Sunday, December 19, 2010

Last Week’s Ups and Downs

Last Monday, before the deluge, I was considering backing out of escrow because the house has a sunken backyard that floods during heavy rains, like right now.

The clock was ticking; I had just a few days left to call off the deal without losing my $10,000 deposit. A contractor had cancelled last minute and I was ready to walk away, but a couple of friends offered to check it out first.

Veronica drove with me, and Sandra would meet us at the house.

I turned onto Lake Avenue and headed up the steep hill, but as the grade increased, my car slowed to a crawl. The hipster behind me cursed behind big sunglasses. I was afraid if I pulled over, I’d lose what little momentum I had so I kept chugging.

“If we don’t make it to the house it’s a sign, and I’m pulling out of escrow.”

Veronica turned on the hazards. The hipster passed me, and we stuttered up Lake, finally turning left off the ascent. In a few blocks I pulled up behind Sandra, already parked in front of the house.


Veronica and Sandra are both artists who tackle home-improvement projects with gusto. They loved the sunken yard. They loved the (formerly) dry creek bed, the neighborhood, the house. They helped me see possibilities.

I decided to move forward with escrow.

(I wonder if they’d feel differently now after three days of torrential downpours. I don’t want to know. Too late anyway.)

We coasted home, driving down Christmas Tree Lane to enjoy the lights.

Tuesday morning as I headed out to greet the tow truck, the front door knob came off in my hand, the axle falling to the outside. I exited through the side pantry door, Tommy jumping over the pile of junk as if on an agility course.

The car got towed and a coworker picked us up. Tommy leaped into the back seat and slobbered all over her red sweater. Good thing she’s a dog person.

My mechanic called: I needed a new clutch, $900 to $1200. Ouch.

Later I considered the numbers on the Good Faith Estimate. I was about $20,000 short of funds for the down payment and closing costs. I panicked. Why had I thought I could afford this house?!

Veronica’s car was also out of commission. She was using her friend’s car, a white Marquis with a plush red interior they called “The Couch” because of its cushy ride.

My mind reeled over finances as I drove The Couch to the house for the sewer inspection, only to learn that the pipes were already clogged, a plumber's visit scheduled for the next day. Fortunately the inspector was an honest man: no point inspecting the sewer when he couldn't detect anything through clogged pipes.

I stopped off at Veronica's to return the keys to The Couch. Inside the house, the dogs got all excited. We heard a crash. Veronica opened the door and Babe snuck out. She jumped on me and Tommy got territorial and started humping her. I pulled him off and dropped my raincoat. Veronica came out holding a broken piece of pottery, one of her favorite vases.

With no time left to schedule the sewer inspection, I signed off on the physical contingency without it. Yikes. (I did get a general inspection.)

I spoke to my mortgage broker. They had made a mistake on the estimate; I owed $20,000 less than what they'd calculated. What a relief!

Later I couldn't find my raincoat. I called Veronica. Yep, the dogs had gotten it. Fortunately the damage was minimal, just a tear on one sleeve.

Thursday afternoon I picked up my car at European Motors, the only L.A. area mechanic I trust. I screeched out of the parking lot, unaccustomed to such a responsive clutch. Boy, was my car zippy!

That night, I went to the Arroyo Food Co-op's holiday party. They had a raffle. My adorable French neighbor picked out the names, and wouldn't you know I was the last one called out. I won a free massage.


Tomorrow I will obsess over fluctuating interest rates as I attempt to lock down my rate at the lowest possible number.

This house buying thing is nerve-wracking. It feels like a giant gamble. I might as well go to Vegas and shoot craps.

I dare not visit the house until long after the sun shines. I dare not subject myself to the flooded backyard. I must schedule that free massage.


  1. I think this crazy rain needs to stop already! I am so glad to hear someone else was able to transport the dogs! I was feeling really bad about getting hopes up


  2. Kari, it was so great of you to even consider such a trip! It would've been way too much for your dogs so I'm so relieved someone else stepped up. Thank you so much for looking into it.

  3. I'm glad Veronica found someone. If she needs more help, I hope she keeps in touch with my friend Kelly.

    Susan, buying a house is nerve-wracking. It just is. I thought it would be easier the second time we did it but even then it was terrifying. So much is out of your hands. You have to just know it's right, and practice the serenity prayer. Things work out. I don't know how the hell they do, but they do.

    I know a good, honest mechanic in Pasadena on Walnut. I trust the guys at A-Car. Ask for Vic and tell him I sent you.

  4. Hooray for the free massage!! And hooray for the mortgage broker's overestimation! Bit by bit, you'll work your way through whatever challenges your new home might hold for you, Susan. And in addition to Petrea's serenity prayer, there is always chocolate.

  5. That isn't a cheap clutch. Is that a dealer quote? I know a mechanic on Walnut also. What kinda car?

  6. Buying a house is one of the more terrifying things you will do in life, but when it's over ... your own house! Which always needs something painted! Maybe that's just my house.

  7. I'm traumatized just reading this.

    I heard that we are experiencing the worst storm in ten years. And thats not even adding the Station Fire into the mix. The house is standing! yay....lets add some trout to the pond. Be the envy of the neighborhood.

    (glad you had good friends on board to help you keep your head)

  8. Thanks for the support, guys. I'm sure with the serenity prayer and a bit of chocolate I will survive this turmoil. And hopefully have a house that has not washed away.

