Real estate closings have lost the luster they once held. There was a time when ‘the closing’ was an event. With the buyer, seller and agents all sitting around the attorney’s large conference table, my husband secretly waited for a surprise, any surprise, to which he would push back his chair as he urged everyone to make things right. Ultimately, he would threaten to walk away from the deal altogether….. while I sat beside him in a motionless panic. Eventually, I realized he actually enjoyed this little charade and we held the next few closings minus one buyer (him).
The closing for our lovely, old house was thankfully uneventful. We understood this house would be sold ‘as is’ and any surprises would be offered up by the house itself – who would not negotiate.
One lone key was offered as receipt of our purchase and we made our way across town to inspect our treasure. The last time we had visited the house the garage held an old door, a variety of ancient tools, and an MG Midget.
The request that the MG remain in the garage had initially been accepted… until the seller’s children caught wind of their parent’s negotiation and pitched themselves a proper tantrum. I reluctantly acquiesced, but hoped I would find the MG still there when we crossed the threshold again. It was not.
We stood in the kitchen quite pleased with our good fortune nonetheless when water suddenly flooded the floor where we stood. Old carpet remnants outside the back door were all we could think to use to mop up the mess, so my husband put the lone key in the door and gave the lock a quick turn. The key broke off in the door.
After coming to an agreement between our budget and the floor plan, demolition began. If we were going to find a secret treasure hidden inside the walls of this old house, it would happen now. For days, I imagined the call coming in from the contractor describing one priceless treasure or another.
Under the dirty, beige carpet (which we learned was originally pink) the original hardwood floors remained unscathed. As the contractor lingered on the front step one day, she realized the house number was forged into the old, wrought iron porch light – a small, but delightful discovery. When spring arrived, flowers bloomed and the garden came to life, but no hidden treasure rested inside these walls.
The call finally came. The stuck closet door in one of the 3rd floor bedrooms was finally forced open. Bees. Yes, there were thousands of bees inside these walls.
Once the carpet had been removed, I realized the floor sloped in the foyer and my heart sank. There was termite damage on the beams holding up the back porch and on the upstairs dormer. Water had invaded the kitchen more than once and the floor could not be saved. The structural engineer gave notice that it would be cheaper to tear the garage down than repair its cracked wall. Week after week we watched as our house became more awful than lovely.
Demolition ended and we had dodged the money-pit bullet. Re-construction could finally begin. Subsequently, I have spent every free moment searching the universe for light fixtures, sinks, toilets, drawer pulls, tile, faucets and the perfect shade of paint. I know exactly when the open box and clearance items are updated on Wayfair, which items are better found on Amazon, and when the big box retailers’ price can’t be beat.Every trip to our new city also includes a quick stop at the best consignment store in town, which is dangerously close to our lovely, old home.
Drywall has replaced crumbling plaster and a new roof matches a new exterior color scheme. Every room sports freshly cut crown molding, new and improved wainscoting graces the dining room, and the perfect mantle has been added to the family room.
Introducing this old house into our life was a risk, and I can’t say there have not been times we weren’t scared right out of our mind. For weeks we could only take one step at a time. Most things in life don’t start out perfect anyway. They become perfect after a good bit of hard work.