Thursday, June 21, 2007

Houses teach you a lot

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a few weeks now, but I had to let things settle. Be prepared for a long blog.

Sometimes, to really understand yourself, you have to look at your actions and patterns, and not your own thought processes. In our minds, we like to think of ourselves in a more “ideal” state. Ego protection, and all. So in my mind, I like to believe that I’m malleable and okay with flux and novelty. I also believe that I’m rational and patient. But, when I look at the wake of my choices, I see a different me.
Here’s how I’m figuring out the obvious.
Buying a house has made me realize how impetuous I am. I cannot tolerate the feeling of indecisiveness, or idleness, or waiting and comparing before deciding. Once I make my mind up to do something, I get into “efficiency mode,” and I have to do it right then. I don’t want to keep decisions lingering, or options pending. Unfinished business causes me great discomfort.
Sometimes, this quality is a good thing: I’m not a procrastinator. I’m reliable. I’m quick, and I know what I want. But other times (many times) I rely too much on emotion, and not on rationality when deciding.
Being with Cullen, my polar opposite in this regard, clearly reveals our personality differences. Cullen takes his time when making decisions. He ponders. He compares. He waits. I get anxious just at the thought of putting something off, when it could easily be handled right then. I didn’t realize how strong this trait is in my behavior until I had him to compare myself against.
Sample illustration: The first house that I made an offer on occurred, well, hastily. I went through the house, loved it, and wanted to make an offer, but I knew that I should wait until Cullen had a chance to see it. (He has much more experience with real estate than myself, and a second opinion is always good.) We had made an appt. with the realtor to see the house together, but the night before our appt. the realtor called and said that someone had just put in an offer. Cullen couldn’t come that night to see it, so I wrote up an offer. (By that point, an additional offer had come in, so I was competing against two.) I found out the next day that my offer had won, so I was in contract.
A few nights later, Cullen came out to see the house. He did a thorough inspection. He talked to the neighbors, and we walked around the area. We determined that the neighbor next door was a druggie living in his deceased grandfather’s house—the house looked unkempt and dark, but we pieced it together.
After a long, long conversation, Cullen convinced me to pull out of the deal. He asked me to take my time, look around, and spend more time on the process. (Very anxiety provoking for me, which he realized.) But, he was right, of course: a single woman shouldn’t live next to a drug dealer, even if it was a decent area.
Pulling out of that house was one of the hardest things that I’ve done in a long time. I had my emotions completely wrapped up in it already. I knew how I was going to decorate and paint it, and I could picture myself living there, and being happy that it was my home. Perhaps my emotions were compounded by the fact that living 3000 miles away from “home,” I was now finally going to have a home of my own.
I lost half of my earnest money on the deal, and for the first time since moving to NC, I had a genuine cry. I felt like I had lost something that I, alone, had accomplished. With a realtor, I had looked at over a dozen properties, found a house I liked, made an offer, and had begun the process—only to have it abruptly end when my boyfriend stepped in. I felt like I had lost. I hated the thought of again going through the searching, the waiting, the comparing—inherent processes in house shopping that are an anathema for my personality type.
I put my emotions back together and began again. In a few days, I found another house, in a great neighborhood, that I liked. (Cullen went around with me that time.) I put in an offer and waited. The seller, it turns out, wasn’t ready to sell. She refused to negotiate on anything, and kept moving the closing date up, so I pulled out—this time, it was easier, and I hadn’t involved my emotions.
Soon after, I found house # 3. By this time, writing up the offer was easy, and I signed my third earnest money check in two weeks. So far, everything’s a go: home inspection went great, and now I’m just waiting until July 10th, when I close. (My birthday, by the way. This year, I’m buying myself a house.)
I really like the house, and the neighborhood, and the lack of drug-dealing neighbors. The house is priced less than the first house, so I’m pleased to have a lower mortgage. I can now honestly say that I’m glad I pulled out of house #1, and that waiting and looking and comparing are all good things—anxiety provoking, but good.