. No yard or balcony, but outside the front door was the park we’ve loved for all our years here, the biggest yard we could hope for and without the botanical grooming.

Beyond the unit itself, the building was a cooperative, wherein community is key and most maintenance is the responsibility of the residents. This in a city of few neighbors, a city of momentary glances and eye aversions. Whole apartment buildings who’d barely recognize each other. We were choosing a community over the chilliness of some former residences.

Of all the future homes that we have cyclically imagined for ourselves, we finally found the one for which we most loved the invented futures.

 

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All My Future Homes

I had imagined living amongst Somali refugees, the hijabed children playing in the central playground. Imagined wandering down to the duck pond, maybe sneaking a joint out when nobody was looking, staring out in turns at the distant downtown and the immediate blanket of pond. Walking to the main street for a drink or a bite, biking to the beach or the grocery store. Out there across the bridge from the city, detached, in a residential mixed-income community, my immaculate condo with nine-foot ceilings and two soaking tubs. But a two-bus, hour-plus commute and the feeling of suburban isolation burnt the dream into ash, to be revived in another space, another intersection, another selection of pubs and restaurants.

Before that was the campy condo village in Northgate. There were various futures contained in the sunny window seat, a window that pushed out of the building allowing for sun or rain to more encompass the body that laid within its glassy bosom. The balcony festooned with plant life, enclosing two chairs and a small table from which vantage the chair-sitters could converse and drink or stay silent and drink, coffee or tea or beer or cocktail or wine, while the sun shot down in between the dun buildings and enlivened the landscaping or while the rain showed no end and the feeling of being protected and warm was accentuated and life-affirming. The ensuite bathroom, a luxury understood by any child of ubiquitous siblings, the solace of solitude in all toilet, sink and bathtub matters. The extra room for the extra human yet to be. Laundry with no lines, no coins.

Then a place not 10 blocks away. Southwestern windows, small plant balcony looking out over a pool and the highway and the future airspace of the above-ground light rail line. Open floor plan in a building from the ’70s, new hardwood, and storage galore. The dining table would sit next to the tiny balcony and fake fireplace, looking out through the veil of terrace plant life. A living room space near the front door, darker and cozier, a sweet little Netflix cove. Somewhere a small desk to write at, a little postcard picture of Ginsburg tacked up at seated eye-level. Outside, a future baby being bobbed up and down in the slightly cool water of the pool, wincing and laughing at the new stimulations, their little fresh face slathered in too much sunscreen.

Another one, Maple Leaf neighborhood by way of Lake City Way. Would need some work, but good enough light. Rip up the carpet and install hardwood throughout. Replace the hollow doors with something more substantial. New trim. New vanities. Truly adult shopping exercises. We could make something nice out of it, and that trailer park viewable from the balcony would soon be replaced. The Wild West car lot across the way, while not ideal, adds some grimy charm. We could make it ours. We could make it work. Bus lines and nearby parks. A beer palace down the street. Proximity. City life. Sometimes you have to give a little in order to gain. Then again, sometimes it all just ends the same anyway.

Freshest wound in the form of another two-bed two-bath (ok, 1.75 technically). Not far from the first two. Lovely open kitchen with a gas range and plenty of counter space, a conversation kitchen which could speak out to the bright living room and even out to the covered balcony. Yes, another balcony. Said balcony already fixed with hooks for all the plants with all their verdant draping parts, and room enough for a grill and an intimate seating situation. Another ensuite bathroom, newly updated. Quiet rooms with storage enough for all the various baubles and thingies and wearables we keep around. And covered parking to boot.

All our future homes. Temporarily ours and only in the mind. Despite all legalese and officially signed documentation, the offers were just a flash in the pan, considered for a couple hours at most and then recycled. My imagined realities, our imagined home lives, dissolve away in the incinerator of useless memories or get boxed and mothballed to be dredged up at the most appropriately vulnerable time.

Stoicism serves us well in this life. Giving too much power to the dominant flux that life can present allows for tumultuous internal strife. Realizing instead that these are just little simulations, little fantasies that can sometimes come to fruition, allows that no particular outcome can affect your essential disposition.

So you forge on into the great dark gray of the future, that future you can’t fully imagine, waiting for the next flux, the next flash of fantasy, to present itself. Consistently, it will.

The Redfin app never stops with the notifications anyway.