Saturday, January 31, 2009

It might just be my imagination.

I have been house/home-hunting/obsessing for some time now.

Let's face it, I've done a lot of pissing and moaning. We could have filled the swimming pool we don't own with my tears of woe-is-me self pity.

I've been utterly frustrated by what I can afford in this city that has Manhattan prices with Tijuana salaries (ok, I'm exaggerating a bit on both ends but you get the idea). So, with all the frustration and spite that has percolated in the crock-pot of my wretched soul for a couple of years now, I contacted a handful of home-owners who were offering rentals that were far out of my price range by sending the following email:

To whom it may concern (i.e. people I'm about to insult),

We are a couple with a stable income (bold faced lie), looking for property to rent for an extended period of time, three to five years minimum (if we damn well feel like it). We are willing to pay up to X euro with parking and all fees included (clearly an insulting offer). If you are interested in showing the property with what we are able to pay in mind, please feel free to contact me.

Kind regards (i.e. eat shit if you don't answer me),


I wrote this email with all the spite my mean little fingers could anxiously deliver to my keyboard, knowing that I would be contacted, knowing that we would go see the flat with an "I told ya so" air about us, knowing that we would feel superior to all the greedy fools who thought their stupid little flats were worth a killing and who had hitherto laughed at us young folk and had drop kicked us out of the housing market by their irresponsible "prices-never-go-down" speculation.

Within the hour a woman called me and wanted to set up a time to show her flat.

Surprisingly, I didn't even get remotely excited. My excitement has been exhausted, sold out. I have no further excitement left in me to waste on this. Months before, when I would see a flat, I would show up and think, "This might be my new street". I would get in the elevator and wonder if that would be the elevator mirror I would be checking my hair in every day. I would pass someone in the hall and mutter "Buenos dias" and wonder if that would be my new neighbor and imagine the rooftop parties we would share and coffees we would invite each other over for and cups of sugar we would borrow. And then I would leave feeling defeated.

This time I had contemplated not even showing up. I yawned in the elevator and went over my grocery list in my head.

When we got to the flat we saw exactly what we expected to see; an overpriced flat that wasn't even worth the insulting offer we had proposed.

I wanted to turn my nose up and laugh at the assholes and think, "Who do they think they are with their shitty little apartment?" I wanted to shake their hands and thank them while thinking "Good luck to ya, assholes! I wouldn't live here if you paid me to!"

But I looked at the couple and I saw the woman, pregnant, staring at us wide eyed and hopeful. I saw her husband, full of pride, describing the new fine cabinetry and tilework they had poured all their money into. I saw a couple that had no room for their growing family, that had bought a tiny, dark, overpriced flat at the pressure of all their friends and family who urged them, "Buy! Buy! Buy, before it's too late and the flats cost double!" at the precise moment the market was about to turn on them. I saw a couple that needed to get out somehow, that had tried to sell at a price that wouldn't send them into bankruptcy to no avail and that was now trying to find a tenant who would at least cover a portion of their mortgage so they wouldn't drown in financial ruin and have some hope at affording their unborn child's future. I saw a couple that earned hopeless Spanish professional salaries and that had invested the little money they had managed to save on a couple of properties in the hopes that their future would hold more than a fifty year bondage to the bank and a savings account without a dime in it.

I saw us. I saw what we would have been if my husband had not fought my pleas tooth and nail to buy a house at the worst possible time in history. I saw a glimpse of the financial ruin we would be in if we had done what I had wanted to do. I saw myself, chained to my desk in the job that was sucking the life and spirit out of me that I wouldn't have even been able to contemplate leaving so that I could reinvent my world and self again and find fulfilment in something different and live a life that felt a little less like a waste of human creativity and potential.

I broke down in the elevator going down, this time not in my own self-pity for not being able to afford anything decent for my hard earned cash, but for the regret I felt for writing that email full of spite and condescension that gave the couple a glimmer of hope that they would find a tenent and escape their impending financial ruin.

Maybe I just have a wild-ass imagination.

I hope so.


"Se vende" by Adrian Coto from Flickr.


Anonymous said...

You know, there's a show on here called International House Hunters. It's always amazing to me--someone who lives in a fairly large house on a fairly large lot with a fairly small mortgage, what the prices are for tiny little places. But that's just me being provincial. On the other hand, I think that realtors serve are real purpose--they stand between you and the homeowner and keep you from developing feelings and attachments. The economy is scary no matter where you live.

Brook said...

oh man that does suck... its not much different over here... so many people are losing their houses!

Unknown said...

I don't have a lot of sympathy for people wailing and complaining about having no money, but two or three mortgages while I've been earning tuppence and saving a penny of that every month for rainy days. Even now estate agents are selling flats as investments. they are different tumours of the same cancer that include greedy property developers, corrupt, short termist townhalls and banks with shareholders. People were told about how rich people had become in the past how that would continue...
People are mis-sold property I'm sure of it and they are suffering terribly as you've seen. people just don't think about the logical conclusions.. If everyone in Spain is buying to rent out who's gonna do the renting?

The romantic part of me says that a flat that's never lived in isn't a home. Just as a toy still in its box bought as an investment is just some Chinese plastic.

Yours socialist-y

flutter said...

You really have an incredible amount of compassion

Mister Crowley said...

I'm afraid to even think about what's going to happen when (and if) in the future I get hitched, and need to go house-hunting. In addition to roller-coaster RE prices, I gotta deal with the fact that I'm a lawyer, and in my town lawyer=douchebag=last person you'd want as a tenant / buyer.


kate said...