    Thanks also, Petrea, for the mechanic recommendation. I hope I don't need one for a long while but it's nice to know there's a local one I can trust.

    Cafe, no, not a dealer. Have I been ripped off? Wait, don't tell me! I'm too fragile at the moment. I drive a Mazda3. At least it runs great now.

    flurrious, I will face many, many projects once I move into my house.

    PA, I assume the house is still standing. Haven't checked yet. Trout in the pond sounds like a great idea. If I remember correctly, Bellis had a similar recommendation.

  9. I know two turtles from the Caltech pond that need a new home - your backyard pond would be ideal. Don't worry too much about the house, you got a good deal on it and it's in a great part of Altadena, close to all the trails. When I bought a house in Durham (England) while my husband was in China, I took a big risk. Then the day we moved in, it was such a mess that I sat and cried for hours. I'd made a huge mistake!! But after some tlc, it was the loveliest house we have ever lived in and we all still miss it. So don't worry, and here's to a positive change in your fortunes from now on.

  10. House buying is so stressful. But once you are "home" it feels sooo good!

  11. Caltech turtles. Things are looking up.

  12. Don't forget the red wine with your chocolate and the serenity prayer!!!

  13. Hmmm... another odd day. I could've sworn I responded to Bellis' lovely message hours ago, but I don't see it. Let's try this again.

    Bellis, I love turtles, so I would happily welcome them in my pond. Your Durham house story is so sweet and gives me great comfort. Thank you so much for sharing it. It's much appreciated!

    Yep, Petrea, turtles help. And red wine. Thanks for the reminder, Chieftess!

  14. And thank you, Daisy Dog! I've seen plenty of photos of your happy pack at your home. I can only hope I and my pack are just as happy in ours.

  15. "Have I been ripped off?"
    May such a feline thought never even once enter the mechanic mind!! Lettuce not witness such a hideous precedent set in our generation!

    Who then will we canines, & you commoners, have left to trust, besides politicians??

    Repeat after me, 10times: "Trust. But Verify!"

  16. Wouldn't you know it -- as soon as I comment at AH about the LACK of comments about weather out there, someone comments on it at length. Put weather together with your car and the house purchase, and you get to howl at the moon till the cows come home. (Let me know if I mix a metaphor). You sound fairly Zen about it all. Good for you. I'd be driving east, hoping to make it to Chadron, Nebraska, where the wind dries things out.

  17. You're having the week I had a few weeks ago when my car broke twice and I hurt me back. Ok. I say trust the universe to even things out. You've got a massage, and now you're going to get something else good. Also, maybe have a glass of wine.

  18. Cafe, are you saying I should be more Zen? "Trust. But Verify." Sounds like a mantra for 2011.

    Banjo, yep, pretty extreme weather. It's hard for me to fathom that a good part of the year it's so dry here I feel like a lizard. That's certainly not the case now. Nice of you to drop by. I read your latest post last night. Great stuff. I'm going to ponder a bit before commenting.

    Margaret, excellent advice. Maybe the glass of wine will bring on some of the good the universe has in store for me. Hope your back is feeling better, by the way.

  19. Actually that saying is from his holines, Zen Master Ronald Reagan, from the last century.

  20. Cafe, and many others apparently:,_but_verify

  21. You know I left a comment, days ago. But your site does not like me. Probably won't like this one, either. But I'm walking out that way tonight and will check on the house. I'm totally amazed my roof is still on after all that hail. If your place looks solid, you got a good deal, Susan.

  22. Hiker, I think my blog is possessed. It happened to me the other day, too. It's frustrating. Thanks for coming back and trying again. And thank you for checking on the house! I so appreciate it. Did we get hail? I was in L.A. and Burbank all day so I missed it. I'm very glad you still have a roof. I hope I do too.

  23. I saw Hail while driving this afternoon in Pasadena. It was just brief, and direct.

    Roofs should not collapse as long as the water is not trapped on top. Leaks are a very common way water can gets off a roof.

  24. Let us know the verdict about your house, Susan. I hope Hiker's report is positive.

  25. Good plan. Massage first. House second.

  26. Jean, thanks for the reminder: must schedule that massage.

  27. Congradulations Susan. We will be neighbors! That means I can't sell my house. Tigger misses Tommy. She dreams of both of them running thru the fields, tongues lapping in the wind, tails flying high. Oh puppy love at it's best.
    I wish you a merry merry christmas and just think next year you'll have your own house to decorate.

  28. Thanks, Terri! Does that mean you're moving back to the Denas?! I can't imagine that's true so I won't get my hopes up. But next time you and Tig visit, you'll have a place to stay. Plenty of room in my new home for people and pooches. Merry Christmas to you.

  29. Hi Sue
    Oh girl CONGRATULATIONS! oh my goodness such an awesome entry!! love it you are awesome. Now you have a wonderful home to take of your baby animals and tommy well he is never dull is he. cause bad dogs have more fun! I was on the edge of my seat on this entry, had not read it. love you and best of luck with absolutely everything and a massage.
    good things are happening!
    love you
    kris and brady and todd and foo have a bright christmas!!!!

  30. Sue! Just getting around to reading your posts since I am up to my ears in packing for our big move to Tiburon. Congratulations on the house! How exciting and sounds like it is meant to be - sunken backyard and all! Merry Christmas! xoxo Lizzie