Friday, May 30, 2008

The Mercury Retrograde Wave

Your average astrologer will tell you that mercury retrogrades aren’t a good time to make contracts. It’s possible, but it’s not smooth or simple. Well, I’m here, with an intense case of premenstrual syndrome, to say one thing:

No Shit, Sherlock!

Leslie and I have been trying to sell our home in the midst of this latest retrograde. It’s a critical part of the Faber exodus back to sunny California where people are nicer and there are more lucrative job opportunities. Our work here is soon done, and we’d like to load our daughter and both dogs into the van for the long ride across country (yes, we’re driving). I’ve blogged on this topic ad nauseum on Multiply.

We had an open house about three weeks ago and one interested buyer emerged from the fray. Now, mind you, I understand from the media, our real estate agent, and people around me that we are actually considered lucky to have a buyer in this market, what is cheekily referred to as a “buyer’s market”, but what is actually real estate code for “assholes rule”. The stories you hear about people losing their homes in this economy are absolutely true. In fact, a woman came to pick up the two space heaters I listed on Craig’s List the other evening, and she told me a story that resonated all too well. Her name was Yvonne, and her neighbors across the street have their house on the market. They’d moved from Florida three years ago, and their house down there hadn’t sold yet. The one they had listed in CT was still on the market, too, and now they are looking at foreclosing on both. Big breath. Okay. I hear that.

Be grateful for what you have.

However, the Goddess helps those who help themselves, I firmly believe (and frequently say), and so Leslie and I dumped a sizable chunk of change into various improvements around the house that would make it stand out in the crowd. Many of the homes on sale right now are are foreclosures, and being true to the ilk, they are dumps. Also, it can take a buyer weeks to negotiate a $2,000 differentiation with banks that are inundated with foreclosures. Anyone constrained by time or circumstance are often out of luck. It also helps that there aren’t many homeowners in our price bracket who have true design taste like Leslie does. So, maybe we have time and appearance on our side.

In my blog here, I wrote about how Leslie’s innate rapport with the Goddess (Pisces Moon) often leads her to those things she needs or desires most, in this case, a real estate agent she can trust. And so it did this time, too, and we’ll call her Trixie. Trixie is a nice girl who’s been in the business for almost 20 years. Problem is, she’s no Julie. Julie is the gal who sold our house in California. Trixie is a girl. Julie was a gal! I always felt so well managed by Julie. She was confident, she was decisive, she knew how to talk to us. She was also a hot tamale that both Leslie and I considered adorable. Trixie? Well, Trixie is beige. Everything about her is beige … her enthusiasm, commitment, the way she avoids phone calls when we’re feeling manic and need our hands held. Her demeanor had me wondering if Trixie was really emotionally invested in our sale.

The buyer interested in our house turned out to be a card carrying asshole, whose proliferation of greenery affords him a license to shit on everyone in sight (hey, I warned you up front I’ve got PMS). I read something that stated when the world’s resources started to decline for real, the people who are anxious to hold on to their material wealth would stomp all over everybody else, and those unable to see the forest for the trees will be trampled in the ensuing hysteria. That’s kind of what this feels like. We understand the man is rich, but he treats each and every $1,000 like it’s his last. Also, his sense of entitlement is incredible. After the inspection, he started screwing us down so much, that my Leslie, who is of Russian Jewish descent and originally from Beverly Hills, California, starting using the phrase “jew me down”. I mean, this woman of mine gets offended when local Italians (of which there are plenty) refer to Woodbridge Jews in the derogatory sense. You’d be surprised how many people around here do. Let this be a testimony to her frustration.

The buyer has asked for so much access to our place it’s ridiculous … and intrusive. We keep being told that we should comply, but what we hear is “bend over”. Every time something like this comes over the cell phone, my mouth opens before I even know what’s happening and I hear words like, “Fuck him, tell him we’ll walk.” Or “What the fuck does he want now?!?” It’s like someone else has taken possession of my mouth.

