This is my first recorded experience with home ownership. The closing of my home purchase should have been an omen. I guess I’m one of those guys who ignores obvious signs of danger. This is a “classic” (i.e. old) piece from 1998.
Closing Time: Adventures In Real Estate
Beware all who read this document, for it is not for the squeamish. This is the true story of the closing of my home. I have witnesses (my wife, real estate agent, previous home owner, a lawyer and others) to the events that will be related by this article.
Buying a home can be a stressful experience, and the closing is the pinnacle of this stress. This is the fourth quarter of the home buying Super Bowl, the three-point shot at the buzzer of the real estate game. There’s just a bit of stress placed on the participants. What happened at my closing cannot be easily described or catalogued. I would not have been surprised if Mulder and Scully from “The X-Files” showed up at my home closing … read on and find out why.
Quick summary to bring you all up to speed:
Brian (that’s me) and Suzanne (wife) used to live in apartment by big, scary mall.
Mall sucks, having no yard sucks, car accidents driving past mall suck even more (high level of suction, here).
Wife wants horses, Brian wants mad scientist workshop … we need a house with land.
We look, look and look some more … we find ‘the place’. Small house, six acres, good price.
Forms are filled out, banks are called, the questionable parentage of Equifax employees is expressed in loud and colorful vocabulary … we get a loan. All that’s left is the closing.
So why did I gloss over the entire month that led up to the closing? Because the closing is by far the most interesting part. If someone videotaped our closing, the footage could have used for a Blair Witch Project teaser. What … you don’t believe Uncle Brian? Read on, gentle soul … read on.
And Now, The Rest Of The Story
The closing: generally advertised as a long process of signing your life away to a bank so the last unlucky soul who was obligated to pay for the place can get their check and run off to Aruba. Just some long legal documents and few hours out my day … or so it would seem [cue creepy music].
My wife and I met Joan, the real estate agent, at her office about 8:30 AM on December 22, 1997. She informed us that the lawyer may not have all of the documents from the bank, but we would go ahead anyway. After some coffee, we drive to the law office.
The three of us make an appearance at the law office around 9:00 AM. The secretary cheerfully informs us that the paperwork is arriving by courier “anytime now”, and we are welcome to juice and little powdered breakfast treats. Suzanne and I settle in as Joan calls Claire, the person who owns our
impending home. She is informed of the situation, and decides to come by the office about 10:00 AM.
Time passes, but our documents do not arrive. Initially, I applied for the home loan with the local bank (friendly, in-town folks who are small enough to care about the needs of the average working man). One week before closing, they sell the mortgage to another company in Marietta. Marietta is over 30
miles from Loganville, which means a courier must travel to Marietta to get the documents. For anyone who does not know Atlanta, the traffic this messenger must go through to get our envelope of legal documents is quite painful.
The Waiting Is The Hardest Part
More time passes, and 10:00 AM arrives. Claire, the current home owner, and her mother arrive at the lawyer’s office. They are briefed on the situation, and decide to stick it out with us. We exchange a good conversation for hours, discussing the history of the house. Claire started renting the house about ten years ago, after she divorced her husband. Years of dubious renters took their toll on Claire … maintenance, defaulted payments, acres of un-mowed grass, junked cars left in the yard, and stolen appliances. The stolen appliances did it for her: she towed away all of the rusted Chevys, replaced the carpet, bought a few appliances and put out the “FOR SALE” sign.
The first potential buyer did sign a contract, but tried to force the price down a few days before closing. Claire rejected the change of price, and the buyer defaulted on the contract. So we grabbed the house like a rabid mother in a toy store on Christmas Eve finding the last Pokemon™. After signing the real estate contract and allowing numerous banking officials to wander through our credit files, my wife and I are now waiting for a single envelope of papers that hold the key to our first house.
The conversation turns to our jobs. Joan, of course, is in real estate. My wife was a high school teacher at the time, but she opted months later for a safer job tending to wild animals (yet another tale). I describe my computer engineering job (explaining PC BIOS to three basic computer users). Telling people you work with computers is a risky venture … this leads to people discussing their worst experience with a computer.
Everyone in the computer industry has had this experience … you tell some random person you work with computers and the conversation soon becomes a technical support call for their sick Packard Bell. We get all kinds of questions: “What processor should I buy?”, “What does a DVD-ROM cost these
days?”, “Does Bill Gates have a soul?”. I assume most professions have an equivalent experience …
“Really, you work in the stock market? I was wondering about mutual funds …”
“You’re a lawyer? I was wondering, do you know much about D.U.I.?”
“You’re a doctor? Cool! Can you look at this red patch on my butt?”
