Closing day. My stomach knotted, I drove downtown to pick up the inspection documents. I was terrified to see the results. The money still hadn’t transfered to my checking account. It was now 11:45am with the closing scheduled for 2pm.
I checked on the money wire. After some back and forth with my family, it became apparent we had made a grave error. I had many thousands of dollars less available than we thought. My careful plans and budgeting evaporated, buffers transformed into impossible shortfalls. The knot got tighter. My resolve began to fade.
The house was cleaned out. Someone had taken most of the moveable furniture. Most insultingly, the tile cutter was gone. It was a careless move in which damage was done to the house, and someone pissed in the non-functioning toilet. I was livid. The real estate agent said the owner had removed their effects. So much for “what you see is what you get”.
I couldn’t find the inspection documents. After an hour of pacing the house waiting, I left. Three minutes away, I get the call: the inspector left them on the kitchen counter. The kitchen, mind you, is nearly the most disheveled room in the entire house and in the back corner, furthest from the main doors. It was behind a ladder. Asshole.
I review the document and am aghast. The list is longer than I expected, and I expected a lot. They list the inane with the huge. “Repaint every room” appears next to “Put a dust cover on the floor outlet”. Who makes these forms? Were they stoned?
I drove to the Coleman Young Building to file the paperwork. I got the clipboard to sign off on it. It states in no unconditional terms that you may not occupy the house until the inspector signs off on everything. I have to replace the disconnected garage’s roof to live in the house? I have to replace gutters before I can move in? What insanity is this? The task before me on this form was impossible, even with my original budget.
I panicked. I was in way over my head.
I called people for advice. I paced the halls. My tight schedule started slipping. 2pm came and went and I was still talking on the phone. The closing was moved to 3pm, but soon 3pm was slipping by as well. I meditated in an arm chair. I called the real estate agent and made a lame excuse for my tardiness. What the hell was I going to do? I had no time left, and I had to make the biggest decision I’d ever made that would set in motion the next decade or more of my life. My chest wound tighter and tighter. I meditated again. The pain didn’t stop. I found an unmarked employee bathroom and cried in it.
That was when the existential crisis began. I wish I was kidding.
Let’s be frank: we’re going to lose the house we’re living in soon, the original Icrontic HQ. It could be next week, it could months from now, or maybe it’ll take years. We have no idea, and we can’t sit here waiting for the other shoe to drop with no plan. I cannot get a mortgage because I’m considered self-employed (the one drawback of working for a foreign company). There are no other financing options. I have only enough to buy this house and little else. We will not find another house like this, ever. Ever. Without this, we will never make it to Detroit. Without this, we will not be able to move into any house. Without this, the dream dies. You cannot manage the events our community has in an apartment complex or row home. The math just doesn’t work. If the dream dies, we will inevitably go our separate ways.
So what the fuck is the point? What’s the point of saving my money so I can retire comfortably one day? If I stop here, if I say this is the line too far to keep risking my financial future, if I call the real estate agent and call off the whole thing because it’s stupid and crazy (and it is)… then what? What do I have then? Some money. My job, my lifestyle, most of my friends, my hobbies, and even my city of residence are all fundamentally based on Icrontic and our events. If this is the line too far, then this is the high water mark of everything. History ends. This is the day I give up on the dream and start the path… to what?
I splash cold water on my face and look in the mirror. It ain’t pretty. I pull my hat down over my eyes and go back to the clerk’s office with the form signed. “I wondered if you’d left,” she tells me. I get a copy and leave the building in a daze, not sure of the way out. I wonder if I’ll end up a squatter in my own house.
I hit the street and a gust of wind steals my hat. I chase it down and bound across the street. In front of me is an orange sign completely filling the storefront. In huge white letters it simply states, “It Will Be Alright”. I choke up and pull the hat lower over my eyes. This sort of thing’s been happening to me a lot lately.
Traffic. I get the check from the bank. More traffic. I make it to the real estate agent’s office. It’s nearly 5pm now.
I enter the room and immediately calm down. The real estate agent has left, but the seller and the title agent sit at a small table. The are amazingly gracious for two people who’ve been waiting over two hours. The title agent reminds me of the mom of one of my best friends from high school. I feel like a guest in her house; she is warm and understanding. She goes slowly and reviews everything for me. I wish the seller was my new neighbor. He tells me stories about the house and my new neighbors and gives advice about what to check for and why things are where they are. He hands me his card and offers to answer any questions that come up. He has health issues and is alone; the house was too much for him. He lived there 17 years. “It needs someone young to take it on,” he tells me. “I moved there when I was 27.”
I’m 28. I wonder if the house has lured me there to be likewise consumed.
I am Detroit’s newest home owner, but I have no desire or energy to celebrate. I drive home, grab my bag, and leave for the dojo. I have been absent for three weeks and never missed it more than during this day. I clear my mind and practice for an hour.
Maybe the house will burn down before I can insure it. Maybe I’ll have to sell it and take a bath on the seller’s fees, getting back a fraction of what I paid. I don’t have the skill or money to finish most of the repairs. Screw it. I own a house for now. Or a money pit. At least I have no debt. You can’t go bankrupt if you don’t owe anyone money. Famous last words.
The dream lives on for at least one more day.
So the seller was alive? And was LIVING in the house? Craziness. How the hell was he insuring the place? You should've got his agent's name.
Today must've been an emotional rollercoaster. I hope tomorrow presents a more even keel.
This will be the house that Icrontic built. You know we've got your backs.
You are brave.
It finished. Now it's time for the next phase.
When it comes time for renovations, I'll be there as often as time and family allow.
Hey... how about this. Fire up Google Docs and make a separate list of things to do for each room. EVERY little thing you'd like done to the room. In one column, rank them by importance, then another column, rank by cost, and then a third column, list the estimated time needed to complete the task. That allows for you to add items, mark items off as you complete them, and if someone DOES stop by offering some time, you can just point them to the lists...
Joel and Liz
D MET design