Leslie is ready to kill me. The whole thing reminds me of where I worked in San Francisco after 9/11 when the dot com bubble burst in Silicon Valley, the economy dropped into the crapper, and we were exercising “reductions in force” that turned out to be more than half the people who reported to us. My boss, in her demeaning way kept telling us to be happy we had a job. “Don’t focus on self-respect,” I heard, “just be happy somebody WANTS to screw you.” Trust me, if you expect to be screwed, someone will emerge more than happy to comply. I can’t live like that.

On the other hand, the man buying our home is buying it for his daughter and her partner who are coming up from Florida. Two gay women, right? How great is that? We’ve cleared this house of all its straight inclinations. The neighborhood is good, and nobody has spray painted “queer” on our garage doors. So, he can move her in knowing it’s safe.

The short version here is that the offer we’ve accepted is a good 15 percent lower than the asking price, which is status quo in this market. The plan was that after an inspection and mortgage commitment this week, we would have an idea of where we stood, the least of which might include an executed contract.

The agent handling this man, our proposed buyer, is a woman I’ll call Joanna. Joanna is a blow-hard, a loud mouth kind of woman (as if I can’t relate). I can admire her balls, if I put my mind to it, but her braggadocio gets on my nerves. She and Leslie have spent time pontificating in the back yard more than once, so we know what we’re dealing with. Joanna has been handling her client and our agent, Trixie, in a … well … less than satisfactory manner. She’s not good with voicemail, and we can never get an answer out of her when we want one. In fact, over the Memorial Day holiday our stress achieved new levels because we weren’t convinced that our counter offers were being addressed at all. It turns out they weren’t.

Over the last week, we’ve bickered with the buyer. He wanted to bring a vendor in to check for termites (even though we had an inspection document that says there aren’t any) and a furnace guy to look at our boiler (even though the inspection guy already did). We wanted an executed contract and a mortgage commitment. We thought we’d achieved a common ground, but somehow over the last 48 hours it went to hell.

Yesterday at 10 a.m., Joanna, the loud moth, arrived at our driveway with two vendors. She couldn’t get in because we weren’t home, and she ended up paying them out of her pocket … or so she says. Our agent, Trixie, was on the phone with her at one point and heard the buyer screaming in the background. How lovely. By the time the day was over, Trixie was utterly stressed out and on the phone with Leslie carrying on about how she was right about that “fucker” and she hopes we can tell him to screw off and yada yada yada. Trixie ended up in a restaurant somewhere sucking cocktails to drown the stress of the day. I can’t say that I blame her.

Our sale, however, was at a stalemate.

Last night at about 8:00 p.m., the door bell rang. I had just finished getting my grandmother’s piano on a u-haul (see previous blog), Leslie was pooped, and Elizabeth had to take a bath. I answered the door, as Daizy barked an intruder alert in the background as usual, and it was Joanna, the buyer’s agent. Copping a move that went way outside the accepted code of real estate etiquette, she wanted a moment “with us girls”. I was all yucky in my night gown, no make up, and hair in a pony tail. I don’t enjoy talking business when I’m in civilian garb. Leslie was over it for the day, and didn’t want to see her. Joanna was insistent, however, so I went downstairs to talk with her because she’s deathly afraid of our golden retriever, Jack, and wouldn’t come in. Imagine that. How can anyone be afraid of a golden retriever?

Oh, Joanna was in rare form. She had her hands clasped in prayer and her collagen lips moved succinctly as she expressed the buyer was ready to walk unless we let her in with a bug guy and a plumber. He’d written her a horrible memo. Earlier that day she’d been there and no one arrived to let her in. She ended up paying both vendors out of her pocket. She only wanted to “commence this deal”. I told her our concerns, but it was like talking to a mannequin. Auto-pilot, baby.