[sidenote over, returning to the conversation at hand]
I’m sure Claire’s mother told us her profession, but it was pushed out of my mind by Claire’s vocational selection … faith healer.
And Now, For Something Completely Different
Claire is a psychic healer. By the way that’s not her given name, she changed it legally based on the results of a numerological chart reading. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not completely closed to the principle of psychic powers or healing using the power of the mind. I just have never seen or met anybody who actually can do these things. I have friends who demonstrate empathic properties and can focus their focus their minds to do damn odd things … but they haven’t created a franchise based on this.
Claire is quire serious about what she does, and the fact that she is rather good at it. She doesn’t walk about weighted down by a quarry’s worth of new-age crystals around her neck, or dress up like the ticket booth wench at the Medieval Fair … she’s an average brown-haired American woman in a fleece pullover and blue jeans who uses her psychic presence to cure what ails you. I can’t say I’m completely oblivious to the idea of people looking at your career as occult magic … I do work with computers.
That was the other thing about Claire … she kills computers. Not as a hobby or a personal mission of vengeance against IBM, but by the energy she puts out. I wasn’t about to test this out, since the only computer I had handy was the $4,000 company laptop in the trunk of my car. If she gets around high-tech gizmos, they die from the energy of her psychic presence. I could try this out with that old 286 in my closet, or I might take her to COMPAQ sometime for their corporate tour … well, back to the story.
He Sure Ain’t Matlock
Sometime around 3:00PM, a man in a pest control jumpsuit walks in the door carrying an envelope. It is the courier, and I guess the legal documents for our house were so dangerous that they could only be handled by a man licensed to dispense hazardous chemicals. These documents disappear behind closed doors for several minutes, then reappear in the hands of the lawyer.
Yes, the lawyer … we haven’t discussed the lawyer yet. A bald gentleman in slacks and a polo who was unapologetic about the fact we were in his lobby for an extra six hours due a lack of organization. All he said was, “I was supposed to do ten closings today, but it looks like your might be the only one.”
So our party moves into the conference room, where the lawyer has assembled a large stack of papers. There are several dozen papers stacked by his chair at the end of the oval table, and I suddenly realize that we will have to review all of these papers. This is the part of the closing everybody talks about … papers that let banks lease your soul to stock brokers, papers protecting the bank from fraud, papers protecting the papers from other papers … I hope they have an extra pen.
Everyone is seated and the process begins. Our lawyer starts handing out papers like the father passing the elements of Thanksgiving dinner about the family table. I sign, my wife signs, Claire signs, the lawyer signs … all in a big and seemingly endless circle of signatures. About a dozen papers pass by, until we get to one small form.
Remember earlier in the story, I said Claire changed her name based on her profession as a psychic healer. Well, this requires a legal form. The lawyer hits this form, since it’s needed for verification of her identification. The lawyer asks rather sheepishly why Claire picked her name. She answers as before, that she is a psychic healer and her name is based on a numerological reading. He pauses, obviously in closed-minded disbelief. Claire decides it’s time for a demonstration.
As the lawyer begins to pass the next set of forms around the table, Claire closes her eyes and begins to speak to our lawyer in a slow, foreboding tone. As documents for the ownership of our mortal souls are marked with our approval, Claire is diagnosing the health problems of our lawyer. And to the lawyer’s surprise, she’s dead on the money! She tells him that he has scars from knee surgery, which would be tough to see through his tan slacks. The lawyer nods approval, then passes another form. She tells him about his pacemaker, and that he eats too much red meat. The lawyer nods approval, then passes another form. Then she tells my wife that she suffers from TMJ (which she does), and that I have neck problems (which I do). All the while the forms fly past.
It should be noted that Claire’s talent has its limits. While she did not miss a trick on her heath diagnosis, her psychic powers did not see the clog in the plumbing of our house (we found it a few days after moving in). I think she would be even more successful in the psychic trade if her powers would focus on common household anomalies … “I sense a great disisturbance in your plumbing, as if a thousand paper towels cried our and were suddenly flushed.”
In Closing … er … In Summary
We concluded the closing, in awe of the pile of documents and accuracy of Claire’s diagnosis. We whip out the home deposit, and get the keys to our new home. Of course, we had to get the lawyer to send us copies of our documents … which took a few months. And we had the issue that some of the documents were registered in the wrong county … which we fixed. And then came renovations, cold winter nights without heat, painting, plumbing, and so many homeowner issues … which we encountered with less than exuberant glee.
But all of this, no matter how strange, was worth it. Because in the end, this odd process was completely overshadowed by the great feeling that it’s our place.
And that’s pretty nice … until the furnace dies.