This is heartbreaking. I hope they find a tenat soon and that you find a place soon...

Anonymous said...

I have to say your post really grabbed me, made me think. All of our friends bought homes at the height of the market and some of them are losing them now. My husband and I live in a little 2 bedroom condo and we used to be jealous of all of their big houses. I realize now that we are the lucky ones. We are living a very simple life, or at least as simple as we can in this complex, overwhelming world. I think it is so interesting to read about someone's experiences in a foreign culture. It's neat to see how people are the same and how they are different than we are. I know I'm stating the obvious here. I am the queen of stating the obvious. Anyway, just reading this post I can tell that you are a very compassionate individual. Writing those notes was actually funny, though. It made me laugh because I could complete understand why you would be frustrated. It sounds like something I would have done. I know you feel bad for that couple, so do I, but we all make choices in life. Sometimes those choices are mistakes that we have to learn from. Again, gwen, with the obvious. I'm going to stop know before people reading this start rolling their eyes :)

Anonymous said...

I meant stop NOW before people start rolling their eyes. Now I'M rolling my eyes.

Rassles said...

I honestly don't know if I would have cried in that elevator. I'm pretty sure I would have started hitting things. Usually I get pissed rather than sad. Which sucks, because then everyone thinks I'm mad at them.

I'm sorry.

Bluestreak said...

@hereinfranklin - you´re absolutely right about realtors, they definitely buffer things.

@brook - yup, it´s everywhere.

@Neil - as you can see, I go through bouts of sympathy alternated with bouts of hate.

@flutter - sometimes I don´t have any, but at that moment I just identified so much with the couple for some reason.

@Mistercrowley - here if you´re a lawyer they assume you are paid like all of the other professionals, that is, that you make shit, and probably would want your parents to cosign or the bank to issue a guarantee of bank funds.

@kate, thanks...

@gwen - I´m trying to be grateful for the simple life, but it´s hard, even while seeing friends lose everything, I still wonder why we are still "stuck", but I am grateful to my husband for fighting me on this one.

@Rassles - there was nothing to hit, except my husband, and he´s had just about enough of me at this point. So I cried and he was all, "what´s wrong now? jesus!"

Martin said...

You need to get out of that Catholic country, it will guilt you to death.

A Free Man said...

I know what you mean. We nearly bought a shitty place in Oxford for too much money at the top of the market. Thank Christ we didn't.

I do the same thing when meeting strangers - build a story of their life within about 30 seconds. Whether or not it's true is completely irrelevant!

Anonymous said...

We bought a house last year so will just have to stay until the market improves again. We planned to stay for about five years total but who knows what the market will be like then. It's scary, being a homeowner.

Clarissa said...

Times are tough. I might contemplate sending the dog out to beg (she does it well enough at home ... might as well put her to use.)

we_be_toys said...

Unless you're loaded with money,house hunting sucks. We had 45 days to buy a house, because we were getting evicted (long damn story, there were cats involved, and we got even with the evictor later on.)and the market at that time was so hot, that everytime we saw one we liked and went to make an offer, it was gone.
I think I would have felt more than a twinge over the little couple, but then my suitcase of guilt is packed to overflowing.

Thanks for popping in! It's nice to know I'm not alone in my hypochondriacal obsessing!

Bluestreak said...

@xbox - do you speak from experience per chance?

@afreeman - I suspect my story was right, because today I saw the same house listed 150€ below my insulting offer.

@noblesavage - sounds pretty long term. for the first time ever i´m glad to not be a homeowner, but I wish we could find a rental. Everyone that´s renting right now though is trying to cover their mortgages, which means the rental prices are through the roof. Aaaah, I can´t win.

@Clarissa - can I borrow your dog?

@we_be_toys - yes, when we were trying to buy, we couldn´t even get people to take full price offers, nope, they wanted more. Now those same houses are listed far below. Weird how things change.

Not Afraid to Use It said...

It's those damned eyes. You get a glimmer of what they may be thinking and then sob your way through their entire life story and the if onlys. Not that I have been there or anything.

Anonymous said...

I think it's ok to be thankful that the couple with the crippling mortgage isn't you. You're paying your karmic dues elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

This was a great post. Although Mr. C and I plan to get married one day, we're not yet so I've always wanted to make sure that one of us could afford whatever we buy just in case we do split up.

Of course that comes in handy now that I've lost my job!

Hopefully the housing market rebounds. Quickly.

Anonymous said...

As I was reading, I was hoping you bought the place. I was so hoping at the end of your story you bought the place.

If you would have bought the place, that was right for you and your husband but at a bad time....

doent tease like that. Shit or get off the pot.

American in Sydney said...

It's horrible and sad to see so many people-- friends and strangers-- struggling to pay mortgages or just keep afloat. And it's so easy to be on the other side and forget that some of these landlords-- or slumlords in some cases-- are just trying to get by too.

Sucks for all of us.

LadyHAHA said...

yeah consider yourself lucky for not having bought a house. I can't tell you how many times my husband and I have thought, 'man, we should have just kept on renting.' We followed the rules and still got bit in the ass hard.

I feel for that couple because in a lot of ways, we're that couple too. :(

Le Meems said...

So, what happened? Are you renting the joint?

Bluestreak said...

Nope, didn´t get the house. I´m giving up for now.

Anonymous said...

Great American move! When the market is up.... Buy! Everyone's doing it! When it goes down, read a newspaper and panick. SELL SELL SELL!

Buy high, sell low, the (NEW) American way.

Grow a pair, or at least buy a Warren Buffet book.