Once upon a time, I did a ride along with a Denton PD officer as part of a college project. During the ride along, one of the things I learned about were “Dear Chief” letters. Anytime an officer made a mistake that warranted the chief’s attention, the offending officer would write a letter to the Chief that started out “Dear Chief, much has transpired since last we spoke….” Also, one of my favorite quotes comes from the Callahan Cross Time Saloon series of books by Spider Robinson. That quote is in the side bar “Shared pain is lessened; shared joy, increased - thus do we refute entropy.” Well….Dear Readers, much has transpired since last we spoke. Entropy has been getting a workout.
It all started one fine Wednesday evening a month ago after we all thawed out from the great polar vortex event here in North Texas. It had been decided by The Queen and Princess M&M that Miss Tater Tot needed a companion to keep her company. Never mind the three cats, two dogs and multiple fish that were already in the house. I was informed Tater was lonely and needed a friend. The Queen had been in touch with a crazy bunny lady in a nearby suburb who had several varieties to choose from. After much deliberation and handling of many buns including a handsome Lop named Beast, a lovely blue otter colored, female, Netherland Dwarf rabbit came home to join our herd.
Thus began the naming saga. Many names were tried on for size and found to be lacking. At one point, M&M tossed out “Death” as a possible name. What ultimately stuck was “Graycie”. Now, you are supposed to keep bunnies quarantined from each other for a couple of weeks so they can get used to each other, make sure no illnesses are transferred, etc. Well, Graycie had other ideas. Despite our best efforts, we consistently found the little Houdini in Tater’s cage to the point we just threw up our hands in defeat and made one large bunny enclosure under M&M’s loft bed. They get along famously and are regularly seen flopped next to each other.
Two days later, I woke up Friday morning to an email from my niece and nephew from whom we have been renting/caretaking a house for the last several years. The email indicated that they had decided that they needed house back so that my niece and her friends could move in by early June. I had not had my morning caffeine injection by this point. It was a bit of an eyeopener to say the least. The Queen thought I was joking when I told her. I confirmed that I was indeed honest and true.
So, the hunt began for a house. We, by that I mean me, had been dead set against ever having a mortgage again. We had been making plans to build a house at Mimi’s property; however, that was a multi-step, multi-year project and we were barely in the planning stages due to the care and feeding of The Queen’s parents the last few years. Calls were made and we reached out to a realtor lady we had worked with a couple of years ago unsuccessfully when we were looking for an alternate situation. We quickly determined several key points in this process:
- In the course of two years, the North Texas real estate market went from bad to bat guano insane.
- Renting/leasing was not an option for several reasons
- Houses are staying on the market for less than a week and in some cases just hours.
- Agents are boldly stating “highest and best offer by Sunday”…and buyers are lining up to wave cash at them.
- It is not uncommon for houses to have multiple offers ABOVE asking price.
- As a single income family, our buying potential was limited which put us in a position of looking at the fringes of the market.
With God, all things are possible as they say.
Thanks, in part, to being a permanent remote worker now thanks to COVID, we literally looked at everything in our price range from the Oklahoma border south to Temple, and from Mineral Wells to Canton in a rough hour to an hour and a half circle around DFW Airport. The state of the market in that general area is crazy. Your choices within my budget are ugly small houses built in the 70s and 80s, sketchy neighborhoods, investor “lipstick on a pig” flip specials or fixer uppers. We agreed that, building not being an option, we wanted a house we could be happy with especially since we were going to have to bite the bullet and get a mortgage. So, we spent several late nights looking at the offerings on Zillow, Realtor.com, Craigslist, word of mouth, etc.
Our agent suggested we look at a house in Sherman, TX which was a fixer upper just on the other side of our pre-qual amount. It was in a nice, well established neighborhood that backed up to a wooded area with a creek running through it. The house was built in the 50s and was in desperate need of an update in addition to foundation work as the east wall was trying to separate from the rest of the house thanks to soil shifting. The current owner is an investor who bought it with the intent of doing a “lipstick on a pig” treatment for a quick turn around. The foundation issues put the kibosh on that thought. I was seeing the potential at the first showing, but The Queen was not. We dithered about whether or not to make an offer for a week or two, and we finally asked our agent to go have a second look at it a week ago today. The Queen finally started seeing what I was seeing as well as the potential financial upside. As we sat down to discuss with our agent what to do about making an offer, she called the listing agent who informed her that it was contingent. This was news to all of us as she had checked before we drove an hour and half to see the stupid thing. I said “I’m done” and walked straight out to the car. She apologized profusely for which there was no need on her part.
Anyway, back to the drawing board. Sunday evening and Monday, The Queen was staying up deep into night looking at houses all over North Texas. She located a few possibilities in Sulphur Springs which is an hour and half northeast of DFW. We made arrangements with our realtor to go see them on Tuesday.
The first house was immaculate. It was like a museum from the 1950s. The original owners of the house were a doctor and his wife who had the house built. They added a wing onto the house in 1960 when they started having kids. It had the original wool carpet. They had three sons who all grew up to be doctors. The original intercom/radio worked. The original 1950 vintage electric range still worked. They had the old console TVs from the 1960s/1970s. They had the blue prints from when the house was originally built. The widow had moved out in 2015 to go to assisted living and died just last year. The surviving sons had kept the house just as she had left it for the last six years. It was jaw droppingly amazing for a one owner house of that vintage…but not for us.