Then, Leslie, who I knew wouldn’t be able to stay away for long, came down the stairs, and had our agent on the phone in her hand. Speaker phone. Leslie and Joanna had a nice chat (as I watched chin in hand with amusement), which Trixie overhead, and then Trixie, who was on the other end of the phone nursing a happy buzz, got on the phone with Joanna, who was standing in her trench coat in our driveway. It was almost 9:00 p.m., and the blood sucking mosquitoes were out in full battalion force. Every moment of this engagement was excruciating. At one point, Leslie said she was taking Tylenol PM to sleep at night, to which Joanna retorted she was 20 milligrams of Xanax ahead of that right now and considered herself clinical. Of course, later on we found out she was ultimately destined for the “Sex in the City” midnight movie premiere in Branford, and had a thermos of cosmos in her BMW, as well. Our little Elizabeth, who knows good dirt when it’s developing, had the foresight to listen in on the phone and heard phrases like, “HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN REAL ESTATE??!!” and “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?”

I mean, it was a fiasco.

At the end of the night, Joanna gave Leslie her WORD that we would see a signed contracted by the end of the day today (time check: 6:29 p.m. and no contract), and if we didn’t, Leslie could bitch slap her around the head.

Leslie thought that was a good deal.

I am happy to report that last night’s dramatic flair seems to have elevated us to a new conscious state. Leslie and I have actually gotten the hang of going with the flow on this thing. Horrible and inappropriate cuss words have stopped flinging themselves from my face. Maybe it’s because it feels like everyone is on the same page again. Maybe it’s because everyone wants the same thing … to be rid of the buyer! Leslie and Agent Trixie are thicker than thieves now, and Trixie is fully engaged. Joanna isn’t allowed to speak us any longer. Apparently, she isn’t even a licensed agent. She’s an administrative assistant, and as such isn’t allowed by law to do half of what she does for her broker, who by the way, could lose her license if things got really ugly. I keep thinking it’s a good thing I took that real estate class a year ago. Remember? It was when I was having a career crisis. I mean, at least I know what’s supposed to be happening with this process.

It’s clear that the mercury retrograde is in full force and reeking havoc on our sales contract. But it doesn’t look like the ship has sunk yet. We should have a contract on Monday … we hope. If we want to get back to California, we should be thankful we have a buyer, somehow strike a balance between getting screwed and feeling crazy, and then finally, nurture the relationships that this scenario has developed for us.

Any hope of maintaining an ego investment through this deal is fruitless as circumstances have forced us atop our metaphorical surfboards once again.

Ride the wave, baby … the mercury retrograde wave.


Mutha Mae said...

That was one hell of a story! I'm glad you two are just going with the flow now. But still- so stressful! Here's hoping for good news on Monday!

Jane said...

Yet somehow you maintained your sense of humor. Good for you! I would have been right there with Leslie, ready to bitch slap the fake agent as the clock struck five.

I've also been known to cut even a good deal loose, though, when the people involved are annoying, so don't listen to a word I say!

I'd move back to CA if I could afford it, and thought I could find a decent job. The MN winters are getting to me. It feels like a ten year bout with cabin fever.

Good luck!

Donna L. Faber said...

Hey, Mae, whaddaya say?

How are you, Jane?

Guess what, girls! We got the executed sale contract today! I can't believe it ... man, what a roller coaster ride that was. But today it came together, and Leslie didn't have to bitch slap anyone to expedite it. We leaving the State of Connecticut in just three weeks, and there's loads to do before we can!

Thanks so much to both of you for commenting, too!


Dan The (Kinda, Sorta, Almost, Nearly) Man said...

Lord have mercy! What a load that is! She actually showed up at your door unannounced? That's near pathalogical.

I love that your agent's name is Trixie. I'm glad you got it sold!

Donna L. Faber said...

Dan the Man ... what a load is right! Her name really isn't Trixie though. I mean, she's just too beige for that!


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