ON SATURDAY in mid-June, as is my habit, I was doing a weekly read of housing-related articles. I'm an economist by profession and way back in 2001 I came to believe that we were entering a housing bubble. Almost as a hobby, since my day job involves analyzing non-U.S. economies, I have been following the soap opera that has been the rise and fall of the housing market and its impact on the American economy.
This week had a touch of irony to it, for despite my belief that the story, especially the falling part, is far from over, we were a few days away from closing on the purchase of a house. We had no intention of buying a house; not right now anyway. We were still more than two years away from settling in one place, and by my reckoning 2011 or 2012 would be pretty fair timing in the market..
I had been keeping on eye on what kinds of properties one could get at what prices in Washington State in a few locations that we were considering. We wanted an old house that we could renovate in a rural location. The San Juan Islands was not one of these locations –too expensive for my frugal instincts. Still one lazy afternoon I pulled up listings there in a fantasy window-shopping kind of way. And stumbled across just the kind of thing we were looking for, well within our price range.
In fact, that price was pretty unbelievable. Why wasn't it long gone? “What's the catch?” I wondered. Next to a garbage dump? Ready to collapse from dry rot? My Mom, bless her, agreed to check it out for us. She reported back-great place, no major issues, and it's a steal. We talked about it seriously, but with two years lag time, I was especially concerned about trying to take care of the property from long distance. I just wasn't ready to buy.
A few weeks later, my husband popped his head into the room. “How much was that place listed for?” he asked. I told him. Nope, he replied, they dropped it 20k. Mom! I e-mailed. They dropped the price—they are making it hard to resist. Stop resisting she told me. You'll regret if you miss this chance.
So. It was the right house, at the right price, in a dream location, at the wrong time. We made an offer another 30k below the new asking price. They accepted.
Now we were a few days before closing and I was doing my weekly housing market news read. I came across a link to “Love in the Time of Foreclosure”. I scrolled back through older posts 'til I hit the first one, and begin to read the whole thing in chronological order. Somewhere about half way through I was hit by the powerful conviction “These guys are our caretakers.”
My usually dominant rational and logical side shook this off. In fact, we had already identified a caretaker. We didn't want to rent the house out until we could live there, but didn't want it empty either. We needed someone to live there, keep it from being overgrown by blackberries, and taking care of all those little things a house needs doing. Our real estate broker knew of just the right person, Mom had discussed it all with them, and things were set. She handed over the keys at the closing. But a couple days later we got an e-mail—sorry can't do it after all.
My thoughts went again to the Walkers. “You can't just contact random people you read about on the Internet,” I told myself.
The next day my husband told me that he had contacted someone with a situations wanted ad in Caretaker Gazette. We have long had a subscription on the theory that we might test drive a few locations by caretaking before actually buying a home and settling in one place. Now though we were on the other side of deal. The person he contacted was very interested. After the usual exchange of info, just when it seemed like we would seal the deal, a family medical situation on the East Coast put the kibosh on that. My husband said he would start to write up our own “Positions Available” for the next edition.
Well, I told myself, maybe I was right. After all, two apparently sure things had fallen through. After a couple of false starts, I bit the bullet and sent them that e-mail. And they were interested. And then I had to explain to my husband what I had done. He took it well. And after some consideration they accepted.
That's my story.
Thank you, future landlord whose name I don't want to reveal to the general public (maybe we should come up with a code name.) I'm so glad you contacted us! Can I just say that after reading this, I'm even more excited about this opportunity. It's all coming together. It does feel, dare I say it, like fate.
Have any readers perused The Caretaker's Gazette yet?
Have any of you ever lived on an island?
Would you? Why or why not?