The second house was nice but nothing special.
That brings us to the miracle house. We almost didn’t see if because there were already two contracts pending on it. The Queen and the realtor decided “why not?” and off we went. After a brief lunch stop, we made our scheduled showing time and stepped into the Twilight Zone. Imagine, if you will, a house originally built in Fort Worth in 1868, disassembled and rebuilt with the original lumber in Sulphur Springs in 1874. The house lives through several owners as a one-story farmhouse just a few hundred yards from the courthouse square for just over a hundred years before the current owner bought it. She and her husband decided that it needed full renovation. They added an entire second story including a grand, sweeping staircase. They gutted the walls, double insulated them, added Anderson double paned windows, rewired and replumbed the entire house, modernized the master suite and the kitchen. The house has over 3400 square feet and the asking price was right at the top end of my range. We loved the house. And we walked away deciding not to make an offer on it thinking we didn’t have a chance at it because of the pending offers.
Now, here is where Entropy really started to get a workout. First, at the miracle house, there is a bedroom upstairs that is pink. M&M immediately fell in love with the pink room and claimed it as her own. She then proceeded to have a great old time running around the upstairs playing. This will be important later in our story. Second, on our way home from Sulphur Springs, literally 1 minute from our house, The Queen’s chariot took one on the chin after a driver, whom I shall charitably call “clueless” made a sudden left turn from the middle lane smashing right into The Chariot.
The whole thing felt like it was happening in slow motion until things started flying everywhere. The Queen made a valiant effort to avoid the crash, but there was not much she could do. I was in the front passenger seat (since I was working remotely from the car). Disentangling myself from cords and cups and papers gave me enough time to chase the inner ogre down and put him back on a leash. I got out of the car to check the damage and ask the other driver if she was okay. Instead of answering that question, she said “I had my turn signal on.” To which I replied, “That does not mean you can turn left from the middle lane.” “Oh”, she said. I got on the phone with 911 to get things rolling. Fortunately, there were three witnesses who stopped to give their information. All had the same story to tell. The Chariot still runs and drives and does not appear to be leaking any vital fluids. It just has the automotive equivalent of a shiner with a few scrapes. Hopefully, the insurance company won’t try to total it. I’ll be getting an estimate from the body shop for my carrier first thing Tuesday morning. The other driver’s carrier has called but not connected with us yet.
Physically, we all have soft tissue aches and pains. M&M and I seem to have faired better than The Queen even though the impact happened on our side of the car. The Queen has taken it a little harder. She will heal though. That’s all that matters.
So, Tuesday evening after the accident, we were on the phone with our realtor about whether or not to make an offer on the miracle house. Our realtor told us that the Sherman house came back on the market as the contract that came in under the wire of our second showing had fallen through. The layout of the Sherman house actually works better for our current situation, and there are some other personal benefits to being in Sherman that are unimportant to our story. So, we told our realtor to make an offer.
Turns out that the owner on the Sherman house doesn’t really want to sell the house for what it’s really worth in its current condition and is convinced that someone will come along and pay him his asking price. That won’t be us.
So, I’ll skip the back and forth between the realtors on the Sherman house which took up all day Wednesday and most of Thursday. Thursday afternoon, I get a call from the realtor that the owner of the Sherman house countered our offer by increasing the price to effectively net the same amount as his asking price on clean contract. Our realtor also mentioned that she received a text from the listing agent for the miracle house. Word was that the owner had rejected the pending offers, was pulling it from the market for three weeks to do same minor repairs but that if we were still interested that we could do a deal.
So, you’ve heard people say when one door closes another opens? This door not only opened, but it was taken off the hinges.
Our realtor had given feedback to the listing agent including the story about M&M loving the pink room, etc. Turns out the lady of the house, a woman in her early 70s with a serious health issue, decided she didn’t like the investors who had submitted low ball offers well below asking price (one of whom she called a “jerk”) and was tickled at the idea of a little girl playing up there. So, the listing agent told our agent to give them an offer as close to asking price as possible and they would see what could be done. I immediately told our agent to terminate the contract on the Sherman house, and we drafted up the contract on the Sulphur Springs house.
Friday passed with no word. Apparently, the owner was out of town visiting her children. Saturday evening, we got a call from our realtor that they executed our contract with no changes. We were floored.
But wait….there’s MORE!
Our agent says, “So, would you be interested in the washer, dryer and refrigerator that are there at the house?” I had been planning to ask about that as we do not currently have those appliances in our personal possession. So, we said, “Absolutely.” Then our agent drops the kicker. The owner is giving those appliances to us as her gift to us. These are practically new appliances.
Body…meet floor. Floor…body.
I was speechless for several minutes. The Queen and I could not stop tearing up. Our agent sent us a packet with the history of the house which we did not have prior to making the offer. The house is essentially a 153 year old house that was completely rebuilt from the inside in 1983. I can’t wait to share photos. All because a little girl made an elderly woman smile.